Cheese predates history, and the earliest evidence of cheese was found in Egyptian tombs dating to 2000 BCE. So, by the time of the Roman Empire arrived making cheese was an art form. From there cheese and cheese manufacturing expanded, until the first cheese factory opened in the early 1800s in Switzerland. Factory cheese making began to grow by leaps and bounds, until by World War II traditional cheese manufacturing was replaced by factory cheese making.
Cheese is generally known as a nutritious product because it provides calcium, protein, and phosphorous. However, it’s also full of saturated fat, which can lead to heart disease and obesity. Some studies have shown that cheese is good for dental health and gum disease prevention. Yet, one problem for some people is their inability to digest cheese, which is known as lactose intolerance.
One controversial cheese in the U.S. is raw-milk cheese because it can cause serious health problems including brucellosis, listeriosis, salmonellosis, and tuberculosis. Since 1944 all raw-milk cheese has been required to be aged 60 days. However, there has been an on-going push to have all cheese pasteurized, but that is controversial because some people claim unpasteurized cheese has better flavor, while those for pasteurization note unpasteurized cheese can harm a pregnant woman’s unborn child if she catches one of the infectious diseases listed above.
The United States is the world’s top cheese producer, with Germany and France in second and third, respectively. However, France is the world’s largest exporter of cheese. There are also thousands of cheeses to choose from and numerous factors influence the taste of cheese, such as the fat content, the type of milk, the aging process, the texture, or the country or region where it’s produced. There are also numerous types of cheeses, which it makes it difficult to categorize them. However, I’ve divided them into five major categories: mild, stinky, soft, hard, and blue cheese.
Mild cheeses are delicate in flavor, subtle on the palate, and usually unripened. Mild cheeses include:
- Chèvre. This cheese is one of my favorites. It’s a soft goat milk cheese and has a tart mild flavor. I put it on sandwiches and crackers. You can also buy it flavored with herbs or spices.
- Cream Cheese. The first cream cheese in the U.S. was made by William Lawrence in 1872 in Philadelphia, and that’s why it’s so frequently called Philadelphia Cream Cheese. It’s a sweet, mild cheese, and there are numerous variations from veggie to onion to fruit flavors.
- Feta. Feta cheese has been around since the Byzantine Empire and is often referred to as pickled cheese. True feta is made from goat or sheep milk and is a traditional brined-curd and aged cheese. It is usually a semi-soft cheese with a salty and lightly tangy flavor.
- Mozzarella. Mozzarella is an Italian cheese traditionally made from buffalo milk, but in the U.S. it’s usually made from cow’s milk. It is used in pizza and lasagna and has been around since the 1500s.
- Robiola. This Italian cheese is a soft-ripened cheese made from goat, sheep, or cow’s milk or from a blend of the three. It is usually not aged and is considered a table cheese with a mild and slightly sour flavor.
Stinky cheeses do just that, stink! They are pungent in odor and have unusual flavors. France is known as the world’s leader in stinky cheese, although other countries, including the United States make some cheeses that stink to high heaven. Stinky cheese include:
- Époisses de Bourgogne. Époisses is one of the most odoriferous cow cheeses, and it’s odor is so strong the French prohibit it from being carried on public transit. However, when eaten, it’s a creamy paste washed with brine to deepen its flavor and then finished with wine or brandy to get the traditional orange rind.
- Hooligan. This is an American cheese from Connecticut made by Cato Corner Farms. It has a strong aroma but is one of America’s top cheeses. It’s a ripe washed-rind cheese with a soft creamy interior and a gorgeous orange rind.
- Limburger. This strong-smelling cheese was created by Belgian Trappist monks, although the Germans soon made it their own. It is a tangy strong-tasting cheese, and Germans insist it be served with beer.
- Morbier. This odoriferous cheese is surprisingly mild with a nutty aftertaste. It is aged for at least 60 days, and through its center runs decorative vegetable ash reminiscent of the way it used to be produced in eastern France’s Franche-Comté.
- Pont L’Eveque. While this French cheese is a soft cheese, it has a pungent odor, firm consistency, fine texture, and full-bodied flavor.
- Taleggio. This Italian cow cheese was around for centuries but became popular worldwide around World War I. It is creamy, aromatic, and flavorful.
Soft cheeses are tasty, but they’re not the best cheese to cook with and are actually better to spread on crackers or eat with spoons.
- Banon. This soft cheese hails from France and is wrapped in chestnut leaves steeped in brandy.
Brie. This is a soft cow milk cheese that originated in the French province of Brie. It’s aged seven days and is soft and savory with a moldy edible rind.
- Camembert. This cheese was first produced in the 1700s and is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk ripened by penicillium. Its typically sold in rounds and was given to French soldiers during World War I, which is one reason why Camembert cheese is so strongly identified with French culture.
- Forsterkase. This cheese comes from Switzerland and is made from cow’s milk. It’s known as lumberjack’s cheese and has a earthy, woody flavor with a silky smooth texture.
- Munster. Munster cheese is made from cow’s milk. It’s a washed-rind cheese, and the French often add caraway seeds to it. It dates back to ancient monks who settled in the Alsace region of France and created a strong pungent cheese with a solid, soft, and creamy taste.
- La Serena. This is another Spanish cheese but is made from Merino sheep’s milk. It has a slightly bitter, salty taste. It is usually eaten with a spoon as the top’s cut off and it’s velvety softnessis scooped out from the inside.
- Pélardon. This soft cheese comes from French Languedoc-Roussillon area. It is made from goat’s milk and covered in mold.
Hard cheese are often thought of as grating cheese. They tend to have intense flavors and are crunchier in taste than other cheese.
- Cheddar. Cheddar cheese is well-known in America, but actually originated from the English village of Cheddar. It is usually made from cow’s milk, although occasionally it is made from goats. It may be aged as long as 60 months and is known for its pungent flavor and firm texture.
- Gouda. Gouda Cheese is named after the Netherlands’s city of Gouda. It is aged for a long time and is a yellow cheese made from cow’s milk. It has a distinct flavor but is a mild, mellow cheese.
- Parmigiano Reggiano. Parmigiano Reggiano is a hard cheese better known in the U.S. as Parmesan. It’s made from raw cow’s milk and aged a minimum of one year. In America it usually sold grated and is aged for a much shorter time, so there is a big difference in taste.
- Pecorino Toscano. This cheese is sometimes called Toscano, and it comes from Italy. It’s a mild sheep cheese with a subtle flavor.
- Roomano. This complex cheese is similar to Gouda, but produced in the Northern Netherlands. It has less butterfat than Gouda and is both sweet and salty. It is very difficult to find, and many people confuse it with Romano cheese made in Italy.
Blue cheeses are noted for their veins of blue, gray, russet, or green, and their distinct flavor and pungent smell. They are made from goats, sheep, or cow’s milk using a penicillium culture. Most blue cheeses are aged and tend to be salty and sharp flavored.
- Blue Castello. This blue cheese comes from Denmark and is a new variety created in the 1960s. It has a mild, spicy flavor and a brie-like texture.
- Buxton Blue Cheese. This is English cow cheese very similar to Blue Stilton, but veined with a russet color.
- Cabrales. This is a distinguished Spanish blue cheese with an intense, strong, and spicy flavor in a semi-soft texture.
- Roquefort. This world famous cheese is made from sheep’s milk in southern France. It has a green mold and that’s what gives it such a distinct flavor. It is a sharp flavor with a sweet, smoky, and salty finish.
- Stilton. This cheese, often called Blue Stilton, is known for its deeply veined blue appearance. It originates from England and strict rules are enforced for its production. It is often eaten with pears, celery, crackers, or bread. It gets creamier, mellow, and buttery with age, but if eaten soon after manufacture it can be tart and zingy.
To find these fabulous cheeses, there are numerous online stores. Here’s a list:
- Cowgirl Creamery. This site promises Cowgirl Creamery organic cheeses and they won numerous awards proving the quality of their cheeses. These also offer artisan cheese collections from around the world.
- Gourmet Grocery Online. This site offers a variety of imported cheese and they provide online coupon codes you can use to reduce the cost of your order. Look for the tab “Coupons” on the top bar.
- Gourmet Food Store. This site has over 350 different gourmet cheeses, which includes everything from kosher cheese to raw milk cheese to organic cheese. They also offer cheeses from America, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, France, Germany, Portugal, England, Italy and Spain.
- igourmet. This site offers 700 gourmet cheeses from 30 countries.
- Kosheritalia. This site offers a variety of Italian, French, Swiss, Dutch, and English cheeses.
- Wisconsin Cheese Sellers.
- Beechwood Cheese. This company makes over 50 flavors of handmade cheeses.
- BelGioioso Cheese, Inc. This company makes award-winning Italian Cheeses.
- Burnett Diary Cooperative. Numerous championship cheeses have been produced by Burnett, including this years Provolone and Monterey Jack with pepper.
- Jim’s Cheese Pantry, Inc. Over 200 speciality cheeses are offered by Jim, get his catalog to order.
- Maple Leaf Cheese Cooperative. This cooperative provides a wide variety of cheeses and has won two consecutive U.S. cheese championships with Monterey Jack wheels and two Governor Sweepstakes awards for their Gouda.
- Organic Valley. All products are certified organic, and they produce a variety of 25 cheeses.
- Roth Käse USA, Ltd. Their history dates back to 1863 and Switzerland. They have won numerous awards for their cheeses since 1863.