Know Your Cheese Groups
There is no standard way of classifying cheese groups, explains Marie Spano, MS, RD. “Some stores classify it by its site of origin; others group cheeses by soft, semi-soft, or hard cheese,” she says. Cheese connoisseurs have yet another, more elaborate system of grouping gourmet cheese.
However, there are a few general, recognizable cheese categories:
- Fresh cheeses. Spano says these include cheeses that contain some whey and have a short shelf life. “Cottage cheese, ricotta, cream cheese, mascarpone, and mozzarella are all fresh cheeses. Fresh cheeses are soft and creamy,” she explains.
- Semi-soft cheeses. In this category are the gourmet cheeses Brie and Camembert, as well as processed cheese brands like Laughing Cow. These cheeses are usually pale in color and can be easily sliced. Some semi-soft cheeses are flavored with dried vegetables or spices. Other examples include Monterey jack and muenster.
- Hard cheeses. Also known as aged cheeses, this group includes Parmigiano-Reggiano, asiago, and gruyere. These cheeses are hard to the touch because most of the moisture has been removed. This makes them good for grating and gives them a long shelf-life. Most of these cheeses have intense flavors.
- Washed-rind cheeses. Washed-rind cheeses include Tallegio and limburger. They are bathed in salted water, brandy, wine, or liquor. “Washing develops a strong flavor, retains moisture, and changes the color and texture of the cheese,” says Spano. The exterior of washed-rind cheese may be bright orange or brown; the interior is often soft and pungent.
- Blue cheese. These cheeses are also called blue-veined cheeses, markings that make them easy to recognize. The color comes from the blue mold that gives these cheeses their very strong flavor. Blue cheeses include gorgonzola, Danish blue cheese, and Roquefort. Blue cheeses crumble easily, making them ideal to use in salads.
- Processed cheese. The term processed is used to describe cheeses that are a combination of natural cheese and ingredients like emulsifiers or artificial flavors that increase shelf-life. Examples are American cheese and processed cheese spreads.
Healthy Ways to Eat Your Cheese
Spano suggests these healthy ways to eat cheese:
- Add a thin slice of almost any variety of semi-soft cheese to apple slices.
- Create a roll-up of deli sliced turkey breast and cheese.
- Top whole-grain bruschetta with freshly diced tomatoes and a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Mix fat-free cream cheese with a can of salmon and a dash or two of smoke flavor.
- Top a sweet potato with low-fat cottage cheese and steamed broccoli.
- Pair gorgonzola with dried figs, apricots, and pears.
- Top a bowl of berries with small slices of Brie
Reference: Everyday Health, Chris Iliades, MD