by Dan Moore, Deli Manager
The Co-op’s cheese department carries over 200 varieties of cheese from around the world. You can find all things cheese from Australia, Spain, Mexico, France, and Italy, and many points in between. Of course, we also carry a wide variety of local artisanal Wisconsin cheese. More importantly, we have a cheese staff that is extremely knowledgeable about the cheese. Our buyer, Stuart, can answer almost any question regarding where and how the cheese is made, what’s in the cheese, and even offer suggestions for using the cheese. To give you an idea of what we have, here’s our newly compiled version of our annual cheese compendium.
Asiago: a cheese made in the tradition of Asiago d’Allevo with skimmed cow’s milk. Its slow maturation process 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: BelGioso*#, shredded Wisantigo #, Monti Trentini Asiago Fresco*
Blue Cheese: Made from many different types of milk. It ranges from soft to semi-soft in texture. These cheeses are not cooked or pressed. Instead the curd is crumbled, eliminating much of the whey. Then it’s 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 penicillium that is added to the milk before the rennet is added. These cheeses are aged in a humid environment that uses fleurines to circulate the air, assisting the mold growth. Gorgonzola is a cheese 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 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. The Italian member of the blue cheese family, Gorgonzola has a pungent flavor and crumbly texture, while Gorgonzola Dolce is sweeter with a softer texture. Roquefort is a full-fat sheep’s milk cheese, which many feel is the world’s best blue cheese. It is produced entirely from the milk of the ewes that feed on the vast plateau found in the Aveyron. White and fairly shiny, this cheese tastes creamy, soft, and slightly salty. Saga blue cheese is 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 use for a mild blue cheese salad dressing.
Varieties available: Salemville Amish*#, Rosenberg Danish blue*, Stilton*, Rosenberg Danish blue cheese in oil*, Rosenberg Danish crumbled*, Hooks*, Salemville Gorgonzola*#, Italian Gorgonzola dolce*, Maytag blue*#, Societé Roquefort*, Cambozola*#, Saga
Brie: made from unpasteurized cow, sheep, or goat’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 doesn’t 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. Their high moisture content and the humidity of the controlled environment naturally attracts the white mold to form the rind.
Varieties available: Couronne 60%*, Belmont Brie#, Belmont Brie w/herbs*#, Belmont Brie w/ peppercorns*#, Belmont Brie w/garlic & herbs*#, Fromager D’Affinois*, Rocastin sheep Brie*, Cambozola*#, Champigon*#, Saint Andre Triple Cream*, Belletoile*, Florette goat Brie*, St. Albray*, Saga*#, German Brie w/garlic & herbs, German Brie w/mushrooms, Saga
Camembert: 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.
Variety available: Delice De France*
Cheddar: Named for a village in England. This cheese comes in many varieties, but all have the same basic curd made from cow or goat’s milk. The milk is allowed to settle, draw together into a “cake” and acidify, while repeatedly being re-layered. 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*#, mild yellow*#, tomato basil*#, horseradish*#, Wensleydale English*, reduced fat*#, garlic*#, low fat/low salt*#, jalapeño*#, Cotswold*, Mt. Sterling raw goat’s milk mild*#, Still Meadows raw milk medium*#, Still Meadows raw milk sharp*#, Still Meadows roasted garlic*#, Organic Valley’s raw milk mild*#, raw milk sharp*#, and shredded*#, Wisconsin Organics’ sharp*#, Brunkow garlic & herb*#, Grafton village raw milk maple-smoked*#, Irish Dubliner
Chevre: this is a goat’s milk cheese. Fresh or pasteurized milk can be used in production of this cheese. The curd is packed into cloths and left to drain for several hours. All of these cheeses have a mild flavor and can be served in olive oil and herbs for added flavor.
Varieties available: Montchevre plain*, garlic/herb*, Crottin 4 pepper*, and plain Crottin, Bourdin w/basil*, Chavrie*, Chavrie w/basil & roasted garlic*, Capra honey goat
Feta: commonly known as a brined cheese since it’s stored in brine. 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°, a coagulant is added, and the mixture is left to curdle. 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 Valley cow’s milk#, Athenos’ plain*#, garlic & herb*#, tomato/basil*#, peppercorn*#, and reduced fat*# (all cow’s milk), Mt. Sterling goat*#, Chevrotines French goat*#, Valbreso French sheep milk*#, Mediterra Feta in oil (cow’s)*
Fontina: the name is used to identify cheese produced in Valle d’Aosta of Italy. Made from cow’s milk, this is a dense, smooth, and elastic cheese. It melts easily, but is runny. Keep it in a separate bowl and pour it over the top of any dish you wish to serve it with, don’t expect it to just melt on top.
Varieties available: Danish Fontina, Italian Vallé D’ Aosta*
Gjetost: a whey cheese that is boiled slowly for hours until the lactose caramelizes, giving it it’s light brown coloring. It has a slightly sour, yet sweet, flavor (similar to caramel,) and the texture of good fudge.
Varieties available: Ski Queen*, goat milk
Gouda: made from pasteurized cow or goat’s milk. Gouda is a traditional semi-hard cheese. It also is made into a round wheel and aged with a very smooth yellow, waxed rind. The flavor is sweet and fruity. As time passes, the taste intensifies and becomes more complex.
Varieties available: Dutch red wax milk*, Dutch yellow wax aged*, smoked*, aged goat*, Roth Kase Van Gogh#
Havarti: A washed rind cheese with irregular holes throughout. This cheese gains flavor with age while the younger cheeses are creamy and mild. Tilsit originates in Poland. This cheese started as an attempt by Dutch immigrants to recreate Gouda. This cheese is washed and brushed for the first 2 months to form a crusty rind. This protects a smooth interior with tiny holes and keeps the cheese from drying out. A buttery, mild flavor becomes much more pungent with age.
Varieties available: Danish*, dill*, Tilsit havarti*
Idiazabal: Made from sheep’s 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.
Variety available: Spanish Raw Sheep’s Milk*
Le Roule: a triple cream cheese rolled with minced herbs. Visually attractive, with a light flavor, it’s the perfect cheese for entertaining.
Variety available: Garlic and Herbs*
Limburger: 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.
Variety available: Country Castle#
Manchego: Made exclusively from the milk of sheep raised in La Mancha, which graze on open pasture and produce a richly aromatic milk that gives Manchego it’s flavor. To qualify for the Manchego label the cheese must be firm and 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 different ages anywhere from 13 weeks to over 3 months.
Variety available: 12-month*
Morbier: Made from cow’s milk this cheese has a horizontal band of wood ash and salt through it’s 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. It has a smooth texture, a fruity flavor, and a strong aroma.
Variety available: au lait cru du haut-Libradois*
Mozzarella: typically made from cow’s 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 Valley’s* part skim*#, part skim shredded*#, and part skim string cheese*#, Wholesome Valley reduced fat slices*#, Anthony’s part skim string*#, Crave Brother’s part skim rope*#, American Gold part skim*#, Belissimo whole milk*#, Polly-O smoked*#
Ossau Iraty: Ossau in the valley of Bearn and Iraty in Basque country combine to make this cheese. Made with sheep’s milk and sealed in a rind. A flavorful cheese that is sliceable, goes well with fruit or on its own.
Variety available: Onetik*
Parmesan: An Italian style hard cheese made from cow’s milk, a good shredding cheese.
Varieties available: organic*, Grandé grated#, BelGioso*#, Wisantigo shredded Stravecchio#
Parmigiano-Reggiano: 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, moved to storage rooms for maturation. It is first kept at 60-64°, and then held at 50 –54°. Grana Padano* is a cow’s milk cheese originating at the turn of the millennium. Grana means grain, and this is a fine-grained cheese that is fragrant and delicate. This cheese is aged at 59-68° for 12 to 18 months, another Parmigiana cheese, it is excellent for grating.
Variety available: Italian Reggiano Parmesan*
Pecorino Romano: Pecorino indicates a pure sheep’s milk cheese; Romano indicates the region, which is just outside of Rome as well as what type of sheep the milk is from. One of the oldest cheeses, it was eaten by the ancient Romans. The cheese is made from November from 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.
Varieties available: grated* and whole*
Pecorino Toscano: A Pecorino produced in Tuscany, this cheese ripens more quickly. The young cheese has a yellow rind, rubbed with olive oil, and is firm but not hard, those with a black rind have been aged for six months and have an intense flavor.
Variety available: Italian Pecorino Toscano*
Provolone: A kneaded cheese made from cow’s milk. After the curd has drawn together it is cut up, allowed to further acidify, and then cut up into smaller pieces. These pieces are 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*, Grandé smoked aged*
Swiss: a cheese made from cow’s 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. Emmenthaler is a similar cheese to Gruyere. Swiss Emmenthaler is made from raw milk, but when produced outside Switzerland it is often made with pasteurized milk. Emmenthaler is sweeter and more elastic than Gruyere. It takes its name from the Emme River in Switzerland. Gruyere is made from raw cow’s milk, and comes in many variations. The best known is dense and compact yet flexible has a mild, even flavor, and is a very good melting cheese. Jarlsburg is a Swiss cheese that blends the flavor of Ementhal and the texture of Gouda. It’s a good slicing cheese for a cheese plate.
Varieties available: Swill Valley medium*#, Aged*#, Swiss Emmenthaler*, Swiss cave-aged Gruyere*, and Pleasant Ridge Reserve*, Norwegian Jarlsburg*, Jarlsburg Lite*, Appenzeller*
Swiss, Baby: 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’s*#, Chalet smoked
Varieties available but not described: Chihuahua*, Huntsman*, Safr Port Salut*, St. Albray*, Iberico 3 milks*, Crème Fraiche*, Butterkase#, Oka*, Dubliner*#, drunken goat*, boursin*, valfrais*, Merkts spreads, Raclette*, St. Nectaire*, Holland Edam*, Brick*#, Cheese Curds*#, Colby*#, Cream Cheese*#, Farmers*#, Marscapone#, Monterey Jack*, Mozzarella*, Muenster#, Ricotta*#
Lactose-intolerant individuals can often use goat’s milk as an alternative to cow’s milk products. While goat’s milk does contain lactose, it’s easier to digest and lacks the major protein in cow’s milk that may induce an allergic reaction in those who are lactose sensitive. Higher in calcium than cow’s milk, goat’s milk also contains vitamins A and B6, as well as potassium and niacin.
rBGH is not approved for use in the EU, so import and organic cheeses are a good choice if you are committed to avoiding this substance.
Softer cheeses have higher moisture content and therefore a lower percent of fat than harder cheeses.
Making a cheese platter for the holidays? Stuart Mammel, our cheese coordinator, suggests trying these five cheeses:
Resources: The World Encyclopedia of Cheese, The Cheese Bible, fromage.com, frencheese.co.uk, Andy Johnston, Stuart Mammel