December 2003

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A Compendium of Willy Street Co-op Cheese
Wynston Estis, Store Manager
& April Anello, Cheese Clerk

Did you know that Willy Street Co-op offers over two hundred different varieties of cheese? The range is broad and includes everything from true Roquefort to some of Wisconsin’s own artisan cheeses. In recognition of the fabulous job the cheese department does to bring us this tantalizing selection, I’ve collected descriptions of most of our cheeses.

Typically made from cow milk that is pasteurized then coagulated to form curds. Once the curds set they are cut into small pieces, mixed with hot water and “strung” or “spun” until long ropes of cheese form. When the proper smooth, elastic consistency is reached, the curds are formed into loafs which are then tossed into cold water so that they maintain their shapes while they cool. They are then salted and packaged. Varieties available: organic, whole milk, part skim, shredded, string cheese

Fresh Mozzarella
A fresh mozzarella is delicately flavored and has a soft moist texture. The curd is heated in whey before being stretched and kneaded until the strings do not break. The curd is then spun into balls or plaited and tossed in hot water to seal the cheese. Varieties available: ovoline, ciliegine

Named for Colby, Wisconsin. This is a washed curd cheese; the curds from cow milk are rinsed thoroughly to remove whey and lactose on the surface. The rinsing prevents the acidity of the cheese from rising so that the cheese remains soft and springy with a sweet mild flavor. Varieties available: Colby, marble

Made from skimmed cow milk. This is cottage cheese that has been pressed into a block. Varieties available: part skim

A blend of Colby and Monterey Jack. Monterey Jack is a semi-hard cheese made from cow milk and aged for a month. Varieties available: organic

Monterey Jack
Monterey Jack is a semi-hard cheese made from cow milk and aged for a month. Varieties available: organic, pepper jack, Cedar Grove,

Another Wisconsin cheese made from cow milk. A soft cheese with a strong pungent aroma. Muenster is a good cooking cheese because it melts wonderfully. Varieties: organic & regular.

A kneaded cheese made from cow milk. After the curd has drawn together it is cut up, allowed to further acidify, then cut up into smaller pieces. These pieces are then cooked in hot water and worked into dough, which is then pulled into ropes and placed in molds to be pressed. These molds are dipped in a salt bath and hung up to ripen. Varieties available: smoked, regular, aged

A whey cheese made from cow milk whey. The whey is boiled, causing small solid particles to float to the top. These are scooped off and put in basket molds to drain. This is a fresh cheese so it is not aged.

Cream Cheese
An acid curd cheese that requires a starter culture to curdle the milk, which it does by turning the lactose, milk sugar into lactic acid. Made from cow milk. The soft curd is poured into cloth; after a few hours the curd is scraped from the cloth into the center, then retied and placed on a draining tray under a weight. It is pressed for another three hours, and salt is added. It could be eaten then, but current day practice is for it to be heated then extruded before packaging into molds for sale. Varieties available: Organic Valley, Horizon, Swiss Valley

Traditionally a farmhouse cheese with a soft rind and a sharp taste. The Neufchatel that we eat in the States is simply a lower fat soft cheese than cream cheese. Varieties available: Horizon, Swiss Valley, Organic Valley

A whey cheese that is boiled slowly for hours reducing it to a sticky toffee-like texture that has a slightly chocolaty flavor. Varieties available: Ski Queen

This is a goat milk cheese unless stated otherwise. Fresh or pasteurized milk can be used in production of this cheese. Chevrotin relies more on rennet (an agent used to coagulate milk) to form its curd, whereas crottin, the curd is packed into cloths and left to drain for several hours. For Chevrotin, the curd is worked and shaped: it is also a washed rind (a cheese periodically washed to keep it moist as it ages. It can be washed by saltwater, brandy, etc.) cheese. All of these cheeses have a mild flavor and can be served in olive oil and herbs for added flavor. Varieties available: montchevre, garlic/herb, 4 pepper, Bourdin w/basil, Chavrie, basil/roasted garlic, almond, and sun-dried tomatoes

Made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. All brie has a bloomy mold on the outside of the wheel, which is edible and helps break down the curd, contributing to the texture and flavor of this cheese. The curd is made from coagulated milk, ladled into perforated molds and left to drain in high humidity so it does not lose too much of its whey. After a few hours the cheese is taken out of the molds and left to mature for a few weeks. Its high moisture content and the humidity of the controlled environment naturally attract the white mold to form a rind. Varieties available: Couronne 60%, Belmont brie, Reblechon, brie w/herbs, brie w/ peppercorns, brie w/garlic & herbs, D’Affinois, sheep brie, Pere, Cambozola, Champigon, Saint Andre Triple Cream, Belletoile, French Rachlette, goat brie, and St. Albray

Le Roule
A soft creamy cheese roll with a swirl of herbs. A visually attractive cheese that has a mild flavor but is nevertheless interesting.

A soft cheese similar to brie. The special Camembert aging process produces a cheese that is more pungent and runny if allowed to ripen properly. Varieties available: Delice De France, crème royale

A cheese made from cows' milk to imitate the well-known Ementhal Swiss cheese. Like all Swiss-style cheeses it has eyes that are a result of many facets of the production process. This cheese has a mild flavor, melts well and has a nutty quality that makes it very popular. Varieties available: low-fat, medium, aged

Baby Swiss
A smaller block of Swiss cheese that has a higher moisture content and is aged for less time that the traditional Swiss. Varieties available: Deppeler, smoked

This Swiss cheese blends the flavor of Emmenthaler and the texture of Gouda. It’s a good slicing cheese for a cheese plate. Varieties available: Norwegian Swiss, light

A similar cheese to Gruyere, all Swiss Emmenthaler is made from raw milk, if it’s produced in other countries will often be made from pasteurized milk. Emmenthaler is sweeter and more elastic than Gruyere. It takes its name from the Emme River in Switzerland. Varieties available: Swiss Emmenthaler

The name is used exclusively to identify cheese produced in Valle d’Aosta. Made from cows' milk, this is a dense, smooth and somewhat elastic cheese. It melts easily but is runny so you would use it to combine throughout your dish, not simply melt on top. Varieties available: Danish Fontina

Made from raw cows' milk, three are many variations of Gruyere. The best known is dense and compact yet flexible, has a mild even flavor and is a very good melting cheese. To produce an eighty-pound wheel, eighty-eight gallons of milk is required. Wow! Varieties available: Comte French Swiss, Swiss Gruyere, Pleasant Ridge Reserve

Made from pasteurized cows' or goats' milk. Gouda is a traditional semi-hard cheese. It also is made into a round mold with a very smooth yellow, waxed rind. The flavor is sweet and fruity. As time passes, the taste intensifies and becomes more complex. Mature Gouda (18 months plus) is coated in black wax, which provides a stark contrast to the deep yellow interior. Varieties available: smoked, aged, Dutch, aged goat (6 months), natural smoked

A washed rind cheese with irregular holes throughout. This cheese gains flavor with age; the younger cheeses are creamy and mild. Varieties available: Danish, dill

Blue Cheese
Made from many different milks. It ranges from soft to semi-soft in texture. These cheeses are not cooked or pressed. Instead the curd is crumbled, which eliminates much of the whey, then scooped into stainless steel molds to set. Once set they are rubbed with salt and returned to the cellars. What differentiates this cheese from others is the internal mold that flavors the cheese. In order to cultivate this mold, the cheese is pierced so that oxygen can penetrate through the channels for the mold to grow. The blue mold is a strain of penicillin that is added to the milk before the rennet is added. These cheeses are aged in a humid environment that uses flourines to circulate the air, assisting the mold growth. Varieties available: blue-Amish, Danish blue, Stilton, Rosenberg blue cheese in oil, Hooks, crumbled

Full-fat sheeps' milk is used to produce this cheese

A cross between blue cheese and brie, Saga is a creamy, blue-veined cheese with a white-mould rind. It is very mild for a blue-veined cheese and is a good cheese to uses for a mild blue cheese salad dressing. Varieties available: blue cheese

A washed rind cheese with an exterior mold. This cheese is know for its strong flavor. The higher the fat content, the fuller the flavor. Varieties available: Country Castle

Made from cows' milk, this cheese has a horizontal band of wood ash and salt through its center. The mixture was originally sprinkled over the fresh curds made from the morning milking, left through the day then covered with the curds from the evening milking. As you might guess, this is not a cheese for the faint of heart. It has a smooth texture and an aroma that is something to experience.

From the Lombardy region, some producers use unpasteurized milk and allow the curd to hang overnight so that it can become exposed to mold naturally. Most producers use pasteurized milk and add the mold to directly in. After four weeks, the cheeses are pierced with needles to allow the spread of the mold. This cheese ripens in three to six months, and then it’s wrapped in foil to keep it moist. This cheese is quite spicy—exercise caution if you are not familiar with it. Varieties available: Stella, Gorgonzola Dolce.

Pecorino Romano
Pecorino indicates a pure sheeps' milk cheese; Romano indicates the region, which is just outside of Rome, as well as what type of sheep the milk is from. The cheese is made from November to late June when the sheep are grazing on natural pastures; this cheese is larger then most of this type and must be pressed. It is aged between eight to twelve months. It is a granular cheese that is fabulous for grating. The older the cheese, the more prominent the tangy flavor.

Pecorino Toscano
A Pecorino produced in Tuscany, this cheese ripens more quickly than the Romano. The young cheese has a yellow rind and are firm but not hard. The black rind has been aged for six months and has an intense flavor.

Made from La Mancha, the milk of sheep which graze on open pasture and produce a richly aromatic milk that gives Manchego its flavor. To qualify for the Manchego label, the cheese must be firm, dry, yet rich and creamy. Also the pattern on the rind, originally achieved by encircling the rind with braided esparto grass, must be visible. The color of the rind indicates the age of the cheese. The cheese itself should be ivory with small irregular eyes. This cheese is sold at ages anywhere from 13 weeks to over 3 months.

Made from sheeps' milk in the Spanish region of Basque and Navarre. This cheese has a compact texture with tiny holes, it is a dry smoky cheese but not crumbly.

The premier Parmesan of Italy comes from the Modena, Parma and Reggio Emilia regions. It is made from skimmed milk from small farms that are required to feed their cows only grass, hay or alfalfa. It is an unpasteurized cheese. In order to protect the cheese from drying out, the rind is sealed in brine baths for about 21 days, then moved to storage rooms for maturation. It is first kept at 60-64 degrees, then held at 50 -54 degrees.

Grana Padano
Made from cows' milk. Grana means grain. This is a fine-grained cheese that is spicy but in no way pungent. This cheese is aged at 59-68 degrees for ten to eighteen months, and is another good grating cheese.

A cheese made in the tradition of Asiago d’Allevo, it is made from skimmed cows' milk. It has a slow maturation process that creates a slightly sharp flavor; if aged for two years it becomes granular, brittle and intensely flavorful. The mature Asiago is a good grating cheese. Varieties available: BelGoioiso, Vecchio Italian, shredded

An Italian style hard cheese made from cows' milk, it is a good shredding cheese. Varieties available: organic, grated, BelGoioiso

Mad with skimmed milk that was kept in a vat overnight from an evening milking.

Named for a village in England. This cheese comes in many varieties, but all have the same basic curd made from cow’s milk. The milk is allowed to settle, draw together into a “cake” and acidify, while repeatedly being relayered. The curd is then milled, and the resultant yield, also called curd, is salted. The cheese is then molded, pressed and ripened at 45 to 50 degrees. If the cheddar is yellow, it has been colored with annatto seed. Varieties available: mild white, sharp white, mild yellow, medium yellow, tomato basil, smoked, horseradish, Wensleydale English, reduced fat, garlic, caraway, low fat/low salt, jalapeno, Cotswold, Northern Meadows

Aged Cheddar
Usually this cheese says how long it’s been aged. The wait is worth it. Varieties available: sharp, 2-year, 4-year, Canadian 1-year, 7-year, Still Meadows

Cheese Curds
These are curds of cheddar formed from the milling process. They are salted at this stage instead of being allowed to continue on in the process of cheddar production. Known for its squeaky texture, this is a fun cheese. Varieties available: fresh white, garlic/dill, onion/chive,

Commonly known as a brined cheese due to the brine it is stored in. The brine is not intended to overwhelm the flavor of this cheese, but today’s use of pasteurized milk weakens this cheese’s flavor. To reduce the salty effects of the brine, place this cheese in milk or plain water for a few minutes or longer before serving. To make Feta, milk is heated to 95 degrees, rennet is added, and the mixture is left to coagulate. Once the milk has curdled, the curd is cut and the whey is drained. The curds are then put in a bag, pressed and left to dry for a few hours. It is then salted (the more salt used the harder the cheese will be) and left to dry for 24 hours before being packed in brine. Varieties available: organic, Athenos, reduced fat, Capri goat, garlic/herb, feta in oil & herbs, w/ peppercorn, basil/ tomato, Mt. Sterling goat, Chevrotines French goat, Valbreso French sheep milk

A Wisconsin original this cows' milk cheese is a semi-soft surface molded cheese. For a mild flavor it is ripened for three weeks: for a stronger flavor it is ripened for an addition alone or two months. Varieties available: Widmer aged

A variation based on Gouda, the difference is this cheese is washed and brushed for the first two months so that a crusty rind forms. This protects the smooth interior (with its tiny holes) from drying out. The flavor is buttery but slightly spicy. Varieties available: Danish

From the region of the Pyrenees Atlantiques, and Haute-Pyrenees, it is made from cow milk and sealed in a rind. This is a mild, semi-soft cheese. Varieties available: Le Roy

Ossau Iraty
From the Bearn and Basque country in Pyrenees Atlantiques but from sheeps' milk, also sealed in a rind. A flavorful cheese that is sliceable, goes well with fruit or on its own.

Other Varieties Available
Other Varieties Available but not Described: Chihuahua, Huntsman, Safr Port Salut, St. Albray, Iberico 3 milks, La Vacarica, Creame Fraiche, Butterkasse, Juusto, Oka, Dubliner, paneer, Drunken Goat, Boursin, Valfrais, Merkts spreads, and Scenic Valley Spreads

Make Your Very Own Cheese Tray
Making a cheese platter for the holidays? Andy Johnston, crack cheese coordinator, suggests these 5 cheeses as favorites:
Widmer’s 4-year Aged Cheddar
Le Roule Garlic Herb
Belletoile French Triple Cream Brie
Iberico Three milk blend
St. Albray

Resources: The World Encyclopedia of Cheese, The Cheese Bible,