"Cheese...Milk's leap toward immortality." Clifton Fadiman
Here are ways to judge a cheese:
Hardness: The style, age or ripeness of a cheese will affect its texture,
which also affects its culinary applications. Dense, hard cheeses
are often aged; ripened cheeses tend to be creamy and soft. Semi-soft
cheeses are sliceable, but can be difficult to grate. Crumbly texture
may result from the method of manufacture (e.g., veined Blue cheese)
or the age (for example, Aged Cheddar). Young cheese can be chewy
and springy. Fresh soft cheese is spreadable and buttery.
Rind: Very hard cheeses such as Parmesan have rinds, or tough outer
skin. Other natural rind cheeses include Cheddar and Swiss; most people
slice off the tough and chewy rinds. Ripened cheeses, such as Brie,
have a floury, white rind that is perfectly edible (though not to
everyone's taste!). Other cheeses are dipped in an edible vegetable
dye (e.g., Muenster) or a wax or fabric covering to protect the cheese
Method of Manufacture: Cheese may be cooked or raw, pressed or unpressed,
cured or uncured. Most cheeses, unless specified "fresh and uncured"
have ripened and aged to some degree. Blue and Gorgonzola cheeses
are treated to create the distinctive blue-green marbling and develop
their characteristic tangy taste.
Storage: Cheese loses both flavor and essential moisture if exposed
to air. Store cut cheese in the refrigerator in an airtight container
or plastic wrap (avoid storing cheese in foil). Covered bar portion
trays work well for quick service of a bar menu or pub sampler.
Cutting: Cut cheese while it is still chilled, for ease in handlingCutting
tools should fit the style of cheese. Soft-ripened cheeses may be
cut with a open-blade serrated cheese knife. Aged Parmesans and Cheddars
may be cut with a wedge knife.
Serving: Fresh cheeses may be served a little chilled; other varieties
should be presented at room temperature for best flavor and aroma.
Make sure each cheese has its own cutting knife to keep the flavors
distinct. Keep mild cheeses away from strong ones on the serving tray
as they may pick up competing aromas and flavors.
Tasting Tips for Cheese
Appearance: Look at the cheese for color and signs of freshness. Does
the Brie look creamy and plump, or is there a chalky core? Does the
Cheddar look shiny and smooth, or dull and crumbly? Does the Asiago
look moist and springy? Each cheese has its own beauty marks, depending
on its age.
Flavor: Cheeses may be delicate, fruity and sweet, to pungent and
tangy. Take a sip of water to cleanse your palate. Then, slowly eat
the cheese, allowing its flavor to permeate your palate. Wait a few
seconds to identify any lingering or developing flavors on the palate.
For example, a Gruyère may taste buttery and nutty at first,
and finish with hints of pears or fruit.
Body: While cutting the cheese, look at how well it holds its shape;
while eating the cheese, make note of how it feels to chew it. Some
cheeses taste best when melted or heated, so reserve those for menu
CHEESE TASTING TERMINOLOGY
TASTE: sharp, tart, creamy, autolyzed (cheddars), mellow, buttery,
rich, tangy, spicy, herbal, earthy, nutty, salty, peppery, pungent,
creamy, smooth, semi-fluid, crumbly, hard, satiny, chewy, dense or
firm, elastic, crumbly, soft, resilient, waxy, grainy, chalky
young, middle-aged, aged, ripened, cured
white, yellow, gold, straw, butter, orange, blue-marbled, green-marbled,
ivory (and any other applicable colors)
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