Monday, April 14, 2014

Cheese Can Make A Great Present

If someone you care about has a birthday or other special event coming up and you don’t want to give them the same gift as someone else, you should consider getting them cheese. Some cheeses may come in special displays or even if they don’t, it doesn’t take much effort to find a cute basket and arrange the various cheeses in a beautiful display. If you are thinking of giving cheese as a gift, there isn’t really a wrong type to choose, although some ideas can be more creative than others. The important thing to remember is to give a variety of options of the highest quality; here are some of the best ideas.

Cheese Curds

Depending on where you live, it is a strong possibility that the gift recipient hasn’t tried cheese curds before and a present can be the perfect occasion to fix this. The one thing you need to remember if you plan on giving cheese curds, however, is that they are best when fresh so you need to give the present as soon as you get them (or at least within a day). Some specialty retailers will even have samplers that contain different flavors of cheese curds so your friend or family member can try a variety of flavors such as garlic and dill, buffalo wing cheddar or the classic cheddar cheese curds.

Cheddar 

If you won’t be able to give your friend or family member the present right away, then cheddar may be a better gift option. What is great about cheddar is that there are plenty of varieties available mostly varying in terms of sharpness, which is determined by age. If you choose to make your cheddar gift of the highest quality by purchasing the cheese from a quality retailer, you can include a variety of ages ranging from three to six months (mild cheddar) to 2 to 3 years (extra sharp) and even 5 to 6 years (special reserve super sharp).

Italian Cheeses

Another great choice if the gift recipient loves cheeses but also loves Italy would be a platter that samples the various cheeses of Italy such as the ever popular mozzarella, parmesan and provolone. All of these cheeses are Italian classics that can be eaten alone or added to a meal to make it great. Some Italian cheese platters will also include other items such as Italian pepperoni or similar items to continue the delicious Italian theme.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How To Pair Wine And Cheese Curds

If you are planning on hosting a wine and cheese party in the near future or simply enjoy relaxing with a bit of each item at the end of the day, then you probably know that one of the toughest tasks is matching a new cheese with the right wine. While most people stick to the traditional options when eating cheese with wine that is not the only option. If you don’t want to have to worry about cutting up the cheese, then cheese curds are an excellent option as they are already bite size; you just need to know which wine to choose.

What Are Cheese Curds?

Before you can start thinking about pairing your cheese curds with wine, you need to understand exactly what cheese curds are. They are common in Wisconsin, certain parts of New York and Quebec but other than those places they can be incredibly hard to find. What makes cheese curds unique is that they are only the curd of the cheese, which means the milk solid. Cheese curds are usually made of cheddar and will taste very similar but they are unique in that they squeak and are sometimes saltier than cheddar. The most popular ways to serve them are raw, deep fried or in poutine (a Quebecois food with fries, gravy and cheese curds).

Ideal Pairing

When pairing cheese curds with wine you need to pay attention to the same things you would with any other type of cheese including flavor and texture. If you are eating plain cheese curds, you will notice that they are creamy, savory, rich and salty. Because of this flavor combination, they tend to go well with a white chardonnay. That is because the flavors of the chardonnay: with purified sugars and citrus in a refreshing combination, can truly complement it combining salty and sweet.

Pair It Like Cheddar

If you don’t like chardonnay or simply want other options to pair with your cheese curds, then you can pair the curds just like you would any cheddar cheese. One great option is to try a dry and strong cider or a strong ale; in fact, this is a classic pairing for cheese curds in Wisconsin, both raw and deep fried. You could also look for a Chilean cabernet sauvignon as they tend to be fruity, combing salty and sweet like with the chardonnay. You could also give an apple flavored liqueur a try, although those tend to work best with cheddars that are sharper than cheese curds.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How To Pair Cheese And Beer

When it comes to cheese, one of the classic combinations is to find a cheese that you really enjoy and then search for a wine that brings out its flavor. This is great for snacking by yourself, having a romantic night with your loved one or even hosting a wine and cheese party. The problem for some people, however, is that wine can sometimes be expensive and that is why pairing nice cheeses with beer is becoming more and more common. Here are some things to keep in mind when making your pairings.

General Rules

As with pairing wine and cheese, there are some general guidelines to help you find the perfect combination of cheese and beer. If the cheese is mild, you should generally choose a mild beer and the same is true of any intensity so intense cheeses go well with intense beers as well. When analyzing your beer, consider how carbonated it is, what flavors have been added, how sweet the malt is and how bitter the hops are. You should consider the normal factors related to the cheese such as intensity, age and firmness.

Mild Cheddar 

Cheddar cheese is one of the best options when it comes to pairing cheese and beer because it is a classic combination and cheddar comes in so many different varieties. If you have a nice mild cheddar on hand, you should try pairing it with a brown ale as opposed to another beer. That is because the cheese will be nutty and have a sweet caramel flavor which goes well with the dark fruit and malt that you get in a nut brown ale.

Aged Swiss

Swiss cheese is another popular cheese that is widely available and although it is not available in as many varieties as cheddar, aged Swiss is still a classic option. Because aged Swiss tends to be dense and tangy, you should try pairing it with a Bock as these are strong, smooth and mellow. This will help balance out the intensity of the cheese.

Aged Gouda

Some people find it daunting to choose the right beer for an aged Gouda but their crunchy and butterscotch flavor actually helps them balance out a stout beer. That is because stouts can usually seem intense and tricky because of the black coffee flavor combined with deep-roasted caramel flavor. When paired with an aged Gouda, however, the flavor of a stout seems perfectly balanced.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Can You Make Mozzarella At Home?

Some people who really love cheese want to be able to have fresh mozzarella whenever they choose but this is a problem if you don’t want to have to go to the store or wait for your cheese to arrive in the mail. That is why many people are starting to learn how to make mozzarella using mozzarella stretching curd. Although it sounds as if it should be a complicated process, it is actually fairly simple. If you have the right supplies you can make the cheese fairly quickly and don’t need much room either, so even if you have a small apartment you have this option.

Supplies

If you want to make mozzarella at home, the best way to do so is to buy some mozzarella stretching curd, which you can get from most reputable cheese retailers. This curd is the main ingredient in the process and makes it incredibly easy. Other than that, you just need a large stainless steel bowl, a knife or spoon, water and ice. It can also help to have a thermometer on hand and you may want to wear gloves as the process can sometimes be a bit messier than some people like.

Stretching The Mozzarella

Once you have all of your supplies, you can start the process of actually stretching your mozzarella which is what it is called when you make fresh mozzarella out of stretching curd. To start, place your mozzarella stretching curd in your large mixing bowl and then use a knife of spoon to break it up into smaller pieces. Take some water and heat it up so it’s about 140 or 150 degrees Fahrenheit and add this to your curd (this is where the thermometer may be helpful).

Leave the stretching curd in the hot water for a few minutes so it softens enough to start reforming into a clump. At this point you should use your knife or spoon to help the curd clump back together. Once the water has cooled down a bit and the curd is in one piece, you are ready to stretch your mozzarella. If you want to protect your hands from the heat, put on a pair of rubber gloves first. Then gently pull the stretching curd apart and then let its own weight pull it back downward. You should keep doing this until your cheese develops a smooth surface and then put the mozzarella in ice water for five or ten minutes to cool. You can either eat your fresh mozzarella right away or store it for later.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How Can You Use All Of Your Senses When Tasting Cheese?

If you are new to the world of cheese, then it may seem like a daunting task at first to know what to look for when you are tasting a new kind. Whether you simply want to evaluate the new cheeses you try or host a cheese tasting party, it is important to use (almost) all of your senses in your evaluation.

Sight

The very first sense you should use when looking at a cheese is the sense of sight. Look at the color, specifically that of the rind to see if it is uniform. Pay attention to whether the surface is smooth or cracked and you should do this for the rind as well as the cheese itself. Some types of cheese, such as aged cheddar, will sometimes develop crystals so look for these as well.

Touch

Next you will use your sense of touch to evaluate the cheese. Try to see if the cheese is smooth or rough and then pay attention to the amount of moisture it has. Some cheeses will be very dry while others are very moist, such as fresh mozzarella. Next you should think about how elastic and spreadable the cheese is. After you take a taste of the cheese, you should take a moment and evaluate it again this time using the sense of touch within your mouth.

Smell

After you look at and touch the cheese, you should take a whiff to see how it smells. If the cheese has a rind, pay close attention to whether the rind and cheese smell different. Every cheese is different so you may not know exactly how to describe it. Some common smells that you may notice are: nutty, spicy, meat, leather, animal, chocolate, caramel, garlic, yogurt, mold, fresh butter and boiled milk.

Taste

After you have used every other sense (except of course hearing which doesn’t apply), it is time to taste the cheese. You want to pay close attention to your first impressions and during this process try to use some of the same adjectives you did when thinking about the smell of the cheese. After you have put the cheese in your mouth, wait until you finish eating it to finish evaluating. Some cheeses will change flavors as you eat them or have a different aftertaste and this is an important thing to appreciate. You should also try to pay attention to whether the cheese tasted like its smell implied it would as sometimes they will, but sometimes they won’t.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Can You Eat Cheese While Pregnant?

Some pregnant women hear that they shouldn’t be eating cheese during their pregnancy as it can cause a risk. The reality is that most of the time, it is completely fine to eat cheese even if you are pregnant, but you do need to be aware of some things to make sure that you stay safe. If you are cautious, neither you nor your baby will be at risk and you can use cheese as one of your sources of calcium. Here are the important things to keep in mind.

Concerns

The reason that some experts caution against eating cheese during pregnancy is that all cheese contains bacteria and while most cheeses have negligible amounts or only healthy bacteria, some other types will contain a certain one known as listeria. Listeria could make you have flu-like symptoms and potentially harm your baby, but the good news is that it is incredibly rare so your chances of getting it are slim. Despite this, it is best to avoid eating soft, mold-ripened cheeses while you are pregnant.

Cook Thoroughly

Although you should do your best to avoid eating soft, mold-ripened cheeses or blue-veined cheeses (which have an even lower risk of leading to listeria than the already low risk associated with the former cheese), you can eat either of these types if you cook them first. That is because it will kill the bacteria, but if you do this, make sure to completely cook the cheese instead of simply melting it.

Completely Safe Cheeses

If you are a cheese lover like most people, the good news is that soft, mold-ripened cheeses and blue-veined cheeses are the only types that you have to be worried about. Hard cheeses are safe even if they were made using unpasteurized milk. This means that you never have to worry about eating cheeses such as cheddar, Gouda, provolone, parmesan and other hard cheeses. You could also have any soft cheese that is pasteurized and made using pasteurized milk.

Mozzarella

One cheese that some women are concerned about because it is hard to fit into one of the above categories
is mozzarella but the good news is that you can have it in moderation during pregnancy without any worries. Even better, eating mozzarella can help increase your consumption of protein as well as calcium which will promote the healthy development of your baby. In fact, this is true of any other of the safe cheeses, such as cheddar, as well.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Are There Different Types Of Cheddar Cheese?

When you are in the market for cheddar cheese, almost everyone knows that there are several different choices available. While if you go to your local grocery store you may only see options such as mild, sharp and extra sharp, shopping at a cheese retailer will give you a wider variety of options. There are plenty of cheddar options available including varying levels of sharpness, color and even additional flavors. Here are just some of the different types of cheddar cheese that you will find.

Age

The most important difference that you can see is different ages of cheddar cheese and this is related to sharpness. That is because as cheese ages, it becomes sharper as the flavors become stronger. Most of the time the oldest cheese that you will find, even sold by specialty retailers is around 5 years old. That is because mild cheddar is usually aged for only two or three months. Sharp cheddar cheese, on the other hand is aged for a bit longer, usually around a year in total. If you see extra sharp cheddar either in your local store or from a specialty retailer, this is usually aged for around eighteen months. If you don’t have a specialty cheese seller that you go to, you will probably have to buy extra sharp cheddar and age it if you want something older. You can, however, find premium cheeses that are up to five years old. Some sellers will even have seven year old cheddar cheese.

Flavors

Sometimes you want a bit of extra flavor in your cheese and although adding flavor to cheddar isn’t as common as it is with other types of cheeses, such as goat cheese, it is possible to find flavored cheddar, mostly from specialty cheese sellers. The simplest added flavor is when cheddar is maple smoked during the production or aging process to add a little extra flavor. You can also occasionally find other choices such as jalapeno cheddar.

White Or Yellow

If you aren’t familiar with cheeses, then you may be confused as to whether you want to buy white cheddar or yellow cheddar. The truth is that they are the same exact cheese. Cheese will naturally vary in color based on what time of the year the cow’s milk comes from and when a cow’s diet has less beta-carotene, the cheese will be whiter. When cheddar was still new, people liked the flavor of yellow cheddar better so manufacturers started adding a bit of dye to make sure the cheese was yellow. The dye is all natural but its presence can mean that the cheddar will definitely be yellow; otherwise it depends on when the milk was produced.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why Do Cheese Curds Lose Their Squeak?

Cheese curds are small little pieces of cheese that are leftover from the process of making bigger pieces and anyone who has had them before know that one of their key characteristics, other than their small size, is their squeakiness. This type of cheese is most popular in the Midwest, certain parts of New York and Quebec and can be almost impossible to find anywhere else because it is best while fresh. That is because after a few days, the curds will lose their squeak and then they won’t taste as good either. There are many theories about why cheese curds lose their squeak but to understand the truth, you need to understand why they squeak in the first place.

Myth: Trapped Air

One of the most commonly heard reasons that cheese curds lose their squeak is that they lose air. This theory holds that it is air trapped within the curds which squeak but it seems that instead of being true, this was simply said by someone once upon a time and then the internet decided it was the truth. The reality is that if trapped air caused the squeakiness, there would be no way for it to escape and cause the curds to lose their squeak.

Why They Squeak

The real reason that cheese curds squeak comes down to science and their structure. Most people are aware that milk products, such as cheese, have protein and it is the structure of this protein that creates the squeak. Each curd itself is a combination of milk fat and casein protein that forms a protein matrix. While these molecules would stay in their matrix, their structure changes when they are exposed to rennet during the manufacturing process. That is because rennet eliminates the negative charge that some of the casein proteins have and this means that they are able to create long protein chains. It is these chains that create the squeak because they will rub against your teeth’s enamel.

Why They Lose Their Squeak

Cheese curds can lose their squeak over time for one of two reasons. The first is that during the manufacturing process they are salted, hooped and then pressed and each of these steps takes away some moisture. The process also causes the long protein strands to compress. This means that although they will still be long enough to squeak for a day or so, they won’t after that. The other option is that the curds were left unpressed but their acidity causes a low pH. The problem with the lower pH is that it breaks down the proteins so they are smaller and less likely to squeak.

How To Get The Squeak Back

This structure that causes cheese curds to lose their squeak is also why you can get the squeakiness back by microwaving them for a few seconds. When you microwave cheese curds, some of the moisture will go through hydrolysis so the molecules in the protein chain will drop their negative ions. This means that longer protein chains can be formed again and that can bring the squeakiness back.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

What’s The Best Way To Store Cheese So It Doesn’t Spoil?

When it comes to cheese, there are many different varieties that you can choose from and each one is different from the next. The problem most people tend to run into, however, is how to store their cheese. It is almost always unrealistic to expect that you will eat an entire piece of cheese in one sitting, unless of course you are hosting a cheese party. The thing is that if you don’t finish the cheese, most people don’t know what to do with it. There can even be confusion about whether you should leave the cheese in its original packaging until you eat it or rewrap it as soon as you get home from the store.

Where To Store

The first thing you need to think about when it comes to storing cheese is where you should store it. Almost everyone stores cheese in their refrigerator and this is of course one of the best choices. You should try to store it in the warmest area of your fridge as depending on the type of cheese you have, it may not need temperatures that are as cool as other foods.

What To Use

One of the most common ways people store their cheese is in plastic wrap and this is actually one of the worst ways possible to store it. That’s because when you wrap your cheese too tightly, harmful bacteria are more likely to grow. If you wrap it too tight, you also run the risk of natural odors (such as ammonia) not being able to dissipate and the plastic may even add some flavor to the cheese.
Instead the very best option is to wrap your cheese up in cheese paper. If you are like most people and don’t have cheese paper on hand, another option is to wrap your cheese up in some wax or parchment paper and then put it loosely inside a plastic bag or plastic wrap. The layer of plastic will prevent the cheese from drying out while still giving enough air for ammonia to dissipate.

How To Wrap It

To wrap up your cheese start with a piece of wax paper. Make sure that the wax paper is much larger than the piece of cheese you are wrapping; it should be three to four times the length of the cheese and around twice as wide. Put your cheese on the wax paper around two-thirds up making sure that the cut side is down. You want the sharp narrow to be on the right side. Take the bottom right corner of your wax paper and bring it up the cheese so it is tight then bring the right side over and secure it in place with a piece of tape.

The pointy end should now be fully wrapped. Take the top right part of the cheese and fold it down and then repeat the process so you have all but one side of the cheese wrapped. Wrap that side like a present and tape it in place. If you want, you can put it in a plastic bag but don’t close it all the way.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What’s The Best Way To Age Cheddar?

If you like older, sharper cheddar but don’t want to spend as much money on it, you can age it yourself right at home. This is also a good option if you like your cheddar aged longer than what you can usually find in stores (and in most cases the maximum is around 7 years and that is only from specialty cheese sellers). The process is surprisingly simple as long as you take other factors into consideration. You can either start with fresh, homemade cheese or purchase some cheese that is already aged and allow it to continue aging to save some time.

Where To Store

The most important step in the process of aging cheddar is to find the correct place to store it. Most manufacturers will have a cheese cave that meets all of the necessary requirements but most individuals won’t. For your cheddar to age correctly you need to store it in a cool, damp place with plenty of humidity and ventilation.

Some people try to use their current refrigerator but the average temperature is about 10 to 15 degrees cooler than a cave. This means if you store it in your fridge, you should put it in the warmest part and turn up the temperature as much as your other food can handle. Another option is to get an old refrigerator you don’t use anymore and keep the temperature between 52 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you have a cellar, then you can simply put the cheese in a cabinet or covered plastic boxes in the cellar. Some people who don’t have an old fridge, don’t want to turn up the temperature in their current one and don’t have a cellar will choose to invest in a wine refrigerator and this is another great option.

Set Up

The process of actually setting it up is fairly simple. You need to make sure that the environment for your cheese is damp but that the cheese itself is not moist. You also want to check for ventilation and make sure the cheese has enough room. When you put the cheese in a container in your fridge, the cheese should never take up more than 40% of the container.

Humidity

As mentioned, one of the most important things to keep in mind for aging your cheese is humidity. If you are using a fridge or something similar to age your cheese, simply placing a pan of water in there may be enough but you will have to pay close attention to the water levels at all times. If your cheese is in a container, you should put a wet towel on the top but the key is to make sure that the towel is simply damp; it should not be wet enough to drip or to touch your cheese. If your cheese doesn’t get enough humidity, it may start to dry out and crack.

Keep Watch

It is important to remember that you should not just leave your cheese alone to age. You will need to check on it regularly to make sure the environment has enough humidity and ventilation and that the temperature is correct. You also want to check for incorrect molds to make sure that your cheddar is aging correctly.

Friday, February 7, 2014

What Is The White Stuff On Aged Cheddar?

If you are a fan of aged cheddar, then you have probably noticed that when you eat older cheddars you will find some white crystals formed on the outside and occasionally on the inside as well. Some people find these little white pieces concerning but you they aren’t a problem at all. There is a simple explanation and in fact, they aren’t just found on aged cheddar. You can actually find them on other aged cheeses such as gouda, Parmigiano Reggiano or gruyere. The truth is that this white stuff is made up of tiny crystals and in no way indicates that the cheese is going bad.

Don’t Worry

The initial reaction most people have when they see something unfamiliar on their cheese is that it isn’t supposed to be there and is therefore bad. Some common concerns people have when they see the crystals on aged cheddar include thinking the cheese is old, thinking it’s a cheese mite, thinking the cheese is drying out or even thinking the cheese makers added it on purpose. The reality is that they are natural crystals that won’t harm you in any way and therefore shouldn’t cause concern.

Tyrosine

Put simply, these crystals are lactic acid that has aged and become crystallized as the cheese got older. Experts refer to these crystals as tyrosine which is the name of the non-essential amino acid that they are made up of. This protein is the dominant one found in milk which explains it presence in your aged cheddar.

Formation

If you want to know how the tyrosine crystals form, you need to understand a bit more about the structure of the cheese. As the cheese is produced, various proteins and fats become trapped within protein chains. These protein chains were bonded together during the process of acidification that helped make the cheese and this is necessary as these combinations of proteins and fats are what make the curds that lead to the making of the cheese. If the cheese ages for a long time, then these protein chains will start to unravel and as they do, small and crunchy deposits will form as a result.

Adds To The Cheese

While some people are unsure about the tyrosine crystals found in aged cheddar, others feel that they can add a great deal to the cheese. If your aged cheddar is nice and smooth, the crystals can add a bit of texture to give you some variety. Other people feel that these crystals will help the cheese and your beverage of choice work together. A classic example is if you have well-aged cheddar and are drinking it with a full-bodied stout. When having that combination, some people feel that the crunch in the cheese will give it a textural intensity that helps to match the fullness of your beer, improving the overall experience.

Clarification

Some other cheeses will also have crunchiness that isn’t due to tyrosine. If the cheese is a wash-rind cheese then it may be that residual salt crystals were left during the washing process and you can tell the difference because the crunchy white stuff (the salt crystals) will only be present on the outside layer.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What Is The Longest Aged Cheddar?

One of the most popular cheeses in the United States is cheddar and when you look around, you will notice several different varieties available, most of them involving varying degrees of sharpness. A sharper cheese tends to be older so if you are looking for older cheddars, you want to find extra sharp or the sharpest option available to you. Although most cheddar is only aged a few years at the most, it is sometimes aged much longer, whether on purpose or by accident, and this changes the flavor slightly.

Aging Effects

Before knowing how old the longest aged cheddar was, it is important to know what happens to cheddar as it ages. We already mentioned that it gets sharper but not everyone has a good understanding of what exactly this means. As the cheese ages, bacteria are able to produce more enzymes that will in turn break down the fats and proteins in the cheese. This in turn tends to give the cheese a taste that is nuttier and even a bit beefy. The important thing to remember, however, is that aging cheddar is not an exact science and therefore not all older cheddars will taste the same; it depends on how well they were prepared and a little bit of luck, but the experts are able to produce consistent results.

Standard Aging Classifications

Simply knowing that cheddar which has aged for longer is sharper is not enough to truly understand what the longest aged cheddar means. Instead you need a relative time frame so you can more easily compare what aged cheddar would be like in terms of sharpness in flavor. Most of the time, if you have mild cheddar it will have been aged for two to three months. Sharp cheddars have been aged a bit longer, usually around a year. If you love extra sharp cheddar cheese, then you probably prefer ones that have been aged for about a year and a half.

Older Cheeses

There are, however, plenty of places where you can get older cheddar cheese. Sellers who specialize in cheese will generally have a larger variety. Some will sell cheddar that has been aged for five or six years while others will go up to seven years. The longest aged cheddar you are likely to find from a specialty seller is about 10 years old and even that can be difficult because very few people like the taste as it is so strong.

Oldest Ever

Despite the fact that most people prefer their cheddar to be aged for a year and a half or less, there was recently some cheddar that was 40 years old. This was not intentional however; it was a lucky accident. Ed Zahn had made the cheese years ago when he was still working in an old cheese manufacturer in Oconto, Wisconsin and when he went back in 2012 he found this batch in the back of a cooler. Some people said that this cheese was so old it was barely edible due to the sharp flavor but it was such a rarity to find a cheddar aged for so long that it sold out quickly.

Monday, February 3, 2014

New Logo; What Does it Symbolize?

We are very excited to introduce you to our new logo! This is a sneak peak before we've even changed it on our packaging and website, so we hope you enjoy! We wanted to show a cow on our logo which is a major part of how and why we can exist as a company. We want all of you to know we have farm fresh milk everyday without any additives, antibiotics, RBGH, etc...

Look closely at the cow.... Notice anything? Look at the cow's largest spot... Yes that's the state of NY, which symbolizes the state we produce our cheese in.

The last thing we want to point out about our new logo is the red banner at the bottom. This is a new slogan at Golden Age Cheese, as we want to remind all of our customers that our cheeses are all natural; from the fresh Mozzarella cheeses, to the sharpest Cheddar cheeses, to the way we smoke our smoked cheeses, nothing has preservatives or anything artificial!

Thanks for reading, and we hope you like our new logo as much as we do!


Saturday, February 1, 2014

What Cheese Goes Well With Dry Wine?

When it comes to pairing wine and cheese it sometimes seems as if you need an expert to tell you the exact match to make. The reality, however, is that with just a little bit of knowledge you can make the match yourself and find a great pairing. This is good news whether you simply want to relax and enjoy some wine and cheese at home or are hosting a wine and cheese party for some of your friends. In general, white wines tend to be easier to pair with cheeses than red wines so we will mostly focus on white dry wines.

Concerns

You should always be careful when trying to pair a cheese with a dry wine because if you do not choose correctly, the taste may be affected. Certain mild cheeses will have a slightly sweet taste and when you pair this with a dry wine, the wine will end up seeming tart and acidic instead of rich and fruity. This is always an issue if the food is sweeter than the wine so it can be especially problematic for dry wines. If you follow the following guidelines, however, you shouldn’t have a problem pairing cheeses with dry wine.

Blue Cheese

Blue cheeses are one of the best choices if you have a dry wine. That is because the cheese is not overly sweet which would make the wine taste bitter. Instead the strong taste of a blue cheese tends to make dry wines taste even fruitier, enhancing their flavor and providing a treat for the senses.

Fresh Cheese

Most of the time you won’t eat a fresh cheese by itself; instead you will pair it with a food item, adding a bit of flavor to a salad, dessert or cooked dish. Many people choose not to pair wines with fresh cheeses, but you can. If you do this one of your best choices is to opt for a dry Chenin Blanc wine or something similar. If the fresh cheese is brined and pressed, then try opting for a dry white in general.

Hard Cheese

When you look at hard cheeses, they tend to be a bit sweeter and this may make some people hesitant to pair them with dry wines due to the warning mentioned above. They can, however, work with certain dry wines as long as you know what you are doing. If you would like to pair a dry wine with a hard cheese, opt for a sparkling wine or a light white as this will bring out both flavors.

Other Considerations

If you are looking to pair a dry wine with a dish and not just a piece of cheese or cheese and crackers, then you have more options. Instead of focusing on the cheese in the dish, focus on some of the other flavors involved. You could also try choosing a dry wine and a cheese from the same region. Another consideration is that if instead of wine you want champagne, dry champagne can go well with a cheese that has a bloomy white rind.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Is Mozzarella Stretching Curd Good On Pizza?

When it comes to cheeses, there are a wide variety of options available and while people usually stick to the cheeses they know, there are other options. One cheese that is gaining in popularity is mozzarella stretching curd. This curd is traditionally used to make mozzarella cheese, but people are finding more and more creative uses for it including in their everyday cooking. While most people would use the mozzarella stretching curd to make mozzarella and then use that on pizza, others are skipping the step of curing it and simply using the stretching curd itself and they tend to get great results.

Making The Curd

To better understand why mozzarella stretching curd is generally considered good on pizza, it is important to know how it is made so you can better understand what exactly it is. Put simply, the process involves taking small pieces of the curd and heating them up in hot water so that they become elastic. You can then knead the cheese by stretching it out and letting it fold back into itself. Overtime, the mozzarella stretching curd will become smooth on the surface. At this point you can cool it down by putting it into some ice water for between five and ten minutes and it is ready.

Mozzarella

After you have the mozzarella stretching curd cooled, then it will become mozzarella and this is one of the most popular choices for cheese on a pizza. That is because mozzarella was not only the first type of stretched curd cheese, but it became truly famous when the Italians started using it on both pizza and pasta dishes. Some people are surprised to learn that mozzarella most likely originated in the Middle East, not Italy although that is the country that gave it its fame.

Properties Of The Curd

Both mozzarella and the mozzarella stretching curd share several properties that make them ideal for use on pizza. Due to the stretching process, the cheeses are fairly elastic which makes them easy to spread on pizza (or on other foods). In addition, they have a nice smooth texture that allows the finished pizza itself to have a good texture as well. The most important thing about mozzarella stretching curd, however, is how it melts. Mozzarella and its stretching curd become nice and elastic when melting and will produce an even melt, which is exactly what is desired on a pizza.

Final Verdict

Although mozzarella stretching curd can be good on pizza, most people who use it to create a pizza will go through the simply, thirty minute process to turn it into mozzarella first, even if it is not aged mozzarella. This puts the cheese in a form that is familiar to work with and is incredibly easy to do. With just the curd and a few extra supplies (sometimes sold together in a kit) you can easily make your own fresh mozzarella in minutes. In fact, you could even be doing this while you wait for your pizza dough to rise so the time is not lost.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

How Long Can You Age Cheddar?

When it comes to cheese lovers, many want to try new things and an easy option is to look for older types of cheddar as these tend to be rarer. While the average cheddar you find in your supermarket will be aged for somewhere between two months and eighteen months, it is possible to find older cheddars from specialty retailers. While there is no real answer to the question of how long you can age cheddar for, there are some guidelines to consider while making it, such as whether or not anyone will care to eat the finished product.

Standard Cheddar

As mentioned, most of the cheddar you find in your local supermarket or similar store will not be older than 18 months in age. Age is frequently displayed in terms of sharpness as the flavors in cheddar intensify (becoming sharper) as it is aged longer. Because of this the average mild cheddar you find in stores will have been aged for two or three months. Sharper cheddars are usually aged for closer to a year and extra sharp cheddar is usually aged for about eighteen months. Of course, there will always be some variation in terms of the aging process, but these are the approximate standards.

Older Cheddars

Despite extra sharp cheddar being the longest aged you will usually find in a grocery store, it is not the oldest one available by far. Most retailers that specialize in cheese will have a variety of older options for people to try and use for special occasions. It is not uncommon to find specialty vendors selling premium cheese that is somewhere between two years old and five or six years old. Some vendors will even have older cheeses at seven years or even ten, but these tend to be less popular due to their strong taste.

The Taste Issue

The reason that most people prefer cheddar that was not aged for as long is that its flavor will be less intense. Most people will describe the flavor as much sharper and stronger, meaning that they do not have the flavor most people are looking for. That being said, most people who love cheese would still like to try cheddar that has been aged for longer at least once in their lives simply for the experience.

Your Aging Limit

Although there is truly no limit to how long you can age cheddar for, after a certain amount of time it becomes an issue of practicality. Cheddars that are aged longer require storage space for more time and therefore tend to be more expensive and many people don’t love the end result. Therefore it comes down to personal preference. The oldest cheddar sold in recent history was 40 years old and the result of an accident in which it was forgotten for decades. Some people enjoyed the flavor finding it creamy and intense while others found it barely edible due to the intense flavor. This variation truly shows that cheddar’s age depends on preference.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Can You Use Mozzarella Stretching Curd In Cooking?

When it comes to cooking, people are always looking for new and innovative ways to change up some of their favorite recipes. One of the best ways is to buy mozzarella stretching curd instead of mozzarella. Although you probably won’t directly use this cheese curd in your cooking, the process of turning it into mozzarella takes only minutes and guarantees that it will be fresh. Because of this, many people who want their food to be fresh and delicious or simply want to try new things in the kitchen are looking towards mozzarella stretching curd as a great option.

Freshness

One of the main reasons that many chefs and even people cooking in their own homes are choosing to use mozzarella stretching curd is that it allows you to have fresh mozzarella whenever you want. You can freeze the curd and thaw it out when you are ready to make the mozzarella. The process of making it is incredibly easy, taking around a half hour in total (as a potential maximum) and it doesn’t require any special equipment. Even better, you can freeze your stretched mozzarella made from the curds for up to six months and it will still taste fresh, meaning that you can do this twice a year and then use it in all of your favorite dishes throughout the year so you always have fresh mozzarella on hand.

Making The Mozzarella

Some people are hesitant about using mozzarella stretching curd in cooking because they feel that making their own mozzarella is an unnecessary hassle when it is easy to find the cheese in your local store. The reality, however, is that fresh, homemade cheese will taste much better and it is very easy to make.
Start by making sure that mozzarella stretching curd is in smaller pieces and then pour hot water (around 140 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit) over it. Just let the separated curd soak for a few minutes while gently putting it back together with a spoon or knife. After the water cools down enough to touch, start to slowly stretch the cheese. This involves stretching out a bit and then letting it slowly fall back together to reform the clump. Eventually the cheese will have a smooth surface. Then you can put it in some ice water for between five and ten minutes and your cheese is ready to be used or stored.

Recipes

Once you have used your mozzarella stretching curd to make your own fresh mozzarella, you can use it in a wide range of recipes. You can use it to make the classic dishes of pizza or lasagna or try adding some to your favorite pasta. You can also try making some spring rolls, pan fried cheese or get creative with an Italian dish. Stracciatella is a good option and can be used instead of mozzarella, as a dip or however else you choose. To make it, just stop the preparation process described above before you put the cheese in ice water. Take the cheese when it is in thin strands from being stretched and put them in some heavy cream and enjoy.

Monday, December 30, 2013

How To Make Cheese Curds At Home

Cheese curds are a delicious snack for anyone. They may take a little while to make, but the actual amount of work involved is pretty minimal. These delicious curds are great for parties, lunch additions, or just a quick bite of cheese. Making them are a fun exploration in science and food making for the family or if you are trying out new cheese making techniques. Here are the steps and materials required to make fantastic cheese curds.

What You Will Need Before You Start

There are a few things you will need before starting. Here are the materials and some possible alternatives:

A double boiler. You can also use two stock pots that fit inside of one another.
Standard stove
Cheese making milk
Premade culture packets
Butter knife
Wooden spoon
Cheese cloth
Colander
Cutting board
Parchment or drying paper
Cookie sheet
Salt

Cheese Preparations

First, put a small amount of water in the bottom of the double boiler or stock pots. Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the second pot. Pore the cheese making milk into the pot and set the stove to medium heat. Bring the milk to an even eighty-five degrees slowly. When the milk reaches the correct temperature, as the culture packets to the mixture. Stir the mixture very gently. Remove the pot from the burner and let it sit for an hour at room temperature.

Next, stir a mixture of rennet and water into the milk. Stir it all gently again, and leave it sit for another hour. The milk should have curdled correctly at this point. Run your butter knife carefully through the mixture to check for clean curdling. Put the curdled milk back on the burner and raise the temperature back up to one-hundred degrees very slowly. As a general rule, start at low temperature and raise it a few degrees every five minutes or so. Leave the burner at one-hundred degrees for about thirty minutes or until the whey begins to separate. Stir every ten minutes or so, very gently.

Separation

Pour the curds into a colander lined with a cheese cloth.  Leave them to drain until the curds are very pronounced. Mold the curds gently into one large loaf. Be sure you are not be too rough, as you can break the curds apart. Cut the curds very carefully into cubes. They will be very fragile until they are cheddared properly.

Put the curds into a colander and leave sitting in a bowl or very clean sink. Fill the bowl or sink with hot water, brought to about one-hundred degrees. Every hour or so pour out the remaining whey. Once the curds are mostly free of whey (this takes about four hours) salt the curds thoroughly. Lay the curds out on a parchment lined cookie sheet in a cool room or a refrigerator set at low. You will need to leave these curds out for about thirty-six to seventy-six hours. The higher the temperature these curds settle at, the sharper the cheddar flavor will be.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Where Did Cheddar Cheese Originate

Who doesn’t love rich, cheddar cheese? Whether alone or as a delicious accompaniment to veggies; helping kids to enjoy their broccoli, this dairy food has long been a favorite.  It’s likely if you’re a cheese fan you’ve wondered where your favorite variety originated. Consider some of the following interesting facts about this favored dairy treat.

Most people find that cheddar cheese is a more rich and creamy cheese than others that are so common. Generally there are five to six years of aging that goes into this cheese with over 250 different kinds now available on the market.

It All Begins In Europe: Cheddar Caves

There were caves in the surrounding area of Cheddar and they were perfect for a natural cheese making process. In fact, it is believed the first of this delicious variety was made in these caves.  A young maid is said to have stored milk in some of the caves and came back to find there was a mass in the milk. It proved not only edible but quite good.

There are also records of cheddar cheese being produced as early as the 12th century. These records from 1170 indicate that King Henry II purchased more than ten thousand pounds of the delicious bricks for a farthing each pound. There are also records of Charles (more royalty) purchasing the delicious cheese in the 17th century from the same small village.  Even further back, some historians believe the Romans were possibly responsible for bringing the recipe from the Cantal area of France back to Britain.

One Farmer, Many Advances

You can’t talk about this cheese and how it moved into the modern world and became standardized without talking about Joseph Harding. Harding was a 19th century Somerset dairy farmer who knew his cheese.  He is known to have made many technological advancements in the cheese making process as well as promoting hygiene of the dairy herd and farm. Some have even dubbed him the father of cheddar cheese.

He worked hard to reduce the manual labor that went into the cheese making process. Harding was responsible for the revolving breaker which aided in curd cutting and reduced man hours. Harding and his wife are accredited for bringing cheese to North America as well as Scotland. Moreover it was a family ran business; Harding and his sons William and Henry brought production of cheddar cheese to Australia.

The Best Of This Variety

When it comes to cheddar, most connoisseurs will point to bricks from one area. West County Farmhouse is the only place that has an accredited protection designation of origin (PDO) for their cheddar. Because of this they do have some pretty specific guidelines they have to follow:

Cloth is the only wrapping that’s allowed to be used.
At least nine months of aging must take place.
Only raw milk from these four counties in England can be used: Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset.
The rennet must be animal.
Manual cheddaring is a requirement
The cheese must be free from coloring agents.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

What Makes Some Cheddar Cheese Sharp?

If you are new to the world of cheese, you may not completely understand some of the differences between various types of cheddar. The most common difference in cheddar cheese, for example, is in terms of sharpness with the most common flavors being mild or sharp although other options such as extra sharp are also available. You will notice that these cheeses all taste slightly different from one another but are all delicious. In order to understand what makes some cheddar cheese sharp, you need to understand the aging process of the cheese as this is the most important factor.

Age

Put simply, the thing that makes some cheddar cheese sharp is age. The older a cheese is, the sharper it will be. Cheddar is aged at least three months in all cases in order to qualify as the cheese. When it is aged between three and four months, it is considered mild. When it is aged between four and nine months, it is considered medium. Anything that is aged more than nine months is considered sharp and even within this category of cheese, you will notice differences such as extra sharp cheese (which is usually three to five years old). Although sharp cheddar only needs to be aged nine months, you can commonly find ones that were aged seven years and occasionally find specialty ones that are even older.

Taste

Although the difference in terms of producing sharp cheddar cheese as opposed to mild cheddar is age, they will also have different tastes. In terms of taste, the term sharp refers to bitterness. Therefore sharp cheddar will be more bitter than mild cheddar. Which cheese you select depends completely on your preference, as some people prefer less bitterness in their cheddar while others prefer more of this taste. You can even opt to buy a sampler platter that contains several different types of cheddar of varying sharpness.

Texture

Because sharp cheddar cheese is older, you will also notice a change in texture when you have a bite. This change is due to the development of very small calcium deposits which form little crunchy crystals within the cheese as it ages. This means that as cheddar ages (and becomes sharper), the texture will become a bit more crumbly. Younger cheeses (therefore the mild ones) will have a creamier texture. In some cases, extra sharp cheese or other cheeses that are aged for a very long time can even have a small layer of these calcium deposits around their edges, adding to the texture.

How Does The Flavor Change?

Now that you know what differences you can expect from sharp cheddar as opposed to a mild one, you may be wondering why these differences occur. The bottom line is that cheese contain (good) bacteria that produce enzymes. It is these enzymes that will break down the fat and proteins within the cheese as it ages, giving it the bitter taste associated with sharp cheddar. In order for the aging process to work well, however, there must be the right mix of salt, moisture and starter cultures making the production of these cheeses a bit of a science.

Friday, December 20, 2013

What Makes A Cheddar Cheese Gourmet?

Although experienced cheese connoisseur probably already know the answer, many people who are simply interested in learning more about cheese may wonder what makes a cheddar cheese gourmet. The term gourmet simply refers to the quality of the cheese in question. You can expect to pay more for a gourmet cheese (sometimes a lot more) but you will have quality to match your payment. Gourmet cheeses are generally made through a different, more traditional, process and may even contain slightly different ingredients. Here are the main differences between regular cheddar cheese and the gourmet version of it.

Handmade

Although not all gourmet cheddars are handcrafted, the vast majority of them are. This is part of the reason that they cost so much more: they involve a great deal of additional labor compared to their mass-produced counterparts. Although traditionally, cheeses were handcrafted, it would be impossible to meet the current demand for popular options such as cheddar around the world if they were still made this way. It is a fact of life that the cheddar you buy in your local grocery store will be mass-produced using machinery. When you pay a few extra dollars, however, you will get better quality that is handcrafted, generally including every stage of the process including preparation, cutting and packaging.

Traditional Methods

We already mentioned that gourmet cheddar cheese is made by hand using the traditional methods, but what exactly are these methods? In order to make cheddar, you must complete a process called cheddaring that involves pressing and shaping the cheese in a particular manner. While average cheddar cheeses (such as cheap supermarket ones) will use machines that regulate the entire process, gourmet manufacturers usually use the traditional methods. This involves pressing the liquid whey then wrapping it up in the correct shape. They will ensure that the cheddar has the right moisture level because they will press, stack and turn the cheese in the traditional manner that has been used since cheddar was first created during the 1100s.

Wrapping

One of the most crucial aspects of the cheddar-making process is wrapping it up. Most manufacturers will wrap the cheese in plastic that is vacuum sealed. Some gourmet cheese manufacturers, however, will stick to the traditional method of using cloth. These cheesecloths (linens) are traditionally porous and coated in butter or lard. These cloths will cause the cheddar to lose moisture during the aging process which causes it to form a rind. Although gourmet cheeses made with cheesecloth are some of the most delicious, they are also some of the most expensive due to the amount of work involved.

Cultures

The first step in creating a quality cheddar cheese is setting up the culture. Each manufacturer will have slightly different ingredients and bacteria within their culture and it is generally true that gourmet cheddar cheeses will have higher quality ingredients. Some gourmet cheddar manufacturers will also adding an additional set of bacterial cultures to their cheese. This is what will give some gourmet cheeses hints of additional flavors that make them truly stand out from their mass-produced alternatives.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What Is The History Of The Cheese Curd?

Most people who don’t live in certain regions of the country haven’t necessarily heard of the cheese curd. While they are especially popular in Wisconsin (being present at every fair), they are also popular in other areas of the Midwest as well as upstate New York and even Quebec. This type of cheese is delicious and one of the most popular options in this area, but few people know its history. In reality, no one is completely sure of how or when they were first made, but experts have several guesses and there are rumors as well. Here is all the commonly believed information about the history of the cheese curd.

The Legend

As mentioned, there is no sure history of the cheese curd. Most experts, however, have pointed to one legend that you can find repeated almost everywhere. It starts centuries ago in a desert in the Middle East. A nomad was traveling and had decided to bring milk with him to drink on his journey. After several hours, he decided he was thirsty but because of the extreme heat, his milk wasn’t the normal consistency. Instead it had curdled creating a mix of white curds and liquid. These were supposedly the first cheese curds.

Why It Happened

Experts believe that the milk curdled because the bag he was holding it in contained rennin. This is an enzyme that is still used to help curdle milk creating cheese. The rennin was there because the bag was made using a cow’s stomach. Rennin will normally cause milk to coagulate and curdle over time but when it is exposed to heat, the process will happen much faster, which is how this nomad of legend ended up with a snack instead of the milk he was looking forward to drinking.

Popularity

Although no date is ever associated with the above legend of the first cheese curds, there are some historic records that do give us a time frame. There is a Celtic song that experts point out that not only mentions cheese curds, but dates back to the 12th century. This indicates that perhaps this squeaky cheese has been around for at least 900 years. Cheese curds began to really grow in popularity when various milk factories had surpluses during the 20th century. When this happened, people needed to figure out what to do with this extra milk and the logical solution was to create cheese curds as they are easy to make.

How They Are Made

Today manufacturers don’t make cheese curds by taking a bag of milk out into the desert. In fact, the curds can actually be a by-product of the production of cheddar cheese. During the manufacturing process, they will add salt to the chunks of cheese. At this point, they will separate the curds and sell these right away. They can then compress the leftover cheese to make blocks of cheddar. They can also be made without being a by-product simply by coagulating milk then separating the whey from the milk solids. They then cook the milk solids and rain them before salting them and declaring them ready.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mozzarella Cheese: A Short History

Mozzarella cheese is one of the most popular cheeses across the world. Americans generally think of it when it comes to Italian food, pizza in particular, but that is not the only use. Mozzarella has become increasingly popular throughout the years and has changed slightly to become more accessible to the general public. Most people know that mozzarella comes from Italy but in many cases that is the extent of their knowledge. Although in some ways its history is similar to that of other cheeses, mozzarella is also unique. No one is sure exactly how it was first created but there are theories that are more popular than others.

By Accident

One of the rumors about the history of mozzarella cheese is that it is one of the many cheeses that were created by accident (such as cheese curds). The story goes that a factory somewhere near Naples, Italy was making cheese curds but somehow the curds got knocked over, landing in a bucket of hot water. The legend says that the resulting cheese was so delicious and had such a good consistency that the factory sought to reproduce it. It slowly gained in popularity until it reached the presence that it has worldwide today.

Buffalo

Traditionally, mozzarella was made using buffalo milk. Water buffalo had been raised in Italy since the 12th century so there was a large supply of water buffalo milk, making it the ideal liquid to make cheese. However, the amount of herds of these animals dropped throughout the years, especially in the 1930s and 1940s. This is when manufacturers began switching from making mozzarella with buffalo milk to with cow’s milk as that was more readily available. Despite that, it is still possibly to find traditional mozzarella made with water buffalo milk, although it is not produced in as large of numbers, making it harder to find and more expensive.

Variations

Although when it was first produced, there were not many options in terms of different types of mozzarella cheese, that is not the case today. Instead of simply having mozzarella made from water buffalo milk or cow’s milk, there are further variations such as using both pasteurized and unpasteurized milk, skim milk (for low moisture mozzarella) and even smoked mozzarella (which is smoked). To see the widest varieties of mozzarella, you should either visit a specialty cheese website or make a trip to Italy and clearly the second option would be a great deal more expensive.

Today’s Production

Today you can find mozzarella cheese almost everywhere in the world, although it is more difficult to find certain varieties. Despite the widespread production of mozzarella if you want to find the best gourmet mozzarella (or the best buffalo mozzarella) you should look in the Naples area, specifically just south of the city. There are many small factories in Caserta and Battipaglia which produce fresh buffalo mozzarella each day and locals will make sure to go there for their cheese. The good news is that with the internet, you can still find high quality mozzarella no matter where you live.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Four Things You Didn’t Know About Cheese Curds

If you don’t live in Wisconsin or Quebec, chances are that you haven’t ever tried a cheese curd, let alone seen one in person. There are some other areas in the United States and Canada where they are popular (such as parts of New York, Vermont and the states around Wisconsin), but these are the two main locations. Because of this, most people don’t know much about these delicious treats. They may know what they look like or the general idea behind them, but that is usually it. Here are four things that you probably didn’t know about cheese curds, especially if you haven’t had them before.

Their Origin

One of the little known facts about cheese curds is their origin. There is no set evidence, but legend says that they came about by accident when a nomad was traveling across a desert in the Middle East. He filled his saddle bag with milk but it was warm out so a few hours later when he was thirsty, he opened the bag and all that was inside was white curds and liquid. This happened because of a combination of the heat and the rennin from his bag and was reportedly the first cheese curds in history.

Squeakiness

Another thing you might not know about these treats if you haven’t had them before is that they should be squeaky as this indicates freshness. If you have had them, you probably don’t know why they squeak and instead simply enjoy the effect as well as the taste. Put simply, the proteins within cheese curds are in long chains and the squeakiness is the sound and feeling of the cheese curds rubbing against your teeth’s enamel. The long chains are formed because as a side effect of rennet which eliminates the negative charges, thereby forcing the proteins to connect into the chains.

Microwaving

Even if you are a big fan of cheese curds, you may not know that there is actually a way to get back some of that lost squeakiness. All you have to do is put them in the microwave for a very short amount of time. The heat will cause the protein molecules to drop their negative particles again which in turn causes them to recreate the longer protein chains. This means that when they come in contact with your tooth enamel, you will have the same result as with fresh cheese curds: the squeak.

Serving Options

If you don’t live in Wisconsin or Quebec, chances are that you can’t think of any ways to eat your curds. The simplest option is to eat them raw but another very popular choice, especially in Wisconsin and nearby areas is to deep fry them. In Quebec, they are most popular in poutine which is a combination of French fries, cheese curds and gravies. The best way to appreciate their squeak and flavor, however, is simply to eat them raw when they are extremely fresh. Remember that they are a type of cheese you want to eat as soon as you get it as they lose their freshness quickly.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why Are Some Cheese Curds Different Colors?

Cheese curds are a little known secret when it comes to cheese. If you live in Wisconsin or certain parts of New York and Vermont (or in Quebec), chance are you have heard of them. But if you ask someone from another part of the country, they have probably never even seen them. Although they seem simple at first, they can actually vary quite a bit depending on how or where they are made. One of the most obvious differences you will notice is that they can come in different colors. Although it may seem odd, it is perfectly natural and here is why.

Manufacturing Process

In order to understand why cheese curds can vary in terms of color (or simply a shade of color), you have to understand a bit about the background of how they are made. Put simply, they are the part of the cheese (usually cheddar) that doesn’t make it into a block. They are made first and then compressed to create the block you usually buy. To make the curds, you add coagulant to milk. Eventually the whey and curds are separated and then the curds are drained.

Natural Variation

Because of the process by which cheese curds are made, they end up coming from the same ingredients as any other type of cheese. If you have an all-natural kind, you will notice some variation in it simply because of environmental factors and this is true of the curds as well. They can also be affected by natural additives that are added at some point during the process such as the annatto that is responsible for turning cheddar cheese yellow (instead of its natural shade of white).

Environmental Factors

If some of the variation in color is due to natural environmental factors, you may be wondering what exactly those factors are. The main variations in color are due to the diet of the cow that produces the milk used to make the cheese curd. It is simply that at different times of the year, the cow’s diet will vary slightly. Sometimes the grass will be fresher than at other times and this can account for the variation in terms of colors. In fact, the fluctuating natural colors of cheese curds are part of the reason that some manufacturers will add natural coloring additives (such as annatto) to even out the color.

Flavors

Another common reason that you will notice cheese curds coming in different colors is if they are flavored. Some flavors will simply add small dots of a certain color such as jalapeno cheddar cheese curds or cheese curds with the addition of Italian herbs and spices. Others may add small bits of color, but can also change the entire color of the curd (even slightly) such as ones with dill, horseradish or buffalo wing flavoring. Although you will not find these specialty flavors in stores, high quality cheese manufacturers will not only make them but give you many options of flavors (and therefore colors) as well.

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