Friday, July 26, 2013

What Is Vegetarian Cheese?

All cheeses are made from the milk of an animal, such as a cow, goat, or sheep. An acid is added to the milk, and in the case of most cheeses, a rennet is added so that the milk forms curds, or solids, that are then separated from the liquids, or the whey. Depending on the type of cheese being made, the curds will then undergo various other processes. The difference between cheeses labeled as vegetarian cheese versus a regular cheese is the type of rennin that is used to form the curds. Animal rennet is derived from animals, and cheese made using animal rennet is not vegetarian. Other cheeses made from rennet derived from plants or microbes can be categorized as vegetarian.

Animal Rennet

The earliest cheeses were produced using the rennet from an animal part, specifically the stomach of young goats, calves, and lambs. A chemical, chymosin, found in the stomachs of baby animals will cause milk to coagulate, or form curds. Only animals that are still nursing, and not eating any foods, contain this chemical in their stomachs; therefore, it can only be obtained from very young animals. The traditional method for extracting rennet involves slaughtering the animal, removing the stomach lining, and then using salt water, wine, whey, or vinegar to extract the chymosin. Although many cheese makers still follow traditional methods, more modern methods for producing animal rennet used in cheese making use enzyme extracting chemicals to get the rennet from the stomach lining.

Vegetable Rennet

For vegetarians that consume dairy products, cheese made from vegetable rennet is an option. There are several plants that have natural coagulation qualities and can be used in place of animal rennet to make cheese. Thistle is the most commonly used plant for making rennet. Another source of vegetable rennet is safflower. Dried caper leaves and the bark of a fig tree can also be used to make vegetable rennet. In addition, some soybeans that have been genetically modified are also capable of producing rennet that can be used in cheese making. The cheese making process using vegetable rennet is the same as the one used for making a cheese with animal rennet; however, the two are not necessarily interchangeable. Cheeses made using vegetable rennet will have different qualities than those made using animal rennet.

Microbial Rennet

Another source of rennet used in cheese making is microbial rennet. Because microbial rennet uses no animals as its source, it is also appropriate for vegetarian cheeses. Certain types of molds, fungus, and bacteria have coagulating properties that will form curds in milk. The enzymes of the microbes can be used in the cheese making process.

In addition, cow DNA can now be added to some specific yeasts, fungi, and bacteria to produce genetically engineered animal rennet. This rennet more closely resembles the rennet made from animals; therefore, the cheeses produces using this type of microbial rennet are more similar in taste and quality as animal rennet cheeses. Depending on how strict your vegetarian practices are, this may be a suitable substitution, since no animals are harmed to make the rennet.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Where Do The Best Gourmet Cheeses Come From?

The best gourmet cheeses come from several different regions throughout the world. England, Holland, and Spain are all known for their wonderful, gourmet cheeses. Two of the regions that produce some of the world’s finest gourmet cheeses are northern Italy and northern France. Parmigiano-Reggiano, the finest gourmet parmesan cheese, comes from five provinces in Italy. Brie, a creamy, cow’s milk cheese, originates from Ile de France. These are two of the finest gourmet cheeses produced.

Although there are many parmesan cheeses produced throughout the world, Parmigiano-Reggiano is known as the “king” of parmesan cheeses. Only parmesan cheeses produced in the five provinces that make up the region of Emilia Romagna in Northern Italy are given this label. Furthermore, cheese makers of this elite cheese must be a member of the governing body of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and they must follow strict guidelines for making the cheese to ensure that only products worthy of the label are produced.

The first Parmigiano-Reggiano was produced by monks in the 13th century, and the delectable flavor of the cheeses they produced was attributed to the diet of the cows that grazed their fields of lucerne and clover. Today, cows whose milk is used to produce the cheese are fed under strict guidelines, such as only being fed hay and grass and never any animal byproducts. Parmigiano-Reggiano is a raw milk cheese, so the diet of the cows used to produce milk for the cheese is very important.

After the cheese is made according to traditional methods, it is aged for 12 months, when it is inspected to see if its quality is sufficient. If it passes the test, it is branded; it may be aged more or sold as is. For cheeses that don’t pass the strict quality inspection, such as a small hollow being found in the cheese, the cheese may be sold for grating, but it won’t be labeled Parmigiano-Reggiano. Parmigiano-Reggiano can be used in any course of a meal, from antipasto to dessert.


Brie receives its name from the region where it is produced in northern France. Its first documented mention comes from the emperor Charlemagne in 774 B.C. Since then, many have written and spoken of this delicious gourmet cheese. In fact, it has even been said that the last dying wish of Louis XVI was to have one final taste of Brie. Brie, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, must be made according to strict guidelines to bear the official label.

Brie is a semi-soft cheese with an edible rind of mold. It is made from raw cow’s milk, and it is aged only two to three weeks to be at its peak flavor. Because it is made from unpasteurized milk, US customers do not have access to “real” Brie due to import laws. Unpasteurized milk cheeses must be aged sixty days before they can be imported into the US; Brie would be inedible if it were aged that long. Brie cheeses made in the US use pasteurized milk; although there are many delicious pasteurized milk Brie cheeses, they lack the complexity of flavor found in true Brie. Brie is used in many dishes and on sandwiches, as well as eaten alone.

Other Types

The definition of gourmet can be used loosely because it is also a matter of taste. For instance, many of us consider an aged Swiss to be finer than any other cheese we can get our hands on. Others may consider Muenster a personal favorite. Whatever cheese is your favorite make a gourmet experience out of it by taking the time to pair it with fruit and your favorite beverage. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What Makes Cheese Have Different Textures?

There are not that many dishes on the planet which are as creative as cheese. There are many different types of cheeses and a lot of them have different textures and flavors. The texture of a cheese is mostly determined by the manufacturing process. You can tell a few things about the cheese itself because of the texture. Some of the things that the texture will tell you are origin, age, ripeness and taste. Texture also influences the pairings with wine and food. Keep in mind that the texture of cheese can be similar between one type of cheese and another and still have very different taste. If you are looking to buy something for a dinner party then knowing the difference between textures is very important.

Hard Cheeses

If you are thinking of Italian cheeses you are probably thinking of dry and hard cheeses. Some of the hard cheeses include parmesan-reggiano, pecorino-romano and asiago. Hard cheeses get the texture because of a longer aging process which usually lasts anywhere between nine months all the way to two years. Hard cheeses usually have a saltier taste when they are tasted from the block. If you are to heat up hard cheeses, usually the texture changes to become creamier. Usually a hard cheese will be made of milk from cows but some are made from sheep’s milk. The best example would be manchego which is highly recommended for cheese lovers. Those trying manchego should expect a mild nutty and sharper taste.

Soft Cheeses

Soft cheeses ripen rather quickly, usually in a couple of months. The texture of soft cheeses is oozy and creamy and is mostly dependent on butterfat amounts. The lower the butterfat is the more firm the cheese will be. One of the best examples of that would be Cour de Lion cheese. Formage de Affionios on the other hand has a higher amount of butterfat so its texture is softer. Countries like Spain and Switzerland produce great soft cheeses but most of the best are made in France. Brie is probably the most popular of all soft cheeses being made today.  Fresh Mozzarella is often considered a ‘soft’ cheese as well.

Semi-soft Cheeses

The texture of cheeses which qualify as semi-soft will be just a bit harder than soft cheeses. However, they will be less moist and creamy. Semi-soft cheeses need to be properly kept as their moisture retention is somewhere between 62 and 67 percent. That means that if they are not kept properly mold can develop. The most famous semi-soft cheeses are cheddar and Gouda.


Crumbled cheeses are malleable and soft but their flavor is crisp and sharp. Crumbly cheeses are perfect for dressings, dips and salads. Gorgonzola is one of the cheeses that qualify as crumbly. Crumbly cheeses are usually made of sheep and cow’s milk and they have a deep and very rich flavor. Usually you will be able to see mold spores on the cheese’s surface. That is where they get the spotted colors. Another popular crumbly cheese is stilton which is almost sticky.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What Are The Best Cheeses For A Cheese Tasting Party?

If you are looking for the best cheeses for your cheese tasting party then you know that selection is not usually the problem. The real problem is selecting the best types while keeping your guests happy and tasting different types of flavors and textures. You do not have to be a cheese connoisseur to be able to pick great cheese. Knowing the cheese flavor and texture before you pick it, however, is essential as without that knowledge you could end up picking cheeses that taste or feel the same. Here are some of the cheeses you may want to include in your cheese tasting party.


Gouda cheese is as good as it gets because of its balance. Gouda gives you a balance of sweet and salty at the same time. It is crunchy and flaky with a caramel color. Dutch gouda just oozes flavor with a touch of butterscotch with each taste. Aged gouda can go great with fruity white wines or with cabernet. Gouda is actually not that expensive and your guests will be thrilled with the flavor and texture.
Bijou Goat’s Cheese

Bijou goat’s cheese is the type of cheese that is found in the kitchens of some of the best chefs in the country. In French the word bijou means “jewel” and this cheese lives up to the name. The texture is semi-firm and you can feel the tang of any other fresh goat milk cheese. The only problem with bijou goat’s cheese is that people may make it disappear before everybody has a chance to taste it. Try pairing bijou goat’s cheese with Sauvignon Blanc as it is one of the best combinations you can possibly serve.

Brie De Nangis

Brie de Nangis comes from Brie which is located to the southwest of the city of Paris. Its flavor is mild and buttery. The cheese almost saw its production stopped but it has made a great comeback. With age the center of brie de Nangis becomes a bit runny but its texture is smooth and creamy with a chalky center. The best companion for brie de Nangis is Chardonnay as it brings out the rich flavor of the cheese. You can also serve it with fruit, either kiwis, pears and in some cases berry compost.

Smoked And Aged Cheeses

There are many cheeses that will add to a cheese tasting party. Try adding at least one or two varieties that are smoked. Smoked Provolone, Smoked Swiss, or Smoked Cheddar can be a perfect accompaniment for the party. In addition having aged sharp cheddar and an aged Swiss along for some tangy variety at your gathering will round out the flavors nicely. Finally, don’t forget some fresh fruit, veggies, crackers, olives or nuts. You’ll want to break up the tasting with some other foods to clean the palate.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

What the Cheese? Mobile iPhone App Review

Need some more info about that cheese you've never heard of? Want a good wine with that cheese, or a good cheese with that wine? Need some answers to many frequently asked cheesy questions? Need some cheesy recipe ideas? Interested in saving money on cheese and wine online?  Introducing What the Cheese? mobile application. If you like cheese, you'll love this - It's a must have for any cheese connoisseur. Download it today and we promise you'll think it's far from cheesy!
Click HERE to download What the Cheese? today!
  • Database of over 400 types of cheeses from around the world - Loaded with information about each one!
  • Over 100 Recipes that are centered around using cheese as the main ingredient - surely something in there for everyone to enjoy!
  • Wine Pairing Guru. Each Cheese has a suggested wine and or beer, but with Wine Pairing Guru, you can search for a cheese by your favorite wine!
  • Ever wonder what cheese is the most healthy, or how Cheddar cheese is made from fresh cheese curds? Find the answers to these questions and many more with the Cheesy Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Save some serious Cheddar! Featuring exclusive coupons and specials from cheese and wine stores from all over the web! This part of the app makes the whole thing worth more than the cost of the app! 

Friday, July 5, 2013

How To Host A Cheese Tasting Party

One of the latest trends and a great way to spend an amazing evening with your friends is to host a cheese tasting party. You may want to host a party but not know what to do or where to start so with all the possible selections you should have some time to get ready. You should not think of hosting a cheese party as a complicated thing. After all there are more than 100 selections at the best markets. Someone at your local cheese store will be able to help you make some great selections but if you go in knowing a few things about cheese you will be able to do better. Because not everybody knows everything there is to know about cheese here are some great tips that will help you make your party a success.

What To Shop For

In order to have a successful cheese tasting party you should have at least five cheeses to choose from. The rule of thumb is to try to with a minimum of two milk based types. Some of the milk types that you will find include cow, goat or sheep; in some cases a combination of two or more. What you want to do with the different milk types is to create different textures and flavors. Think of combining textures such as that of brie, some aged cheddar and extra aged blue cheese or Gouda. You can also consider smoked provolone, Swiss and fresh Mozzarella. If your guests are fond of a particular style then you can get different versions of the same cheese.

How Much To Buy

The amount of cheese that you will buy depends on the number of guests that you will have. Some people even choose to have each person bring a block of cheese and the host has some fresh fruits and veggies to complement the cheese. Because there is no set amount of people that you will have at a cheese tasting party think of getting at least 4 ounces of cheese for every guest. That does not mean that you should get 4 ounces of cheddar, 4 ounces of brie and 4 ounces of blue cheese per guest but rather a combination of all cheeses should make four ounces per guest. Also make sure to get other things to compliment the cheese like crackers or bread, wine, nuts or other condiments. That way your guests will have a substantial meal during your party.

Serving And Plating

There are no real rules when it comes to serving cheese but serving it room temperature is usually best; in order to do so take the cheese out of the fridge close to an hour before serving. That way you will get the fullest flavor. The cheese should be unwrapped and allowed to breathe. You can use wax paper to prevent the cheese from drying out. Plating should be done in tasting order, starting with mellow then mild with softer cheeses served first, finishing with bold flavors. Cheese should also be served with its own knife; chunk, slice or crumble portions of each before serving. That will make it easier for your guests to pick up. Crackers, dried fruit, nuts or cured meats on the side are great for your party.

Monday, July 1, 2013

How Do You Pair Different Cheese With Different Drinks?

Cheese and wine could be described as a match made in heaven. Besides bread there is no better companion to cheese but why is that? It may be that both cheese and wine give people a lot of pleasure. Wine serves to warm us up and the cheese is working on filling us up at the same time. There are a lot of varieties of cheese as well as wine and that means that the combinations can seem limitless. Another reason why wine and cheese go great together is tannin and that is a dry chalky taste that a person will experience when they drink wine. Red wine has a lot of tannin and that is why a lot of people combine cheeses from all varieties- mozzarella, Swiss, Cheddar or Gouda, with red wine but white wine can also work great.

Why Most People Use Red Wine

There is an age old practice which pairs red wine with cheese and because of that a lot of people think that red wine is the only one that should be had with cheese. That is not really the case. The reason why red wine is usually paired with cheese is because lighter wines are usually drunk before the heavier ones. Now cheese is usually eaten before any dessert so because of that red wines which are lighter are usually served with cheese. White wines can actually be better companions to cheese. In some cases the cheese experience can be destroyed by pairing the wrong wine with it. There are some tips that you can follow to pair those two lovebirds together.

Pairing Tips

In order to correctly pair cheese and wine try pairing white wines instead of red wines. If you are a fan of the red wines then make sure that you are using a light one. Burgundy and Beaujolais wines are great for balancing the acids found in cheese. Low tannin is also better with the higher variety of cheeses. Port wine is also a great companion to cheese. Pairing the wines and the cheeses needs to be done carefully. You should know the flavors of both the wine and the cheese separately and judge from there if you think they will go together. Avoid using heavy wines as much as possible.

Wine Cheese Pairing Ideas To Consider

Some of the best combinations of cheese and wine are the following. If you have a soft goat cheese, then try pairing with Cotes du Rhone or with Sauvignon Blanc. A hard goat cheese on the other hand could be paired perfectly with Vin Jaune. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses are great with sparkling wines or champagne. Muenster family cheeses go with Rieslings or Gewurztraminer. Blue cheeses usually go with sweet dessert wines like Porto or Sauternes. Try pairing Chardonnay with mild cheddar. Gruyere cheese goes great with Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. Any sharp cheddar cheese could be paired with older Rojas wine. Those are just some ideas for wine and cheese pairing but you can try your own combinations and come up with other great ways to have wine and cheese.

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