Cheese

By Katrin Koelle
Updated on 08. May. 2020

Even connoisseurs never stop learning about cheese. After all, there are countless varieties and different types - the best prerequisites for lots of culinary discoveries!

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Cheese...

  • ...strengthens bones and teeth. Cheese is rich in calcium and phosphorus, which help keep teeth and bones strong and ward against osteoporosis (bone loss).
  • ...is packed with vitamin A. Depending on the type, cheese contains a really thick portion of vitamin A. On average, 100 grams of cheese contain around 250-300 micrograms, but some varieties even contain up to 550 micrograms. This vitamin is especially good for eye and skin health.
  • ...promotes muscle growth. For fitness fans, cheese is one of the best foods to eat: depending on the variety, cheese provides approximately 6-36 grams of protein per 30-gram portion, which helps muscles grow quickly.
  • ...is easily digestible. Cheese is composed of short-chain fatty acids, which are usually well tolerated even by people with a sensitive stomach.
  • ...can be low in lactose. Those who can’t tolerate milk sugar well can often eat cheese without worry. Semi-soft and hard cheeses contain only about 0.1 grams of lactose per 100 grams, a negligible amount. Exceptions are fresh and processed cheeses, where the lactose content is sometimes significantly higher, depending on the type.

What You Should Know About Cheese

Most types of cheese are made from raw or heated (pasteurised) cow's milk, usually from goat's or sheep's milk. Usually cheese gets its special consistency from the addition of rennet, which coagulates the protein. The resulting curd is put into moulds so that the whey can run off. The resulting mass is then pressed, salted and matured, from a few days up to several years, depending on the variety. 

How cheese gets its holes is a mystery to some - but actually easy to explain. The reason for the cavities, also called "eyes" by the British, involves a process in cheese production. Lactic acid is produced from lactose, which decomposes to carbon dioxide, among other things, which then drives the holes into the cheese mass. Fun fact: cheese that has no holes is called "blind" cheese by experts.

Origins

It's hard to pinpoint where cheese comes from, although it is believed to have originated in Europe.

Varieties

There are at least 3,000 types of cheese in the world, although nobody knows the exact number for sure. If you're still looking for your favorite type of cheese, here's a quick primer:

Cream Cheese: Usually made from sour milk, cream cheese does not have to be matured. As its name suggests, it can be eaten directly after production. Other varieties which fall under this category include ricotta, mascarpone, mozzarella, Schichtkäse and quark. The average fat content of cream cheese is around 18 percent.

Soft Cheese: Here too, the name says it all - soft cheeses can even be spread when perfectly ripe. Typical and best-known varieties include camembert, Brie, Vacherin, Romadur, Münsterkäse, Limburger and Feta. The average fat content of soft cheese is around 35 percent.

Semi-Solid Semi-Hard Cheese: These cheeses are firm enough to cut, but soft enough to spread. Semi-solid semi-hard cheeses include Butterkäse, Bel Paese, Esrom, Havarti and Reblochon. Most blue cheeses, for example Gorgonzola and Roquefort, also belong to this category. The fat content of semi-solid semi-hard cheese can vary greatly, averaging around 45 percent.

Sliced Cheese: Also called "firm semi-hard cheese", typical varieties include Raclette, Gouda, Appenzeller, Emmental or Tilsiter.  The fat content of semi-hard cheese averages around 50 percent.

Hard Cheese: Despite its name, hard cheese is by no means always equally hard. Emmental, for example, belongs to this group, but has a somewhat softer consistency than Parmesan or Pecorino. Other varieties classified as hard cheese include Emmental, Berkäse, Manchego and Gruyère. Basically all hard cheeses are best suited for grating. In terms of fat content, hard cheeses are take the lead with an average of 60-70 percent, although they also contain the most protein and calcium.

Our Favorite Cheese Recipes

Here you can find all cheese recipes.

How Healthy Is Cheese?

Those who don't go for a low-fat cheese should keep in mind that cheese in general can be quite high in calories. Apart from that, however, this dairy product is definitely a healthy food, containing amino acids, protein, calcium and phosphorous. 

Cheese made from raw milk can be just as healthy as cheese made from pasteurised (heated) milk. However, pregnant women, children and people with weak immune systems are better off without raw milk cheese because it can contain germs that can cause illness.

CHEESE NUTRITIONAL INFO (100 g)  
Calories 96 - 480
Protein 12 - 36 g
Fat 3 - 36 g
Carbohydrates 0.3 - 7.5 g
Fiber 0 g

Shopping and Cooking Tips

Shopping

Hardly any cheese connoisseurs buy their cheese presliced or prepackaged, as they tend to be dried out and lacking in flavor. It's best to buy cheese in blocks and cut it yourself, either from the supermarket or a specialty cheese shop. 

Storage

Traditionally, the best place for cheese is a damp cellar. However an everyday substitute is the refrigerator, where most cheese will stay fresh for a relatively long time. You can always used plastic wrap or aluminum foil to store your cheese, however coated cheese cloth or paper, or a slightly-moisted linen or cotton cloth will keep your cheese more fresh. 

Remember that mold idoes no harm to hard and semi-hard cheese and just needs to be removed generously. However, semi-solid and soft cheeses become inedible due to mould infestation and must be disposed of.

Preparation

The waxed cheese rind on certain cheeses should always be removed, while the rind of soft cheeses like Camembert or Brie is basically edible and is usually not removed.

What To Make With Cheese

There is almost nothing that doesn't taste better with cheese. Grated hard cheese goes perfectly with pasta, while semi-hard or hard cheese can be grated and is wonderful for baking. The more fat it contains, the better it melts and the more delicious the crust becomes! Soft cheeses such as camembert are also suitable for gratinating, but they should only remain in the oven for a relatively short time.

Grated or shredded cheese is also the delicious basis for the classic cheese fondue, but you can also use it to make fine soups or a delicious cheese sauce. Bite sized cubes of semi-solid or firm cheese are a super quick snack that even children will love. And cut into strips or mini-cubes, cheese adds a ton of flavor to a simple salad.

If you want to serve a cheese platter for dessert, it all depends on the right combination. Mix as many different types and flavours as possible, for example a blue cheese with camembert, hard cheese, semi-soft cheese and a homemade cream cheese.

Cheese is even delicious in desserts, such as cheese cake or tiramisu with ricotta. 

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