cheese board on wood

Slices of Knowledge about Cheese

Cheese is a celebrated food, and with good reason. The variety of flavors, textures and colors offer many options to choose from and love. We certainly crave it! Especially our cheesemonger, Shannon Welsh.

We recently asked Shannon some cheese 101 questions to make sure we understand what we’re selecting in the Gourmet Cheese Department …

As a cheese novice, are there certain cheeses you would recommend I try first?
I would start with mild cheeses and work your way up. A couple good ones are gouda and a young cheddar. “Young” refers to a  cheese that is not aged for very long, and therefore has not had much flavor development. These cheeses tend to be mild and perfect for those who are just starting to get into cheese.

The rind on the outside of some cheeses – edible or to be avoided?
Most are edible, except those that have been waxed or have a bandage cloth around the outside (usually aged cheddars). Otherwise, eat the rind! That’s where the flavor is.

Why is cheddar cheese both white & orange in color?
The orange coloring, called annatto, comes from seeds of the achiote plant. It is simply used for coloring and is completely tasteless, so any flavor differences between an orange and a white cheddar has nothing to do with the color, rather, it can be contributed to age of the cheese, the area in which it’s made, or a variety of other factors.

What is the best way to store cheese?
I store mine in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator. Oftentimes I’ll cut it up and store it in plastic containers for easy snacking. This is a big no-no to a lot of cheeseheads, but cheese doesn’t last long enough in my refrigerator to ever go bad or taste “off”.

Are “sharp” & “aged” synonymous when describing cheese?
Not really. What most people think of as “sharp” can be attributed to the age of the cheese, but “sharp” really refers to the acid content in the cheese, which differs from cheesemaker to cheesemaker, it’s part of their own recipe of cultures.

What cheese would you recommend for someone who is lactose intolerant?
Goat or sheep milk cheeses have less lactose than cow’s milk cheeses, but lactose ages out of a cheese, so if cow’s milk is what you prefer, stick with those aged over a year. A lot of them will even state that they are “lactose free” on the label.

I recently saw a picture of cheese on a grill. Is that something I can try and what cheese would be best for that?
Halloumi is a Greek cheese that has no cultures added to it during the make process, which allows the cheese to be grilled, baked or fried without melting. However, any cheese can be thrown on the grill for some nice char and smoky flavor as long as it’s watched.

What cheese do you currently have at home?
I have what I consider every-day cheeses like feta, goat cheese, and of course, Parmigiano-Reggiano. Anything more exotic than that I like to buy the day I’m going to serve it.

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