Cheese making goes far back in man’s history-in fact it existed long before man recorded history. Today we recognize three main types of cheese: natural, processed, and cheese foods,” which are spreads containing an amount of cheese diluted with other ingredients. In the past few years, cheese alternatives or substitutes have also been developed. These substitutes usually contain no cheese in them at all, but do contain milk products.
Natural cheese can be subdivided into seven categories: soft (unripen cheeses), firm (unripen cheeses), soft, ripened cheeses, semisoft, ripened cheeses, hard, ripened cheeses, very hard, ripened cheeses, blue-veined, mold-ripened cheeses.
- Processed cheese is made from mixtures of natural cheeses. While natural cheeses continue to age and change in texture and flavor, processed cheese is pasteurized to stop the natural action of bacteria and enzymes in the product. While this stops the curing process, it also means that it will keep longer and will not have changes in flavor or texture during storage, preserving shelf life.
- Processed cheese foods and spreads are made in much the same way as processed cheese. They have different levels of moisture and butterfat and cannot be called cheese. Processed cheese foods have a maximum of 44 percent moisture and a minimum of 23 percent butterfat. Processed cheese spreads which must be spreadable at a temperature of 70 degrees F have a maximum moisture content of 60 percent and a minimum of 20 percent butterfat.
- Cold pack cheese is, like processed cheese, a blending of natural cheeses, although it may be a single cheese as well. By blending cheeses without heat, a soft, spreadable product with a smooth texture and the taste of the original cheeses is obtained. It keeps well and, like other processed products it undergoes only minor changes with age.
Now Cheese Is Made
All cheeses are made in much the same manner. They start with milk, which is separated into whey (liquid) and curd (solids) by the action of enzymes or bacteria. Cheese is made of the solids of milk, with some of the whey often left to give a different moisture level. (Some cheese is made from whey, but it is not actually made from the liquid, but from the smaller amount of solids that remain dissolved.)
The cheese may be made of whole cow’s milk, whole cow’s milk with cream added, skim cow’s milk, goat milk, ewe’s sheep’s) milk, and even horse’s milk. In the United States, which produces about 92 percent of all the cheeses consumed here, almost all cheese is made with cow’s milk.
After the enzymes and/or bacteria have acted to curdle the milk, it is separated into curds and whey by draining or pressing. The curd is then formed into blocks, with or without salt, depending upon the result desired. At this point, the treatment varies. If the cheese is to be ripened, it is placed in ripening rooms, which for some cheeses are warm and moist and for others are dry and cool. If it is not to be ripened, it is packaged for shipment to the customer immediately. Cheese that is to be mold ripened is sprayed on the outside with a mold or injected with a culture.
While there are literally thousands of cheeses, as mentioned earlier, these are broken down into seven main categories. America has developed only a few distinctive cheeses of its own, depending mostly upon copying the popular cheeses of Europe. Thus, in the U.S., one can find aH the names of the major European cheeses duplicated-with the exception of Roquefort-by American cheese makers. The Roquefort name is protected by law, both in France, where it originates, and in the United States as well.
However, a cheese that is world famous and generally mistaken for German-Liederkranz-is the best known of the American-developed cheeses. Other distinctive American-developed cheeses are Monterey Jack, Brick, Colby, Colorado Blackie, Coon, Cooper, Longhorn, Herkimer, and Tillamook, all firm, ripened cheeses of cheddar type. Soft, unripen cheeses, used widely in foodservice, are white to creamy white in color, soft, and extremely moist. They have a bland flavor, with occasionally a slightly acid bite, depending upon regional preference. Some varieties have a nutty” taste and may taste sweetish. On the other hand, one of the increasingly popular varieties is Feta, a very salty and firmly textured cheese that is stored in a salty brine to extend its life. All of the soft, ripened cheeses must be kept under refrigeration. They may be made with whole or skim milk.
These cheeses include: Cottage Cheese, Pot Cheese, Farmer’s Cheese, and American Ricotta all with about a 14-day life); Cream Cheese, Neufchatel (about 90 days of life); and Feta (storage life in brine of 60 to 120 days).
Soft, ripened types are specialty or “dessert” cheeses. They ripen from the outside in and grow softer and more satiny as they continue to ripen. They have a life of about 60 days under refrigeration. They may be eaten at any time after packaging. These cheeses include: Brie, Camembert, Liederkranz, and Limburger.
Semisoft, ripened types are generally yellow with flavors ranging from very mild (Muenster) to somewhat sharp (Port du Salut and aged Gouda). Some have a noticeable odor (Port du Salut). A semisoft, ripened cheese generally has a life of about 180 days after packaging. They hold less well if not refrigerated. Edam and baby Gouda have red wax coverings. Edam is shaped like a cannonball-completely round-while baby Gouda has a round, somewhat flattened shape. Others are Brick, Muenster (Munster), Gouda, Edam, Port du Salut (Port Salut), and Bel Pae.
The hard ripened cheeses which include the cheddars and Swiss (Emmenthaler and Gruyere), may be either a creamy white or a dark yellow or any shade in between. These are the most popular natural cheeses in America, and most of the American-developed cheeses fall into this category, such as Herkimer, Coon, Colby, Cooper, Longhorn, Monterey Jack, and Tillamook. Old-timers may still ask for cheddar as “rat cheese.” Bacterial gases produced during ripening cause the large holes in Emmenthaler (Swiss), the medium-sized holes in Gruyere (often called Swiss also), and the tiny holes found in Colby.
Very hard, ripened cheeses are generally used for grating. They have a hard, grainy texture, and are aged from about four to 24 months before being sold. Flavors range from slightly sharp to very sharp, depending upon the type and the age of the cheese. They may be kept up to one year, with refrigeration keeping them usable longest.
- Cheeses include: Parmesan, Romano, and Sap Sago (Schabzieger).
All of the blue-veined cheeses are soft and crumbly. They are made by adding a mold culture by injection during curing. Except for Roquefort, which is made of sheep’s milk, all of these cheeses are made of cow’s milk, some with added cream to obtain a result similar to Roquefort. Salt is also added in the manufacture, so these have a generally salty, tangy taste.
These cheeses must be kept under refrigeration, although they are enjoyed most by customers when they have been removed and allowed to reach room temperature before serving. While they are all enjoyed as dessert cheeses, the biggest use in the foodservice industry is as an ingredient in salad dressings. Cheeses used in such dressings are generally referred to as blue” cheeses instead of by their type name. Truth in menu states have clamped down on the use of “Roquefort” dressing, unless, the cheese used is really the very expensive Roquefort from France. All may be kept for 30 to 60 days after packaging.
- Cheeses include: Blue (Bleu), Danablu (Danish Blue), Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and Stilton.
Processed cheese makes up a sizeable percentage of the cheese used by the various foodservice market segments. Process cheese (as it is usually called), was developed earlier in this country to overcome certain adverse qualities of natural cheeses, such as short shelf life and continued aging changes. It also permits the cheese maker to turn out a standardized product with the same color, texture, and flavor consistently.
The pasteurization process used in making processed cheese and its products stops the action of bacteria and enzymes from continuing to change taste and flavor. That is not to say that processed cheese and cheese foods will not spoil-they will. But their shelf life under refrigeration is suitably long (30 to 60 days).
Processed cheeses are generally them. For example, it is Process American Cheese, Process Swiss Cheese, and Process Swiss/American Cheese. Processed cheese spreads are available in a variety of types-usually varying due to added flavorings.
Who Buys Cheese?
- Italian restaurants are big buyers of Italian-type cheeses. Ricotta for lasagna, Provolone for antipastos, Mozarella for pizza and almost any other cooked dish with cheese, or make to be sauce then enjoy with pickles, and Parmesan and Romano for grating make this a very fertile field.
- The second largest user is the hamburger fast-food operation. These places use lots of processed cheeses and some cheese foods.
- Blue cheeses sell best to hotel and restaurants, to theme restaurants and family restaurants, in addition to the expensive white-tablecloth restaurants where they are used for both salad dressings and for dessert cheeses. The biggest institutional user of cheese is schools. Schools represent a large market, since the recent high price for cheese has almost eliminated Federal purchasing for price support.