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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 cheesemaker, do with the milk. The quality of the milk, starter culture, technology, and the craft and aging expertise of the cheesemaker 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 cheesemaking 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 cheesemaking 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 . . . Voilá!
So head to cheese class ... ification!
Fresh Cheese (soft, brined, whey, and pasta filata cheese)
The fresh cheese classification is a fairly large one, because it covers a wide range of cheese types. These cheeses feature fresh, milky, tangy, and in some cases salty notes, as in feta cheese. This category of cheese is referred to as "fresh" because the cheese is not "aged out" but is consumed quickly after production. When you think of fresh cheese, descriptors such as light white in color, fluffy, creamy comes to mind.
In fact, those are some of the basic organoleptic (sensory) characteristics of fresh cheese. Examples are: fromage blanc, Chévre, cottage cheese, feta, ricotta, and mozzarella. The physicochemical properties, (moisture, fat, pH) in fresh cheese contribute to a body or paste that may be crumbly like queso blanco, stretchy or smooth like mozzarella, custard-like and similar to fromage blanc, or a bit drier paste like fresh goat Chévre. The physicochemical properties are determined by the addition of lactic acid bacteria (starter culture) and the amount of moisture retained in the cheese. Fresh cheese can contain up to 83 percent moisture. The high moisture content gives this family of cheese a short shelf life, between thirty and forty-five days after manufacture.
Aside from pasta filata cheese (meaning stretched), like Bocconcini and nonmelting cheese like queso blanco in this classification, these fresh lactic cheeses generally have a creamy constancy, are easy to make at home, and are worth the twenty-four-hour draining time necessary before you can enjoy the fruits—or in this case the cheeses—of your labor.
Soft-Ripened cheese (bloomy-rind and washed-rind)
Soft-ripened cheeses are just as their category name implies. For the most part, they are soft, runny, gooey mounds of unctuous goodness. They are generally aged for only a few weeks at a temperature between 10—i5°C/5o—59°F. Think Epoisses from France, Redhawk from California, or a ripe Brie at room temperature perfection; all of these cheeses are considered to be soft-ripened.
Soft-ripened cheese is a large classification that has three categories of rind appearance. First, for the bloomy-rind cheeses there are two subcategories of rind development. The first is a wrinkled-looking cheese with a light bloom and intricate patterns of yeast and mold and a firmer body. The second has almost no appearance of wrinkles; it looks and feels smooth with a thin translucent rind of white fuzz. Both styles are considered bloomy-rind cheeses. The presence of Geotrichum candidum is predominant in all styles of cheese in the soft-ripened category. It has multiple purposes in the cheesemaking process (it can be added during the make or introduced in the aging room to varying degrees). G. candidum is the key to flavor development, aging, and rind composition for this family of cheese. Generally this type of soft, surface-ripened cheese is made from goat's milk and has a brittle texture but breaks down to a smooth, creamy goodness in the mouth.
The classification of soft-ripened cheese also includes a third category, washed-rind cheese. This is cheese with a sticky orange or reddish rind. Washed-rind cheese is a meaty, yeasty, barnyard-smelling cheese not for the faint of heart, but once you are past the sticky, grainy exterior you will find heaven. Washed-rind cheese has a sweet, savory smoothness that will melt in the mouth, generally less pronounced than the on-the-nose aroma, long on taste, and clean on the finish ... Surprised? Try Oma, a newcomer from Vermont, or the classic Taleggio from Italy.
Semi-hard cheese (pressed non-cooked)
The semi-hard cheese classification has more to do with the luscious texture of these cheeses and the fine pinhole openings or mechanical eyes you will see in the body of many of the cheeses in this class, rather than their understated, milder, more subtle flavors. Low moisture content, 50-55 percent, is helped along when the cheesemaker cuts the curds smaller than those of a soft-ripened cheese (see chapter 3). The knitting process (curds creating a community) (see chapter 5) is slowed down during the drain time and therefore not all the curds knit together tightly, leaving very tiny pinhole openings or eyes in the paste or body of the cheese.
Next the curds are molded and lightly pressed or weighted, by stacking the cheeses on top of each other. Once they can hold their shape they are salted and washed with a smearing solution to encourage initial rind development. Sometimes the cheese is left unwashed to create a natural rind. After the cheese is placed in the aging room or cave, washing may continue depending on the style of cheese being produced. A few classic examples of cheese in this family are Tomme de Savoie and St. Paulin from France and the Gouda-style cheese from Tumalo Farm. Oregon.
Some semi-hard cheeses in this category do not have the characteristic tiny holes, but the texture will be smooth, firm, and flexible, and the interior of the cheese will have a creamy off-white or ivory color. Semi-hard cheeses are generally aged sixty to seventy-five days. If you can control the moisture content in this style of cheese you will have great success. This family of cheese is best enjoyed with the culinary collaboration of cheese, bread, and heat! Can you say fondue?
Hard cheese (extra-hard)
The hard cheese classification has a couple of branches on the family tree. The first category is hard cheese, like the Swiss-style Emmental or the classic from the Jura region of France, Comté. The hard cheese classification is just as it sounds: general!) the cheese in this family is firm and solid in appearance and smooth and compact in texture and on-the-month feel. The curd is cooked by slowly heating it to very high temperature for thirty to forty-five minutes. Some hard cheese in this classification may contain openings or eyes; think Emmental (a lot) and Comté (a few). The Swiss cheeses you are most familiar with would be the reigning champ here, boasting more air than cheese per slice.
The openings are mainly due to fermentation during the aging process; in some cheeses propionic bacteria is added to the milk during the make. This produces carbon dioxide, which creates gas bubbles which eventually pop, leaving the classic round openings. Cheese is constantly reinventing itself. It's never the same from day to day; microbiological processes are occurring all the time during the affinage (aging) of these cheeses.
The second branch of the hard cheese family tree is the extra-hard class, the "rock star" of this category being Parmigiano-Reggiano! Other classics are Pecorino and Piave Vecchio. These are referred to as grana cheeses (good for grating). Extra-hard cheese gets its hard body from its personal trainer, the cheesemaker. First, the cream from this milk is skimmed off to provide a lower fat content for the cheese. Because you have a lower fat content, drainage of moisture from the cheese curd will speed up. Small curd size is key, as it is easier for the moisture to be expelled from the curd. Then the curd is cooked to a very high temperature, between 48-54°C/u8—129°F, removing even more moisture. Low moisture is the goal in hard cheese. It allows less enzymatic activity in the aging process, enabling the cheese to be preserved or aged out over a longer period of time.
The last part of the workout for the hard-cooked cheese category is (bench) pressing. Again, pressing the curd expels more moisture in the form of whey that was trapped between the curds. Pressing is key here, because pressing too much or too little will create a crumbly body in the cheese, not ideal for this type of cheese. Some cheese types in this family may be placed in a brine solution as part of the make process; for example Parmigiano-Reggiano is brined for up to twenty-one days. During the brining an exchange occurs. Salt is absorbed into the cheese, and whey is expelled from the cheese. Brining also helps create rind development, which allows for less cracking and longer aging time for this style of cheese. The continuous process of removing moisture for a longer maturation period will provide an excellent flavor profile for this extra-hard cheese category.
Next time you hit the cheese shop, give the classic extra-hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Sardo, which are traditionally grated over pasta and salads, another try. Don't relegate them to being only for cooking. Taste their nutty, salty, and savory goodness when you pop a nugget into your mouth. The concentrated sweet flavor and nuances of grassy pastures in these cheeses are delightful. When you're done workin' out, pickup a young Pinot Noir and a few hard bodies and ... rock on!
The Blue cheese classification often sings the blues. In spite of its smoky, earthy, creamy goodness, inspired by the gorgeous blue and green veins that create its iconic appearance, it remains an underappreciated cheese category for consumers. Though this classification is a large family, they all have one thing in common—a blue mold commonly known as Penicillium roqueforti. The curd of this cheese is inoculated with strains of this mold or it is added to the milk during the make. Once the cheesemaking process is complete, the real changes to this family of cheese occur. A few days to a week after production the cheese is needled (piercing with long needles) to allow the introduction of air into the body of the cheese. Allowing oxygen to enter through these fine tunnels promotes the Penicillium roqueforti to do its dance, making its way along the narrow paths to the interior of the paste and creating the intricate pattern of bluish-green lines called veining.
Blue cheese is aged in very humid conditions to facilitate mold development and to prevent the cheese from drying out and cracking. Aging room average temperatures are 10°C/50°F with humidity at about 90 percent.
One of the best ways to appreciate and understand the differences between the cheeses in the Blue cheese family is to generalize them by texture or body composition. This ranges from creamy to firm with a crumbly body in the middle somewhere. The classic creamy Blues are soft-ripened with a bloomy rind made in the Danish style, like Cambozola and Danish Blue. They present a silky, supple taste on the mouth, the paste is sweeter, and the blue mold flavors are generally milder. This is a good style to start with if you are new to the Blues. You will find the firmer Blues are meatier, with a beefy, nutty flavor. The body is crumbly looking, and the paste is less ivory in color and more tan to golden. Try the French classic Fourme d'Ambert; it's creamy, mild, and very approachable. The final category in identifying different Blue cheeses within this family is the crumbly-creamy texture; many of the Blue cheeses in this style are produced in the United States. Generally, these Blues have a very thin rind and look moist, but the body will be firm, with lots of tiny craters of blue mold uniformly spread throughout the paste. Roquefort, the French classic, is a good example of this style of Blue; try a young Berkshire Blue made from Jersey cow's milk. Point Reyes Blue, or Rogue River Blue from the famed Rogue Creamery in Oregon.
Categories of Rind Development
Rind development is another wonder of cheesemaking, and proper rind development is key to the success of all cheese. All styles of cheese have a rind, though some go unseen and underappreciated. The whole idea behind the rind is to keep the delicious goodness of the cheese intact. The rind on a cheese works in two ways: as a buffer or guard against unwanted bacteria and mold that will compromise the cheese's interior and as a facilitator of the ripening of the cheese with the addition of good bacteria and molds. All rinds are a creation of aging, formed during this process of allowing the cheese to come to full ripened bliss. Rind formation is due to the surface of the cheese drying and developing different types of microorganisms that will impart a wide spectrum of flavor and appearance characteristics to the cheese. When categorizing rinds into cheese families, think about the duality of the rind's role inside and outside the wedge!
Bloomy-rind (1) soft-ripened
THE WINY RIND ... JUST BEGGING TO BE EATEN
The standard by which you know this type of rind is a soft-ripened Camembert or Brie. Those cheeses are developed with the addition of the essential molds Geotrichum candidum and/or the slower-growing Penicillium candidum mold, either added to the milk during the make or sprayed on the cheese later in the aging process. The familiar white fuzzy texture you find on soft-ripened cheese, like Humboldt Fog from Cypress Grove and France's Bücheron, is an example of a bloomy rind. These molds promote the creamy; ivory-colored; intricate patterns of mold growth. Check out the tapestry-like patterns found on a Saint-Marcellin from France or a Coupole from Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery. In general the rind on these cheeses is edible and in many cases will impart flavor and texture to the overall on-the-mouth experience of the cheese.
Mixed-rind (2) washed and bloomy cheese
MIXED BLESSING OF A RIND ...
A mixed-rind cheese has a few steps in the aging process that help develop the characteristic orangish-white rind you find on mixed-rind cheese such as the famed Raclette and Reblochon from France. The process involves washing the cheeses' surface and allowing the mold to bloom on the rind. There is yeast already active in the green cheese (young cheese) when the process of washing the cheese with a smear solution begins. This helps to neutralize the surface of the cheese, which allows the Brevibaterium linens, known as B. linens, to develop on the surface of the rind, creating the orangish, sometimes reddish, color of the rind. Toward the end of the aging process, the washing stops, allowing the molds on the rind to then bloom and create the fluffy, white mold you see uniformly on the surface of the cheese.
Washed-rind (3) soft-ripened, semi-hard hard cheese
WASH AWAY THE BLOOM ...
The category of washed-rind cheese is similar to that of the mixed rind in that washing occurs throughout the aging process. The blooming is held at bay, and mold is not allowed to bloom on the rind, keeping it in check through the smearing or washing process. The B. linens are allowed to do their thing, breaking down fat and protein, adding to the flavor profile of the cheese while imparting the distinctive orangish to pinkish surface color. The activity of all the yeast on the surface will create an aromatic cheese as well. This is sometimes off-putting to those unaware of the creamy, gooey goodness that lies beneath the rind. Try two of Vermont's best—Winnimere, from Jasper Hill Farm, and Twig Wheel, from Twig Farm—or the classic Livarot from France. The rind on washed-rind cheese is generally not consumed.
Excerpted from the joy of cheesemaking by Jody Farnham Marc Druart Copyright © 2011 by Jody Farnham and Marc Druart. Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
1 Cheese Classification 1
2 Milk Composition and Seasonality 25
3 Starter Cultures 41
4 Coagulation and Drainage 61
5 Molding 77
6 Pressing 87
7 Salting: Brining vs. Dry Salting 95
8 Aging 103
9 Core Cheese Makes 119
10 Building a Cheese Board 145
11 Pairing Cheese with Wine, Beer, and Beyond 159
12 Rockin' the Wedge 171
A Final Irish Blessing 211
Educational Resources 213
About the Authors 244
Posted August 30, 2011
The subtitle of the book is The ultimate guide to understanding, making and eating fine cheese. It is definitely the ultimate guide for gourmet, serious cheese artisans. This book has finest of the fine cheeses and procedures for making them.
Cheese is classified into 5 different groups; fresh, soft-ripened, semihard, hard and blue depending on how it is processed, its flavors, and characteristics. This book gives you the chemistry behind each one and the ins and outs of how to get the right chemistry. This is definitely a text for a cheese class participant.
They break down the milk composition in cow, goat and sheep milk next showing the amounts of water, lactose, proteins etc in each type and looks at the factors that can change the quality of the milk. Without good milk, you won't have good cheese.
The book continues with more chemistry for the cheesemaker in which starter cultures to use for which kind of cheeses you want to make. This book breaks down each and describes them in depth. Proper coagulation and drainage are needed for your cheese as well and the authors use diagrams and photos to teach these. Very detailed in teaching I think this could easily be a book used at some of the cheese making schools in the country.
All the processes of cheesemaking are covered thoroughly in the book with pressing the cheese, adding the mold for aging, and even how to cut the cheese properly. We are talking serious cheese making here, not for the very beginner cheese tinkerer.
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