Silky, firm, soft and crumbly- just a few of the delicious textures available in our favorite, mouth-watering cheeses. It may not seem it, but the texture is detrimental to the way cheese is classified and marketed to be sold.
The texture of cheese really all depends on how they were made. They could be creamy, grainy or plain hard. Generally, the texture is dependent on the age of the cheese and how much moisture it contains. The more moisture content, the softer the cheese is, while harder variations may be a lot older and subjected to heat to make them drier. To get a better idea, let’s explore the various cheese textures and how they are created and classified.
Ripened Or Fresh?
Although there are many variations, cheese can be generally broken down into two broad types: ripened and fresh. With ripened cheeses, curds are drained by many different ways such as soaking, cooking or bacteria inoculation. The ripened cheeses are then stored according to a specific recipe after they are cured. While using various humidity and temperature controlled environments, cheese makers can formulate a variety of textures.
For fresh cheeses, they are ready to be eaten soon after the whey is drained from the curds. Although they may be molded or pressed into different, they are still soft and spreadable in texture. Popular fresh cheeses are Ricotta, Mascarpone, and Cream Cheese.
These cheeses are surface-ripened and are neither cooked or pressed. Instead, bacteria processes are used to ripen from the outside in. They develop golden colored rinds and can range from creamy to semi-soft. Favorites include Camembert and Brie.
Semi-soft is soft but still sliceable. They can even be pressed and might be cooked. Cheeses which are in this category are Gouda, Monterey Jack, and Tilsit.
Semi-firm cheeses are cooked and pressed but not aged as much as fully hard cheeses. Although they are generally firm, they are not crumbly. Popular semi-firm cheeses are Swiss, Cheddar and Edam.
These cheeses are typically aged for 2 years and they are cooked and pressed. Hard cheeses are also very firm and dry. Popular hard cheeses include Asiago, Parmesan, and Pecorino.
With special cheeses with unique texture qualities, comes special cheese making processes. An example would be when blue cheese is made, it is either inoculated, punctured or sprayed with spores of molds like Penicillium Roquefort during the aging period. After this, the cheese develops the famous pockets of blue-green mold, forming the creamy, gritty texture. Another part of the special process is called “pasta filata”. Putting a curd in a hot whey bath and kneading and stretching it until it is pliable creates a thing called “spun paste” cheeses.
Storing Cheeses Based On Their Textures
To fully experience and enjoy the distinctive textures of your favorite cheeses, it is best to store them based on their type. Here is a simple guide on how to store your cheese based on their texture.
Semi-Soft, Semi-Firm And Firm
The best way to store cheeses like Cheddar, Gouda, and Parmesan, they should be wrapped in airtight plastic bags and placed in a refrigerator compartment or the location which is warmest in the refrigerator. Many varieties will be good for many weeks. If you want to store the cheese for more time, you can lightly dampen a paper towel with vinegar and then fold it around the cheese before wrapping and refrigerating. It will also make it less likely that mold will be able to grow, but if it does indeed happen, you can simply cut away the molded portion and discard it. Cutting away mold is only good for semi-soft, semi-firm, and firm cheeses, it is dangerous to consume molded fresh or soft ripened cheeses.
If you are wanting to ripen cheeses like Camembert and Brie, wrap them tightly and store them at a cool room temperature for around a day. When the cheese is ripe, store it in the coldest part of the refrigerator for two weeks at the most. If mold appears on soft-ripened cheese, it is an indication that it is no longer good or safe to consume.
Fresh cheeses like Cream Cheese and Ricotta perish quickly. It is ideal to purchase them at food markets with a good turnover and to check the packages for expiry dates because many times the packages are only good for a couple days. You should store the fresh cheese in the coldest part of the refrigerator for no longer than two weeks or the expiry date, depending on which comes first. If you are consuming Cream Cheese, you should use it within one week of opening and it should be rewrapped thoroughly.