Cheese to westerners is what tofu to Chinese. There are many categories and the making employs different techniques. Frankly speaking, to me, cheese is an acquiredtaste because in the very beginning, cheese smells like feet to me… with adaring foodie heart and more trying, I begin to like some of them.
Cheeses can be classified 3 ways (that all go into the various names or "types" of cheese): texture,milk, and terroir.
The textures of cheese are the easiest to identify, as they are visibly identifiable. Fresh cheeses are softand untreated cheeses. They are prepared less than 2 months. They tend to befresh and moist. Examples of fresh cheese are ricotta, mozzerella, and cottaged. Bloomy cheeses are also soft, but they are treated on the outside sotheir rind is fuzzy or "bloomy". It is also prepared for less than 2months, but tends to have more flavor as it is not plain. Examples of bloomy cheeses are brie and camembert. Stinky cheeses are classified by a strong smell that is given by a treatment of strong wine or liquor on the outside. These are also prepared for less than 2 months, but have very rich flavors and smells. Examples of stinky cheeses are muenster, limburger, and bleu.
Semi-soft/semi-hard cheeses arefar less hard than the softer cheeses. They can have either earthy or smoky smells and flavors, depending on the preparation and content. They are usually prepared between 3 months and 1 year. Examples of semi-soft cheeses are fontina, gouda, and edam. Hard cheeses are the least soft and the driest cheeses. They have sharper tastes and smells, having ripened the most. They are always prepared for more than 6 months. Examples of hard cheeses are cheddar,gruyere, and parmigian.
The milk sources typically used in cheese-making are goat milk, sheep milk, and cow milk. Lamb milk has the lowest fat and typically produces a fresher, tangier cheese. Sheep milk has the fattest milk and typically produces rich cheese. Cow milk is in between these and typically produces "buttery" cheese.
The terroir (or location inFrench) is everything that affects the food source of the milk animals. Region,climate, altitude, rainfall, and food sources all affect the milk and,therefore, affect the cheese.
There are 4 steps in cheese-making (after the milk collection): curdling - the collection of curdsor milk fat, draining - removal of whew or milk liquid, salting - adding things to preserve the cheese, and ripening - the development of the bacterial growth in the cheeses for flavor and maturity.
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