Most cheese that we consume have been aged or ripened for a certain period of time. Aged cheese have a unique taste, texture, and aroma.
Cheese is made by coagulating milk with an agent like lime juice which is acidic in nature. After the cheese has been pressed to remove it of water, it is then ripened or aged. Only a some types of cheese are consumed immediately. Most are aged by various methods for a certain amount of time ranging from a few weeks to several months. Aging is one of the most important aspects of the cheese making process and it has to be done in carefully controlled conditions to get the best flavor and texture of the cheese. The amount of time a cheese is ripened and the method used is what gives a cheese its unique flavor, aroma, and texture.
Cheese Aging Techniques
As a cheese is allowed to age, the enzymes inside the cheese break down the proteins into amino acids and fatty acids. Most cheese require an aging period of two weeks to two years to fully develop and mature its flavors. Aged cheese has an intensity of flavor and aroma that is hard to find in fresh cheese like ricotta, cream cheese, and cottage cheese.
The cheese that are aged are stored in cellars where the temperature and the humidity of the cellar is kept at a constant. These two factors, i.e., temperature and humidity play a very important role in determining the ultimate taste of the cheese. Aging of cheese is typically done in temperatures ranging from 10 to 15º C with humidity levels that are above 80%. Some varieties are even stored in caves during the aging process.
Once the cheese has been ripened, either in a cellar or cave, they are coated with wax to prevent further oxidation. Some cheese like Gorgonzola and Stilton have additional bacteria or molds introduced during the ripening process. Sometimes penicillium molds are injected into a soft cheese so that the molds grow inside the cheese to create small fissures and blue-green veins. This type of cheese is called blue cheese and it has a very sharp taste with a creamy but crumbly texture. In Brie and Camembert, microbes are allowed to grow on the surface of the cheese which gives the cheese a rind.
List of Aged Cheese
Here are different types of aged cheese that have their own distinct flavor, texture, and aroma.
- Asiago is an Italian cheese with a very sharp flavor and is used in grated form over pizza or pasta.
- Banon is a cheese that is made in France from cow’s or goat’s milk, and it is a little sour.
- Bleu is a French aged cheese that has been matured for 2 to 5 months and has a spicy flavor. It is a semi soft blue-veined cheese and is best served with fresh fruits and crackers.
- Brandaske is a German cheese that has a sour taste. It is ripened in old beer kegs.
- Camembert is a French cheese that is very popular all over the world for its pungent but mild taste. It has a rich texture and flavor and is used in desserts.
- Castelo Branco is from Portugal and is made of sheep’s milk and has a mild nutty flavor.
- Cheddar is aged for 2 months to 2 years. Aged cheddar cheese has a sharp nutty flavor with a crumbly texture and is used in a number of dishes.
- Emmentaler is a very popular Swiss cheese that is hard in texture with a sweet nutty flavor and a smooth golden brown rind.
- Gouda is ripened for 3 months and has a mild, nutty flavor and is widely used in desserts as well as appetizers.
- Gorgonzola is a blue cheese that has a delicate flavor and its rind is edible. This cheese is widely used in salads.
- Gruyere is one of the most famous aged cheese from Switzerland. It is aged from 7 weeks to 3 months and has a sweet flavor with a very delicate aroma.
- Parmigiano is an Italian cheese with a sharp, piquant taste and it has a grainy texture. It is an essential ingredient in most pasta dishes.
Aging or maturing a cheese makes its flavors more intense and also give it a finer texture. Aged cheese can be served with fresh fruits and a bottle of wine and can also be used in many dishes.