Last Updated: May 28, 2020
Gooey, rich, creamy, and luscious cheese. As beginners to this common-yet-mysterious ingredient, these are probably the few known adjectives that rookies like myself will use to describe cheese. Be it camembert or brie, to the uninitiated, cheese is merely a dairy product that brings comfort and adds joy to even the most basic of all dishes.
With its vast variety in different shades of whites and yellows, each with a unique taste, texture and “stink” factor, it’s no wonder most of us are overwhelmed by the exhaustive selection of cheese in our supermarkets and local cheese stores. Thus, to help you out in your cheesy endeavours, let’s channel our inner cheese snobs and check out the eight types of cheese we should know in this part of our Produce Explained series!
Perhaps the most recognised type of cheese around the world, cheddar is an English treasure originated from the village of Cheddar in Somerset, England. It is a classic semi-hard cheese that is dense in consistency often made by compressing curds into a solid before draining them of remaining whey in the process.
Aged between a period of two months to two years, cheddar can be found with a diverse range of flavours and textures. Mild cheddar that is aged for three months has a soft, smooth texture with light flavours whilst vintage cheddar which are usually fermented for 18 months or more are harder with sharp and intense flavours.
Thinly sliced cheddar is used frequently in sandwiches and grilled cheese. When shredded, they are commonly used as toppings for baked dishes as the cheese tends to turn crispy and golden when exposed to high heat.
Price: From S$5.50
A product made exclusively using raw milk from cattle of Northern Italy, parmesan lies within the variety of hard cheese that is produced by separating and draining most of the whey before pressing the curd. The cheese is then brined resulting in a stiff rind that gives hard cheese its characteristic texture.
Usually found in its unpasteurised form, parmesan undergoes an ageing period between one to three years. As the cheese ages, it becomes more flavourful and less creamy in taste. Texture-wise, older parmesan is also more grainy as crystallisation occurs.
Since parmesan is aged for at least 12 months, it has an intricate taste with sharp, piquant notes that can be overpowering when eaten alone.
Due to its density and rich flavour, parmesan is more frequently used as a condiment that is grated over food items to intensify the dish’s flavour profile.
Price: From S$6.45
Made from fresh curds that are not pressed or aged, mozzarella is a classic Italian stretched-curd cheese traditionally produced using Buffalo’s milk. As mozzarella is not aged, it is rindless and is present in a seamless, uniform consistency throughout.
Arguably one of the most famous fresh cheese, the heating and kneading process of preparing mozzarella aligns its protein structure, allowing it to stretch more when melted, making it the perfect variety of cheese to be used in pizzas.
Freshly-made mozzarella is springy in texture with a light and barely discernible aroma. As such, it is a popular choice for those who prefer mellow and delicate flavours.
Due to the cheese’s stretchiness, they are commonly used in pizza, lasagna and other baked dishes.
A famous Greek cheese often prepared using a blend of goat and sheep milk, feta cheese is a brined cheese that is made by soaking freshly pressed curds in saltwater. Unlike other kinds of cheese that are named after its place of origin, ‘feta’ literally means ‘slice’ in English and is thought to be referring to the practice of slicing cheese to be placed into barrels—a tradition that is still practised to date.
As the cheese is stored in brine, feta cheese thus have a distinct zest and unique bite. Tangy and moist, the texture of feta ranges from being completely crumbly to creamy dependent on the way it is being prepared.
Lower in fat and calories, as compared to other forms of cheese, feta cheese is, therefore, a suitable and nutritious choice for those who are craving their dose of cheese while on a strict diet.
Due to feta cheese’s salty nature, they are best served in salads or marinated in olive oil and herbs. Feta cheese can also be grilled and served on bread or crackers.
Price: From S$5.95
Originated from the region of Brie in Northern France, brie is usually made from cow’s milk and falls under the category of soft-ripen cheese that ripens from the outside in. As a result, this cheese tends to have a runnier soft inside surrounded by a slightly chewy rind.
Creamy in texture with soothing and slightly nutty flavours, brie becomes slightly more earthy and fruity with age. The addition of cream into the cheese before fermentation gives brie a higher fat content. Together with the use of smaller amounts of bacterial cultures, brie is thus milder in flavour compared to other soft-ripen cheese.
Due to its soft inside, brie is usually enjoyed at room temperated alongside fruits, nuts, bread and crackers on a cheese board. This type of cheese also bakes well and therefore, can be served as dips or wrapped in pastry.
Price: From S$5.85
Similar to its closely related counterpart, brie, camembert was also first introduced in Northern France and is also a soft-ripen cheese. Its pearly interior is smooth and soft, holding a slightly runny consistency throughout.
Ripened in smaller batches, camembert age faster and is thus more pungent than an equivalent-aged brie. The cheese has earthy, sweet tones with hints of caramelised butter and foraged mushrooms. Camembert tends to have a tangy aftertaste which some might find off-putting when consumed for the first time.
Like brie, camembert makes for good complement with nuts and white wine as a starter or dessert. Baked camembert makes for a rich dipping for fruits, vegetables and biscuits.
Price: From S$6.95
A member of the family of blue cheese, where natural mould is refined an used with the addition of mould culture to the cheese milk, gorgonzola is said to the be of the mildest in flavour amongst all the blue cheese.
Resembling traditional Chinese porcelain with a clear white backdrop marbled with blue veins, young gorgonzola is soft and creamy with a subtle acidic finish. As the cheese matures, its flavour develops and intensifies, delivering a piquant and pungent bite.
Exclusively made using cow’s milk, gorgonzola boasts a mellow flavour compared to the other blue cheese and is differentiated by its strong roots in Italian artisanship.
Gorgonzola can be used as cheese sauces to flavour plain pasta. In addition, they also make good fillings for filled pasta like ravioli.
Prices: From S$8.90
Belonging to the same group as mozzarella and feta cheese, cream cheese is a variety of fresh cheese with a unique twist unlike the others in the same group. Dating back to 1583, history of making cream cheese is almost 500 years old with its origins in the United Kingdom. Traditional cream cheese is usually made from milk and cheese, however, with commercialization, many brands of cream cheese today has stabilisers and flavourings added to extend its shelf life and provide variety to consumers.
Less runny and mushy as compared to other fresh cheese, cream cheese has a pliable consistency that makes it an enjoyable product for young and old. Mild and decadent texture aside, cream cheese has a soothing balance of acidity underlying with subtle tones of nuttiness, lending itself as a product that is able to carry an entire dish on its own.
Considering its versatility, cream cheese is commonly used in both sweet and savoury dishes. One of the most popular desserts that heavily uses cream cheese is Basque Cheese Cake.
Price: From S$4.50
With France alone home to a variety of up to 400 different types of cheese, we are barely scratching the surface with our introduction to these eight commonly used cheese that can be found in our supermarkets and restaurants.
To have a better understanding of this luscious ingredient, check out our video on The Cheese Ark and head over to your nearest cheesemonger to taste the different types of cheese for yourself when they reopen after this ‘Circuit Breaker’ period!