Unless you’re an expert cheese monger or avid cheese connoisseur, shopping for cheese can be a confusing ordeal. There are many cheese varieties and Wisconsin cheese is no different. There are basically eight classifications for Wisconsin cheese as used by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, which we will summarize here. In future cheese blog postings, we will get into more details on each variety and offer pairing suggestions and recipes.
Soft Fresh Cheese – A category of cheeses with high moisture content that are typically direct set (What?? Direct set = A cheese in which lactic acid culture instead of rennet is used to “direct set” or coagulate the milk). Cheeses in this category include Cottage cheese, Cream cheese and Neufchatel, Feta, Mascarpone, Ricotta, and Queso Blanco.
Soft-Ripened Cheese – A classification of cheese based upon body. Brie and Camembert are examples of soft-ripened cheese varieties.
Blue-Veined Cheese – A characteristic of cheese varieties that develop blue or green streaks of harmless, flavor-producing mold throughout the interior. Generally, veining gives cheese an assertive and piquant flavor. Famous varieties include Bleu, Gorgonzola and Stilton.®
Pasta Filata – Translated literally from Italian, to spin paste or threads. Pasta Filata refers to a type of cheese where curds are heated and then stretched or kneaded before being molded into the desired shape. The resulting cheese has great elasticity and stretches when cooked or melted. Cheeses in this family include Mozzarella, Provolone and String Cheese.
Hard Cheese – A classification of cheese varieties exhibiting a relatively inelastic and unyielding texture like Cheddar and Swiss. Federal Standards of Identity state that firm cheeses have a maximum moisture content of 34% and a minimum milkfat content of 50%.
Process Cheese – A blend of fresh and aged natural cheeses that have been shredded, mixed, and heated (cooked) with an addition of an emulsifier salt, after which no further ripening occurs. Cold packed cheeses, such as West Allis Cheese & Sausage Cheese Spreads, are a blend made from different batches of cheeses the same variety, or two or more varieties of mild and sharp natural cheese that have been ground. Unlike processed cheese, Cold Pack is not heat-treated nor cooked at the time of packaging.
So, where do Cheese Curds fit in? That’s exactly what we’ll talk about in our next blog posting to help make you savvy on Wisconsin Cheese.