Cheese - The Chef's Cooking School


4 things that give character to a cheese

Cheese is a complex food that flavors are developed through 4 character shaping components.4 Character shaping components:

1. Type of Milk

2. Size of the Curd

3. Salting

4. Aging

Characteristics and Making Cheese

1. Type of Milk and coagulation of proteins- the type of milk (cow, goat, sheep, horse and camel) has enzymes added to it called rennet. This rennet speeds up the coagulation of the proteins, forming a custard textured solid which separates from the liquids.

2. Shaping the curds - These solid proteins are like a big gelatinous cake that is then cut into different sizes,the larger the curd yields a softer cheese, medium curd would be firmer and small would be hard. The larger the curd the more moisture is retained. Examples would be for soft: Brie for hard: reggiano Parmesan

3. Salting - this character building phase assists developing the cheese as it matures in the next phase. The salt acts as a control in bacteria growth, rind structuring, and flavor. It is here that a blue cheese would be injected with the bacteria or mold culture which gives blue cheese its distinct "veins" and flavor characteristics. Some cheeses are introduced to a white mold as in Brie.

4. Maturing -is the final stage of the cheese making process. This is where the flavors develop in the controlled atmosphere of a ripening cellar or storage room. The release of carbon dioxide & ammonia in the presence of oxygen combine to sharpen flavors over the course of time. The cheese can be "basted" with solutions such as "wine" or another solution with specific flavor profiles. The flavors develop the longer it matures. 

A note from the chef:

My grandmother always made the best, extra sharp cheddar, condensed milk, dried mustard, whole milk,roux, and some fresh ground pepper of course. I can envision dipping the spoon into the sauce after the cheese incorporates coats the spoon, and savoring every bit. Going back again for more. With out a doubt one of my most favorite dishes of all time.  Like people, cheeses each have their own characteristics.

I worked for a catering group out of Boston “Creative Gourmet” in the late 90’s, where we would do cheese displays on a regular basis. Occasionally we would get the most atrocious cheese that you could believe. Morbier, you could not believe the vomit like smell when you opened this cheese up. Initially I was aghast that people would actually eat this cheese. Then it sank in, if it smells that bad, and is that expensive, there has to be something to it. I tried the Morbier, oh my, it was delicious subtle almost fruity. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and totally thought of cheese differently, this doesn’t mean you will enjoy it, but if you have a chance give it a try.

cheese table

Glossary of Cheese

Aging - is the process where the cheese sits in a controlled temp./humidity room, and the flavor develops as the ammonia and CO2 are released in the presence of oxygen. During this time the moisture content reduces. This can take anywhere from 3 weeks to numerous years.

Artisan Cheese - Cheeses that are styled for a specific flavor profile, made in smaller batches.

Blooming Rind - edible rind developed by spraying a mold bacterium such as penicillin,candid um. Ex. Brie

Blue- Veined - cheese injected with bacteria that grows within and gives distinct characteristics to these cheeses. Ex. Gorgonzola, Roquefort 

Cream -(single,double,triple) - class of cheese identified by butterfat content.

                                   Single 50%,

                                   Double 60%,

                                   Triple 72-75%. Triple cream cheeses flavor is maximized at room temperature, not chilled.

                                                   Ex.triple = St. Andre, double = boursin, single = cream cheese.

Fresh Cheese - like ricotta, goat chevre, and feta that are not aged very long.

Hard Cheese- pressed cheese aged for at least a year, has reduced moisture. Ex. Reggiano Parmesan

Pasteurized - cheese made with pasteurized milk, destroying harmful bacteria.

Semi Hard - pressed and aged less than a year. Ex. Jarlsberg

Semi Soft - cheese that has moisture pressed out, can be sliced. Ex. Monterrey Jack

Soft Cheese - cheese that has moisture retained or pressed into it. Ex. Ricotta

Surface Ripened (soft) - cheese that ages from the outside in, at full ripeness it is on the verge of being runny. Ex. Brie

Wash Ripened - is in reference to cheeses that are washed in wines, or ciders that impart flavor characteristics during the maturation phase. Ex. Port Salut

gouda cheese

Cheese Name: Gouda

Country: Dutch

Milk Type: cows

Flavor Profile: subtle fruity creamy

Color: pale yellow

Texture: chewy Soft

Coat: red wax

Uses: mild creamy recipes, dessert

Age: 4 - 18 months

Wine: Riesling, champagne

goats milk cheddar

Cheese Name: Goats Milk Cheddar

Country: USA

Milk Type: goats milk

Flavor Profile: sharp, smooth,nutty

Color: white

Texture: hard

Coat: none

Uses: pizza, quesadillas, with apple,

Age: 9 to 24 months

Wine: Chardonnay, Riesling

danish blue milk

Cheese Name: Danish Blue

Country: Denmark

Milk Type: whole milk

Flavor Profile: bold bite

Color: white with blue veins

Texture: flake firm

Coat: none

Uses: sauces, salad dressings,Salads

Age: 8 - 12 weeks

Wine: Tawny, Madeira,Sherry

dill havarti

Cheese Name: Dill Havarti

Country: Denmark

Milk Type:whole milk

Flavor Profile: creamy, dill enhanced

Color: light with green flecks

Texture: creamy, soft

Coat: none

Uses: sandwiches, sauces, soups

Wine: Chardonnay


Cheese Name: Brie

Country: France

Milk Type: whole milk and cream

Flavor Profile: creamy, mild

Color: white

Texture: soft

Coat: Paper like membrane, edible

Uses: dessert, sauces, hors d'ouevres

Age: min. 4 weeks

Wine: Cabernet, Merlot

goat chevre

Cheese Name: Chevre, goat cheese

Country: Norway

Milk Type: goat

Flavor Profile: sharp, pungent

Color: white

Texture: soft,

Coat: none

Uses: sauces, casseroles, desserts, similar to

 cream cheese

Age: less than 4 months

Wine: Chardonnay Gewurztraminer

port salut

Cheese Name: Port Salut

Country: France

Milk Type: milk

Flavor Profile: creamy

Color: yellow rind

Texture: soft

Coat: yellow, port brushed

Uses: snacking, rye bread, crackers

Age: 1 month

Wine: burgundy, pinot noir, chardonnay

ricotta salada

Cheese Name: Ricotta Salada

Country: Italy

Milk Type: sheep milk

Flavor Profile: sharp,pungent

Color: white


Coat: none

Uses: gratings, salads, stuffings

Age: up to 2 years

Wine: chardonnay

spanish manchego

Cheese Name: Manchego

Country: Spain

Milk Type: sheep milk

Flavor Profile: dry, coconut

Color: pale yellow

Texture: hard

Coat: wax

Uses: salads, pears

Age: 13 weeks

Wine: Merlot

swiss gruyere

​​​​Cheese Name: Gruyere

Country: Switzerland

Milk Type: part skim milk

Flavor Profile: fruity, nutty

Color: pale yellow with tiny holes

Texture: firm chewy


Uses: fondue, sandwiches, chicken,cordon blue

Age: 3 to 10 months

Wine: sauvignon blanc, chardonnay

smoked gouda

Cheese Name: Smoked Gouda

Country: USA

Milk Type: whole milk,processed

Flavor Profile: smoky, creamy

Color: pale yellow

Texture: firm

Coat: brown wax

Uses: sandwiches, cheese and crackers


Wine: beer, Chianti