June 10, 2007 - Joanne

Classifying Cheese

(Note: Much of this is taken from notes from Daphne Zepos' lectures at Artisanal's Master Cheese Intensive Class)
Saxelby Cheesemongers Cave

Farmstead Cheese

Traditionally a farmstead cheese is one that is made on a farm with the milk of animals from that farm. In France (and most of Europe) the cheese is usually made by the woman of the farm, and usually in small volume. In the US the meaning can be different. A US farmstead cheesemaker may have a huge herd and may make a large quantity of cheese, but the cheese is still made on the farm from the milk of animals which live on that farm.

Artisanal Cheese
Is one “size up” from Farmstead cheese. Usually the term represents a slightly larger volume of cheese making. The milk is brought onto the farm rather than produced on the farm. But the cheese respects the traditions of cheesemaking and is hand-made.

Specialty Cheese
Most of the flavored cheeses are in this category. These are Supermarket and “fancy” cheeses. Usually a larger quantity of cheese. Keep in mind that not all "flavored cheeses" are specialty - some farmstead or artisanal cheesemakers add flavorings to their small batch handmade goat cheese, for example. I consider this the gray area of cheese classification.

Factory Cheese
To give you an idea, less than .1% (in 2006) of US cheese production is artisanal, farmstead or specialty. The rest are factory cheeses.

Textures & Types of cheese
Cheeses can be classified by milk type (eg. Cow, Goat, Sheep, etc.) and according to their hardness and type of rind.

Hardness of the pate of the cheese is usually divided into 5 classifications: Soft, Semi-soft, Semi-Hard, Hard and Blue. You may also see cheeses listed as pressed or uncooked/cooked which usually related to hard texture cheeses.

Fresh (Frais) (rindless cheese): Fromage Frais, Fromage Blanc. Petit Suisse
Soft/Bloomy Rind: Camembert, Brie
Semi-soft/Washed Rind: Chimay or Port Salut or Taleggio
Semi-Hard: Tome de Fermier de Alsace, Ossau Iraty
Hard: Cheddar, Manchego, Roomano (gouda)

Blue: Roquefort, Blue D'Auvergne, Stilton

Pressed Cooked
(curds are heated usually by scalding after they are cut to release more moisture and then cheeses are pressed): Comte or Beaufort (the cooking is often under 50 degrees C so that the cheese may be still called "cru" or Raw milk. This type of cheese tends to be able to be kept for a long time.
Pressed Uncooked (curds are may be manipulated in other ways to release moisture eg. cheddaring): Salers, Cantal, Ossau-Iraty, Taleggio
Unpressed, Cooked: Parmigiana Reggiano, Bel Paese, Grana Padano
Unpressed, Uncooked: Abbaye de Citeaux, Munster, Camembert, Stilton

Some stray notes...

Cheese origins:
Like pickles or ham or jam, cheese originated as a preserved food. Cheese provided the goodness of milk in leaner winter months. What we call cheese was result of milk being changed into a preservable form and stored in a convenient place. Traditionally cheese was stored in the cellar and thus by default the cellar provided the ideal conditions for the cheese. A full cave of cheese is a happy cave as it keeps/ self-maintains the humidity which the cheese needs to thrive.

Why US Cheesemakers thrived in California: The dairy farmers needed to make more money from their milk but not increase the size of their herds. They were helped by the Dairy Council to learn cheese making rather than increase the size of their herds.

Cheese Cave at Artisanal Cheese Center - NYC
Note on Affineur Storage:
Artisanal have five cheese caves as different rinded cheeses need a slightly different environment to thrive and some types of cheese have molds which should not be near other sorts of cheese.
1. Natural Rind, Hard 47-52 degrees and 94% humidity
2. Goat cheese
3. Bloomy Rind (like Pierre Robert, Valencay)
4. Washed Rind (like Epoisses)
5. Blues (as they need to be refrigerated)

A Great Cheese Glossary

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