Fresh, Soft, Washed, Hard & Blue

tyes-of-cheeses The Major Cheese Styles & How They Are Made

Cheese comes in many types with well over 1,000 different varieties and of these each producer will have slight nuances that help their cheese stand apart from others. At The Cheese Artisans, we carry over 80 varieties of artisanal cheeses from across UK and Europe. There are 5 main styles of cheeses - Fresh, Soft, Washed Rind, Hard and Blue.

1. FRESHFeta, Boilie Goats' Pearl, Burrata, Mozzarella

Boilie-Goats-Pearl-1 The Major Cheese Styles & How They Are Made

Image: Boilie Goats' Pearl 

Fresh cheeses are obtained simply by leaving milk out in the ambient air to allow it to curdle naturally. The curdled milk is then poured into a small basket with holes which allows the whey to drain out and gives the cheese its final form. The addition of ferments acidifies the milk, transforming it into firm curds that are crumbly, permeable and delicate. Fresh cheeses have a moisture content higher than 60%, and they have a more or less dense texture that can be liquid, smooth or creamy.

2. SOFT – Brie de Meaux, Camembert, Delice de Bourgogne, St. Felicien, St. Marcellin, Valencay, Driftwood, Brillat Savarin, Eve

camembert_de_normandie_aoc_3 The Major Cheese Styles & How They Are Made

Image: Camembert de Normandie AOC (250g)

They are produced by allowing the curds and whey to drain in moulds for a few hours before salting. Then, the external surface is sprayed with a culture (penicillium candidum) that gives the cheese its characteristic white and fluffy rind called “bloom.” The cheese is then ripened for about one month during which time the texture and colour of the interior becomes more and more consistent.

3. WASHED RIND – Epoisses, Trou du Cru, Petit Munster, Limburger, Reblochon

epoisses_aoc_1-1 The Major Cheese Styles & How They Are Made
Image: Epoisses AOC (250g)

Produced in much the same way as soft cheeses though generally the curds are drained of the whey before they are placed in the moulds. Then it is washed and brushed on several occasions with brine to which alcohol is sometimes added. The term “mixed rind” indicates a cheese that was washed at the beginning of the ripening period, then left to continue ripening.

4. HARD – Comte, Cheddar, VSOP Gouda, Mimolette, Kirkham’s Lancashire, Gruyere, l'Etivaz, Alex, Alp Blossom, O.G Kristal, Abondance

stravecchio-2 The Major Cheese Styles & How They Are Made

Image: Asiago Stravecchio DOP

To produce hard cheeses the curds are drained and pressed to withdraw as much whey as possible before being cooked or semi-cooked. The moisture level is between 35% and 45%. Hard cheeses are allowed to mature and this maturation period allows the cheeses to develop more flavour. The length of maturation is dependent on various factors but most importantly the size of the cheese itself will dictate the minimum ageing required.  In some of these cheeses, “eyes” form when gas is created before the interior hardens.

5. BLUE – Shropshire Blue, Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Fourme d’Ambert, Chiriboga Blue, Stilton, Valdeon, Cabrales

Shropshire-Blue-1 The Major Cheese Styles & How They Are Made

Image: Shropshire Blue by Colston Bassett Dairy

Production is similar to that of soft cheese with one important exception: a culture (penicillium glaucum roqueforti or penicillium candidum) is incorporated with the curdled milk to promote the development of mould in the interior. Ripening, which can last several months, takes place in a humid place. In order to facilitate air circulation in the interior and to promote the development of veins, the cheese wheels are pierced with long needles.                                                                                                              

**Please note the above descriptions are broad and there are naturally exceptions in each category. With each producer introducing their own nuances to the cheese making process**