So Much Cheese, So Little Time

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Cheese is cheese is cheese, right? Well, not necessarily. When most Americans think of cheese, we think of maybe nice mild or sharp cheddar or a nice slice of good ol’ American on a burger, or maybe some nice stringy mozzarella on our pizza. The one thing these do have in common is the source. A cow. But many cheeses come from other sources other than cow, it also made from the milk of buffalo, goats, sheep, yak, camel, and supposedly back in the day, history tells us that the Mongols of ancient china even made cheese from horse milk.

There is also a long list of the different types of cheeses, there are so many different varieties of cheese there is no way to cover them all in this short article. According to my research, cheddar is the most popular cheese in the world. Originating in Somersetshire England in the late 16th century, cheddar is classified as a hard cheese. Its color ranges from white to yellow and can be either eaten as soon as it becomes cheese for a mild flavor, or it can be aged up to three years to develop into an extra sharp cheddar.

Perhaps the most recognizable cheese in the world is Swiss cheese. Unmistakable for anything else because of its holes, Swiss cheese stands out in a crowd. It takes bacteria to make cheese, and Propionibacter shermani is the bacteria responsible for the holes in Swiss cheese. When this bacteria is added to the warm mixture, carbon dioxide forms and the bubbles from that are what is responsible for the formation of the holes in the cheese.

We can’t possibly talk about cheese and not mention American cheese. If it wasn’t for this humble little “cheese”, we never would have had cheese burgers, and I don’t know about you, but I gotta have my cheese burgers! American cheese isn’t actually a true cheese, but rather is considered a processed cheese, ranging from white to yellow in color, it was originally produced by blending Colby and cheddar cheeses together, now it is primarily from ingredients of milk and protein derivatives with salt.

What’s a cheeseburger without a nice big salad to go with it? And for some, a salad isn’t a salad without blue cheese dressing. Blue cheese gets its distinctive look and smell from the mold Penicillium. The characteristic flavor of blue cheeses tends to be sharper and tingly with a tad of salt. The distinctive range in notes of smell are from the variety of wanted bacteria growing on the sweet cheese. One of these bacteria, the tiny Brevibacterium linens is responsible for the associated aroma of classic blue cheeses. Oddly, and rather unappetizingly to me, this same bacteria is also responsible for foot odor and other human body odors.

We can’t talk cheese and not mention Mozzarella. Mozzarella is the favorite of pizza lovers everywhere. This is a semi-soft, white cheese that is consumed fresh as soon as it is made. Originating in Italy, this cheese is a favorite of Americans as Americans eat a lot of pizza. And pizza could not exist without Mozzarella. Right alongside the Mozzarella would have to be Parmesan. Parmesan is a favorite that usually comes into my home pre-grated and packaged in a handy shaker can for sprinkling on the aforementioned pizza and also on spaghetti and lasagna. Parmesan is a hard, granular cheese also originating in Italy and is a staple in many American homes.

These are just a very few of the many, many, different types of cheeses, and I chose these to mention as they are the cheeses closest to me as they are frequently consumed in my home. These may not be your favorite, but they are the ones I am most acquainted with. Like many other foods that can have a “gourmet” element, cheese can be explored for years before you ever manage to try them all I would imagine. So, if you want to know more about the finer cheese in life, then I suggest you get some wine, and some bread or crackers and get started.