An introduction to cheese making and cheese classification.
The Joy of Cheesemaking (Skyhorse Publishing, 2011), by Jody M. Farnham and Marc Druart, offers easy-to-understand instructions to produce healthy, homemade cheese. Beautifully illustrated with gorgeous photographs, this comprehensive guide includes a basic overview of cheese making and aging, from the raw ingredients to the final product. The clear guidance and convenient glossary allow the reader to learn all about the cheese making process, from creating to choosing it, as well as pairing it with the right wines. The following excerpt comes from Chapter 1, “Cheese Classification.”
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Cheese classification is simply identifying the “family” to which a cheese belongs. There are five classifications for all cheeses. We know that all cheese starts with the same ingredient — milk, whether cow’s, goat’s, sheep’s, or water buffalo’s (and in some parts of the world horse’s and camel’s). The cheeses that come from this milk are the result of what you, the cheese maker, do with the milk. The quality of the milk, starter culture, technology, and the craft and aging expertise of the cheese maker will combine to bring about biodiversity in any cheese.
Cheese biodiversity means the variations you will find among cheeses, which are affected by all of the elements comprising the cheese making process, including the breed of animal, the diet of the herd, equipment used in the production of the cheese, and the skill of the craftsperson; and the multiple microorganisms that grow in and on the surface of cheese, imparting their character and unique flavor profiles throughout the cheese making process and during aging.
There are two categories into which all cheese characteristics fall: The first is the organoleptic perspective. This refers to the texture, flavor, aroma, and rind composition of a cheese — meaning the appearance and sensory properties of a cheese; what you taste, see, smell and feel, both in your hands and on the mouth. The second category for characterizing cheese is the physicochemical perspective. This refers to the moisture, fat content, and the pH of a cheese. When classifying cheese, you are using both the appearance of the cheese and how you interact with it. Some call . . . this the art . . . as well as, additional scientific data we know in general to be true . . . of cheese, and this is the science of cheese.
The following classification of cheese will help you identify the proper characteristics of cheese and give you a general idea of what style of cheese falls into which family. When you find yourself at the farmers’ market on Saturday morning, in a cheese shop, or participating in a wine and cheese tasting, you will then recognize that a Vermont Cheddar is a hard cheese or a Reblochon from France is a washed-rind cheese that belongs to the soft-ripened family . . . Voilà! So head to cheese class . . . ification!
Reprinted with permission from The Joy of Cheesemaking: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding, Making, and Eating Fine Cheese by Jody M. Farnham and Marc Druant and published by Skyhorse Publishing, 2011. Buy this book from our store: The Joy of Cheesemaking.
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