Cheese begins with milk.
Do you prefer cow or goat milk? Sheep or water buffalo? How about camel, yak, or moose? You might want to try donkey or reindeer . . .
Cheese is one of the most popular foods in the world. You can eat it straight, melt it, spice it, or add it to endless recipes. Where the milk comes from and how the cheese is produced affects the flavor, texture, and intensity. You can make it mild or sharp; add anything from wood smoke to cranberries, truffles to horseradish . . . the list is as long as the cheesemaker’s imagination.
Eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or any time in-between.
Want to try the most expensive cheese in the world? Pule is made from the endangered Balkan donkey, milked 3 times a day in Serbia and Montenegro. It will set you back over $600 dollars a pound. If that’s too pricey, try moose cheese from Sweden at $500 dollars a pound. Looking to save a few bucks? Go for Stilton Gold with edible gold flakes at a bargain price of $400 per pound.
Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get good cheese.
Ask anyone in Denmark, the country that eats the most cheese in the world (62 pounds per person annually), closely followed by Iceland, Finland, France, and Cyprus. Precedence Research estimates the global cheese market will grow and be worth over $205 billion dollars in the near future.
According to the World Atlas, there are three basic cheese categories:
Farmstead (fermier) – cheese made on the same farm as the milk herd.
Artisanal – cheese made from several milk herds in close locations.
Dairy – cheese made from a mixture of milk purchased from different farms.
Fake – (my added category).
Cheese is special because there are so many varieties. If you’re Israeli you might choose emek or galil; Greeks favor feta; and Spain is manchego country. People in China don’t eat a lot of cheese because it’s estimated that almost 90% are lactose intolerant!
In the U.S. the most popular cheese is cheddar, followed by American, mozzarella, and Swiss. You can head for Wisconsin because the state produces over 500 million pounds a year (the most in the country). One of their nicknames is The Cheese State and sports fans often call themselves cheese heads.
Try fresh cheese that’s white like ricotta and cottage cheese. If you prefer an oozy style go for brie – it’s great with honey. Bon Appétit recommends mozzarella, cheddar, and gruyere as some of the best melting cheeses. Others prefer hard and semi-hard slicing cheeses like Swiss and gouda, while some choose blue like gorgonzola and roquefort.
The stinkiest cheeses might not be as popular but they’re well known – like limburger, stinking bishop, and taleggio – described by Treehugger as having a “wet-socks-and-grass-aroma.” These cheeses are strong because they’re “rinsed with anything from brine to brandy to encourage the growth of friendly bacteria . . . the same bacteria responsible for making feet stink.” Yum?
Fake cheese has a different profile. There are two types:
Specialty fakes are for vegans or lactose intolerant people. They are usually soy or almond based with brand names like Daiya and Chao and promoted as dairy-free.
Cheez Fakes are products that don’t meet the FDA minimum of containing 51% cheese to be called cheese. Essentially, they’re salt-packed, chemical cocktails processed with emulsifiers and great advertising. Some can even be used as a cleaning agent! You can recognize them by names like Velveeta, Cheez Whiz, and Kraft Singles.
There’s a cheese for every taste on the planet. Pair your favorite with a burger, fondue, pasta, crackers, bread, or in your best recipes. That list is as long as your culinary imagination.
While you’re munching make sure you say “cheese” in your selfie. Don’t worry about mice – they prefer peanut butter to cheese. Attend cheese festivals held all over the world, compete in the annual Gloucester Cheese Rolling Contest, or host your own cheese-tasting party.
It’s a big and wonderful cheesy story.