Cheese, one of the many products of milk, is one of the most demanded and savored ingredient across the world. Consisting of fat and protein from milk, generally from cattle such as the cow, goat, sheep, buffalo, and yak, cheese is available in a variety of forms, flavors, and textures. According to the International Dairy Federation, there are as many as 500 different varieties of cheese produced around the world. Moreover, other sources also speak of the availability of more than 1000 different varieties of cheese.
Owing to the availability of so many different varieties and forms, there all sorts of cheese which are being used in global cuisines. While some forms are very popular, and are available the world over, the lesser known ones are endemic to particular regions of the world.
Soft cheese are called so due to their soft texture which they get because they do not undergo any kind of heating or pressing.
Soft cheeses are primarily used as a spread on bread and crackers.
Soft cheese are not usually used for cooking purposes, except on rare occasions.
Soft cheeses usually need to be used within a few days of their purchase as they tend to spoil faster than their harder counterparts.
Semi-soft cheese are not primarily a cooking cheese but it may be used for that purpose, specially if they are found to be heat-tolerant.
Semi-soft cheeses make a fantastic ingredient for desserts and snacks.
One of the special characteristics of semi-soft cheese are that they can be frozen in the refrigerator and then thawed for later use. Neither freezing nor thawing has any effect on their flavor, although their texture might sometimes undergo a change.
Semi-hard cheese are also known as semi-firm cheese, it is pressed during production to remove the moisture content.
While semi-hard cheeses can be used for cooking, they are also very good for sandwiches and snacks.
Semi-hard cheese tend to become harder with age, and also grow a little pungent.
Most importantly, these cheeses last longer than softer cheeses; maybe about one to two months, if refrigerated.
Hard cheese contains even lesser water than semi-hard cheese which is why it is pressed more and thus, becomes hard.
Hard cheese has a longer shelf-life than any other form of cheese; it can last for a period of about two years in refrigerated state.
With the passage of time, much like its semi-hard counterpart, the hard cheese also becomes harder and stronger in flavor.
Hard cheeses are one of best cooking cheeses.
Blue cheese are a special kind of cheese, in which the fungus Penicillium, or other kinds of bacteria, are injected and encouraged to grow so that the end product contains blue, green or bluish-gray spots or veins.
Blue cheese can be used for cooking and even eaten as it is.
Blue cheeses tend to have a very strong and a salty flavor because of the organisms that are allowed to grow inside it at the time of its production.
Actually, processed cheese are not pure cheese. They are sometimes a combination of two or more kinds of cheeses, as well as other unfermented dairy products such as milk, whey, cream and butter as well as emulsifiers, colors, flavors and extra salt.
Processed cheese serves both cooking as well as eating purposes and at times seems to be a tastier substitute for other kinds of cheeses.
The most important characteristic of processed cheese is that it has a very long shelf-life.
In countries such as Italy, Spain, France and Holland, a special kind of cheese known as worm cheese are available.
Worm cheeses, maggots are intentionally allowed to foster and eat the cheese as they grow. This gives it a creamy texture and a tangy flavor.
Worm cheese are eaten along with the maggots while they are alive.
It was regarded unsafe according to the hygiene regulations of the European Union and was outlawed for sometime, but this ban exists no more, as worm cheese is considered to be a traditional food and a recipe that is thousands of years old.
Nevertheless, if the maggots pass alive through the human digestive system, they may infect the intestines. This is why worm cheese is considered to be a harmful food.
Casu marzu is the best known variety of worm cheese which is made from sheep milk and is produced in Sardinia, Italy.
Although cheese is one of the favorite foods in many nations of the world, there are also regions wherein its use is either restricted or prohibited. For instance, cheeses with animal-based rennet are rarely found in regions with Muslim and Jew majorities, owing to their kosher laws. Even at places where cheese has been a traditional ingredient since a long time, there are people to render pungent smelling cheese as uneatable. Nevertheless, nobody can deny the fact that cheese has traveled a long way and it is one of the few food items which have managed to capture the taste buds of people all over the world for ages together.