Name that cheddar: A guide to different cheeses

Australia produces over 315,000 tonnes of cheese per year, according to Dairy Australia’s statistics, and 44% of that is cheddar. But how much do you really know about the common cheddar, or Gouda for that matter, or mozzarella?

How is cheese classified?

yellow cheddar
Yellow cheddar

According to the Codex standard, to be a cheese, a product must be made into a solid through enzyme or rennet processes, have more milk than whey, and have more protein than milk. But what makes a cheese mild or tasty?

In Australia, we classify cheeses according to how much moisture is found in the fat-free substance (MFFS). How the cheese is processed and how long it is left to mature and harden both determine what type of cheese you can make.

Dairy Australia’s guide to understanding cheese manufacturing lists the following types of cheese according to their MFFS:

  • Soft Cheese: >67%
  • Semi-Hard / Firm Cheese: 54 – 69%
  • Hard Cheese: 49 – 56%
  • Extra Hard Cheese: <51%

As for the different shapes of cheeses, most traditional cheeses are still made in a circular ‘wheel’ shape, and are package either in the full wheel or in triangular slices. Some brands such as Babybel package their cheeses in tiny wheels, because bite-sized foods are inherently attractive to children (and many adults, too). More modern cheeses are produced and packaged in rectangular blocks because of modern moulding techniques, and because it’s easier to stack them on dairy or supermarket shelves.

Types of cheese

Soft cheese

brie cheese
  • Brie: White crust, with a creamy interior. Invented in the 11th century in France in the Le Brie province, hence the name. Tastes mild and a bit like mushrooms. Shorter than camembert.
  • Camembert: White crust. Famous in French culture for having been created in 1791 by a farmer in Normandy, Marie Harel. Was served to French troops in World War I. It is aged for at least 3 weeks, and the cheese wheel is taller than brie.
  • Feta: Soft, crumbly, and white – and very salty. Created in the Balkan Islands and made famous by Greece. Usually made with goat or sheep’s milk. Made as large blocks that are sliced into wedges and saturated in brine (salt water) in wooden barrels to prevent further ripening. If you don’t like it salty, soak it in cold water or milk before serving.
  • Gippsland Blue: Mouldy cheese – the first original cheese to be created in Australia. Made of Jersey cow milk, which makes it a deep yellow colour and gives it a smooth texture. Ripens in 8 – 10 weeks. Has an orange crust that is covered with naturally-occurring white and blue-gray mould. Sounds gross, but taste sweet and buttery.
  • Gorgonzola: Brown cheese named after a village in Italy. Its intricate method of creation dates back to the 11th century. Used to be aged in a dark cave for a year or more, making it crumbly and a light tan colour.
  • Halloumi: Boiled and folded cheese, usually with mint added. Originated in the east Mediterranean. Delicious when grilled or fried.
  • Limburger: Orange cheese in a box shape. It was created by Belgian Trappist monks, but Germans stole the recipe and created their own, and then in the 1880s, New Yorker Emil Frey stole the recipe again and created a version called Liederkrantz. Tangy and creamy with a particularly … pungent aroma caused by bacteria living in the rind. If you trim the rind, it tastes quite mild.
  • Manouri: White cheese with no rind, a fresh, citrusy flavour, and a texture like cheesecake. One of Greece’s favourite cheeses, made from the whey of ewe and goat milk. Manouri is exclusively manufactured in Central and Western Macedonia and in Thessalia. Also known as Manoypi.
  • Mozzarella: Originates from southern Italy, the birthplace of pizza. A plastic, spun-curd buffalo milk cheese. Produced by leaving it in the vat longer than normal, so that the curd sinks to the bottom and the lactic acids soften it and make it easy to knead.
  • Munster: A round, sticky, orange cheese from France. Has a strong flavour that becomes stinky the more the rind is “washed”. Intended to be served with dark bread and beer. Curdled with rennet, and lightly salted. French Munster is one of the few cheeses which ripen from the inside out. Not to be confused with the white, mild domestic U.S. cheese, Muenster.
  • Tavor: A Kosher cheese made from sheep’s and goat’s milk. The rind is sprayed with Penicillium Kandidium. Sheep’s milk is naturally sweet, making this cheese sweet and earthy, with a tangy edge.

Semi-hard or firm cheese

  • Appenzeler: An orange-rind cheese that was once used in the Alps to pay taxes for over 7 centuries. Made in the mountains of Appenzeller, near Liechtenstein. This cheese is protected by a special authority in Switzerland.
  • Bethmale: The most famous goat’s milk cheese from the Pyrenees. Tastes tangy and spicy. It is an “uncooked” cheese with several holes in it. It hardens in 2 to 3 months and the rind must be brushed and turned regularly.
  • Caboc: This Scottish cheese looks like a log with a crusty crust that is rolled in oatmeal. The ancient recipe and the oats make it taste nutty. Ripens in just five days.
  • Cornish Yarg: This might be a good cheese to give your enemies, as it is a mild cheese coated in nettles to give it a bitter rind. That’s right, you heard us – nettles. As in thorny, stinging weeds.
  • Edam: The most famous Dutch cheese. Intended to be eaten within weeks of making it, while the partially-skimmed cow’s milk is still nice and smooth. Liquid rennet is added to create curd, and the curd is cut into tiny pieces that are then dried and salted. After ripening, the cheese is exported wrapped in red wax.
  • Provolone: A dark yellow cheese from Italy used for cooking, desserts, and grating. Sometimes it is exported in wax. Dolce Provolone is mild and is only aged for 2 to 3 months, and is used as table cheese. But if you age it for 6 months to 2 years it becomes darker, grows tiny holes, and starts to taste spicy.
  • Roomkaas: This is Gouda on extra-fat steroids. Gouda is already 48% made of butterfat, but this is even creamier, with a butterfat content of 60%. Smooth and buttery goodness – thank you, Holland.

Hard cheese

  • Blue: The blue-veined version based on the many European blue cheeses. Very crumbly and often dubbed “stinky cheese” by mild cheese lovers.
  • Cairnsmore: A Scottish cheese made from sheep’s milk, with a hard, black crust. As the rind matures, it gets mouldier and begins to smell like old leather. It’s a nutty-tasting cheese that hints of caramel and toffee. Ripens in 7 to 9 months but is only made during the warm months in the north, from April to October.
  • Gouda: Holland’s most famous gift to the world. A cheddar-like cheese coated in yellow wax. Baby Gouda comes in red wax. Smoked Gouda has a black or brown rind. Gouda can also come in special herbed flavours.
  • Herve: Brick-shaped, browny orange cheese. A famous Belgian cheese. Starts off sweet and gets tastier and spicier the longer it is allowed to ripen.
  • Parmesan: Possiblythe world’s most popular grating cheese, commonly used on pizza and pasta. The cream in the milk is separated and removed during processing, making a sharp, salty, crumbly cheese. The cheese is pressed in cheesecloth for 2 days, then salted in brine for 1 month.
  • Stilton: A creamy, white cheese known as the “king of cheeses”. Created nearly 300 years ago and still handmade exclusively in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire counties from local milk. Only seven dairies have licences to use the centuries-old recipe, and it is the only British cheese that has its own certification trademark.
  • Swiss cheese (Emmental): Holey cheese.Produced in the German-speaking parts of Switzerland. The curd is pressed in cheese cloth for 24 hours, soaked in brine for 3 days, stored for 1 month, and later cured for 4 to 10 months.
  • Windsor Red (Cheddar and Claret): Pink cheese made by mixing cheese from England with red wine (claret) from Bordeaux in France. It’s a veined cheese, but the veins are red instead of blue or green. Tastes like a sharp cheddar with hints of wine.
  • Ardalena: Another holey cheese, made from water-buffalo milk in Transylvania in central Romania. The taste of the cheese depends on whether or not the farmers have been able to keep the buffaloes wet enough during hot weather, as water buffaloes do not have sweat glands and rely on water to keep themselves cool.

Extra-hard cheese

  • Grana: A grating cheese even harder than parmesan. Invented in the 13th Century in Italy’s Po Valley. One-quarter of all Italian milk production is used to make Grana cheese. Most are aged for an incredible 4 years.
  • Sardo: An Egyptian cheese made from sheep’s milk. This sturdy cheese is long-lasting and good for grating.

For more types of cheeses, check out the Green Field Farm’s Glossary of Cheeses. Or to find a new cheese to try, take a look at which cheeses won the 2015 Canstar Blue award for most satisfied customers.

Share this article