Monday, August 30, 2010

How to Pair Food and Wine with Different Cheeses

If you are serving cheese to guests you likely want to make sure that you are making the most of those cheeses by serving them with the appropriate beverages and foods. There are many different ways that you can pair beverages and cheeses although the guidelines about which foods to serve can be somewhat harder to find. A commonly accepted rule of thumb is to pair a cheese with food and wine that comes from the same area where that cheese was made. Here is a look at some different ways that you can pair foods and beverages with cheeses and some suggestions for commonly served cheeses as well.

Cheddar Cheese

Cheddar cheeses can be interesting to deal with. Many people are familiar with this cheese but may not be aware of the changes that it undergoes as it ages. A young, unripe Cheddar will be very different than Cheddar cheese that has aged for several years. Even Cheddars that have aged for many years will be different than cheeses that have only been aging for a year or two.

Cheddar cheese is very versatile and can be served with many different foods. Everything from breads and meats to fruits can be served with Cheddars. You may want to be careful not to overload your guests’ taste buds. If you will be serving very flavorful aged Cheddar cheese you may want to serve it with food such as breads and crackers. Younger Cheddar cheese will work better with meat and fruit as the different flavors will offset each other quite nicely.

When serving wine with Cheddar cheese, you may want to serve a white wine with younger Cheddar. Good choices include Champagne and Chardonnay. Look for wines that have crisp acidity and a lighter weight to them. Aged Cheddars will do well with a red wine such as a Cabernet, or a red or white Rioja from Spain. If you love white wine, a Sauvignon Blanc will work well with aged Cheddar.


Mozzarella can have a flavor that is softer and more delicate than Cheddar and would call for a different choice of wine and food. Because Mozzarella was originally Italian, good choices would include foods that also come from Italy. Fresh tomatoes served with fresh basil can be a great option to serve alongside Mozzarella. A salty meat such as prosciutto would also work well to accompany Mozzarella. An Italian wine such as a Reserva Chianti is a great choice to serve with Mozzarella. If you are not a fan of Chianti, you may also want to try Sangiovese, another Italian wine with a great amount of flavor.


Gouda is a cheese that many people may not be familiar. Once they try it, this cheese’s flavor makes it extremely popular and it has a very loyal following. Its mild, nutty flavor and soft texture make it a fantastic choice to serve with fresh fruit and crackers. Try slices of apples or pears and other fruits such as grapes. Citrus fruit is not a good idea since the acidity can be a problem. You may find that smoked Gouda may taste better with a different selection of food and wine. Wines that work well with Gouda include Riesling and Champagne.

As you can see, different cheeses call for different food and beverages to bring out their best qualities. Serving a selection of different cheeses may call for the serving of different wines or beers in order for your guests to truly experience cheese at its best.

-Written by Lisa Longworth

Saturday, August 28, 2010

How to Set Up A Cheese Tasting that Will Showcase Your Favorite Cheeses

A cheese tasting can be a phenomenal way to get together with friends and family and experience your favorite cheeses. There are many different ways that you can organize a cheese tasting and any one of these can help you create a fun experience for your guests. All cheese tastings are essentially very similar. Guests will sample cheeses that you provide for them and accompany them with other foods and beverages that will bring out the best qualities in the cheeses that you are serving. It is simply the choice of the cheeses and the accompanying foods and beverages that will change from tasting to tasting.

Which Cheeses To Serve?

There are so many different cheeses available that the choice can be overwhelming for many people. Therefore, it can help to make a few basic decisions before you go shopping. You may want to think about how many cheeses you want to serve. A smaller cheese tasting can be a great idea especially if it is your first time hosting one of these events. A larger cheese tasting can be fun but it may be something that you may want to host with friends rather than purchasing all of the cheeses and drinks yourself.

Traditional cheese tastings often called for the host to serve a soft cheese, a semi-hard cheese and a firm cheese. This allowed guests to compare the different firmness levels and flavors that these cheeses would display. The cheeses were often accompanied by beverages such as wines and beers that could bring out different qualities in the cheeses being served.

Why Not Showcase A Single Cheese?

One excellent idea for a cheese tasting is to showcase a single cheese or variety of cheese. A good example would be a cheese tasting featuring different Cheddars. As Cheddar cheese ages, its flavor and texture undergoes a radical change. You could look at serving younger, mild Cheddar that has been aged for several months alongside Sharp or Extra Sharp Cheddars that have been aging for a much longer period of time. Guests will be able to see the progression in taste and texture. You can also consider offsetting this with flavored Cheddars or smoked Cheddar cheese.

Gouda is another cheese that can be the centerpiece of a great single cheese tasting. You can serve younger Gouda as well as one that has been aged. Smoked Gouda can also help you show your guests the range and complexity in flavors that this cheese displays. Many people have never tried aged Gouda or Gouda that has been smoked so this may be something that they will really enjoy.

How Much Cheese Should You Serve?

Figuring out how much cheese to serve your guests can be difficult. There are a few factors that you need to consider. They are:

• When the cheese will be served (you will need less cheese if it is a dessert course or if you are serving other food with the cheese)
• How many guests you are expecting

If you are presenting the cheese tasting as a dessert course or an appetizer, you will need less cheese than if it is the main event. If you are serving the cheeses as part of a larger meal you will generally be safe if you purchase between one and two ounces per person. This will generally double to two to four ounces per person if the cheese tasting is not attached to a meal or if you are only serving a light meal with your cheese.

Cheese tastings are rapidly becoming popular again especially now that there are so many amazing cheeses to experience.

-Written by Lisa Longworth

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cheeses that fit your Fondue Parties

For me, there’s nothing more fun than enjoying a hot pot of fondue with friends and loved ones. This Swiss communal dish was and is still popular during cocktails parties and gatherings.

Traditional fondue is made with melted cheese and some wine however, the use of various ingredients like chocolate and fruit purees are widely accepted. A fondue set consist of long forks for dipping, an earthen pot called caquelon, and a burner to keep the mixture melted – after all, the word fondue was derived from a French word meaning “melted”. Almost anything can be dipped in a fondue but most enthusiasts prefer plain bread or some fruits.

Choosing the right ingredients is very important when it comes to fondue making; nevertheless, one should not be discouraged to experiment. Your choice of cheese and wines will decide the outcome of your dish.

Dips – Hard bread cut into cubes is the classic dip for this although you can use other ingredients like boiled shrimp, cooked chicken, fried potatoes, blanched asparagus spears, grilled mushrooms, granny smith apples, pears, cheese curds, Mozzarella cubes, blanched broccoli and a whole lot more.

– Using quality cheeses is a must when doing fondue. Swiss cheese is used traditionally but almost all types of cheese can be added. Cheddar cheese for instance, adds some sharpness to the flavour.

Wines – Wine greatly contributes to the end flavour of your fondue. It is best to use wines that have a robust, citrusy taste to balance the creaminess of the cheese. Never use cooking wines for fondue since these tend to be very potent and lack that fruity aroma.

The recipe below is very basic and will work well as a base recipe so it is meant to be altered and experimented with. Adding a few herbs and different types of cheeses will surely improve the outcome and could lead to a best-selling recipe.


3 Tbps butter, unsalted
3/4 cup shallots, minced
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 teaspoons kirsch or cognac
1 Tablespoon corn starch
2 cups Swiss cheese, coarsely grated
2 cups Gouda cheese, coarsely grated
white pepper

1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sugar; sauté until shallots are caramelized usually about 10 minutes.

2. Add the wine to the pot and bring just to a simmer over medium heat.

3. Stir in the kirsch. This should barely simmer, but must be hot enough for the cheese to melt properly. If bubbles break the surface, then that’s a good indication of just the right heat.

4. Place the shredded Swiss cheese, Gouda cheese and cornstarch in a sealable plastic bag. Evenly coat the cheese with the cornstarch.

5. Add the cheese to the wine mixture, incorporating it gradually. Add ½ cup at a time, stirring until the cheese melts and is smooth before adding more.

6. Season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg then taste and add additional seasonings if needed.

7. Transfer the cheese mixture to a fondue pot.

No matter what type of concoction or combination you create; one thing is for sure... Fondue will always be the perfect finale to any house party.

-Written by Gab Castellano

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why Different Cheeses Have Different Textures

If you have spent time looking over a cheese counter or have had the opportunity to sample different cheeses, you will notice that the textures can vary a lot from one cheese to the next. Some cheeses are extremely runny while others are very firm and hard. Some may crumble when they are cut and others can be cut into even slices that are great for serving. It can be hard to understand why many cheeses have different textures since they are all, more or less, made from the same general ingredients.

All cheese begins with a base of milk. This may be milk that is harvested from cows, sheep or even goats. The milk that is used can affect the flavor, but does it also affect the texture? The fact is that there are many factors that can affect the texture of a cheese. Some of the factors that can affect a cheese’s texture include:

• The diet of the animal that produced the milk
• Whether that milk was then pasteurized
• The butterfat content in the milk
• The agent that was used to curdle the milk
• The production techniques used to make the cheese
• How long the cheese was aged

Many of the production methods used to produce Cheddar cheese and other cheeses can affect the texture because they force moisture out of the cheese curds. This dries the cheese out and causes it to become much firmer. With Cheddars, the process of cutting the curds, stacking them and pressing them forces a great deal of moisture out, causing a very firm texture. As these cheeses are then aged, they continue to become firmer, giving rise to different textures within the same kind of cheese.

When Mozzarella cheeses are produced, the curds are stretched and this radically changes the texture of the cheese itself. You can see how this alters the texture of the cheese by stretching your own Mozzarella at home, using a stretching kit and Mozzarella curd. This can be a really fun way to experiment with changing the textures of your own cheeses.

Aging or ripening can radically alter the texture of any cheese. Harder cheeses such as Cheddars will often start out with very rubbery curds that will firm up and grow harder as they age. Soft cheeses that have not had any chance to ripen will be almost gel-like when they are very new. As they age they will firm up but will still be much softer than a cheese such as a block of Cheddar or Parmesan would be.

When a cheese ages, the milk fat in the cheese continues to break down due to the presence of bacteria and microorganisms that are present in the cheese. This break down of milk fat into amino acids and other compounds is what gives some cheeses such as Parmesan their almost crunchy texture.

As you can see, many things can radically affect the texture of any cheese. This is one reason why exploring the world of cheese is so fantastic. You can experience the range of tastes and textures within your own favorite cheese and there is always something new to surprise you and your taste buds.

-Written by Lisa Longworth

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How To Make Traditional Cheddar Dishes More Exciting

Anyone who loves cooking will look for ways to reinvent traditional recipes in order to bring them up to date or make them more appealing to their friends and families. There are many ways that you can perform recipe makeovers and use simple changes to put a whole new spin on them.

The advantage to cooking with Cheddars is that they all react well to cooking. Some premium aged Cheddar cheeses may be better served alone because of their rich taste but the texture of the cheese will not become grainy or gritty when it is cooked like some other cheeses may when they are exposed to heat.

Using Older Cheddars

If you are used to cooking many of your dishes with mild or even medium Cheddars, one of the easiest ways to up the excitement factor is through the use of an aged Cheddar cheese. As Cheddar ages it develops a richer, sharper flavor that can really add extra zip to your favorite dishes. Think how flavorful and rich something as simple as Macaroni and Cheese can taste when you switch out a mild three to six month old cheese with a Cheddar that is two or three years old. The added flavor may be just what you need to bring new life back to this traditional comfort food.

Using Flavored Cheddars
Many Cheddars have had herbs or other flavorings added to them. Cheddar cheeses such as Horseradish Cheddar, Jalapeno Cheddar or Garlic Cheddar can add extra dimension to any dish that it is used in. Consider making a rich Cheddar sauce for vegetables or meat dishes but using flavored Cheddar instead. Garlic Cheddar in particular will work well with a wide variety of different foods. Jalapeno Cheddar may work better for dishes where you want a little added heat and Horseradish Cheddar may work very well if served on dishes alongside beef, as horseradish is a condiment that many people feel enhances the flavor of the beef.

Smoked Cheddar can be a fantastic addition to any recipe. Unlike other Cheddars it does not have any herbs or seasonings added to the cheese itself. Instead, the cheese is exposed to smoke such as that produced by Maple wood. The smoke darkens the outside of the cheese and adds a beautiful taste that everyone should experience if they have the chance. Because the smoking can alter the taste you may want to try using smoked cheese when you are making foods for people who do not like a sharper, older Cheddar cheese.

Use A Blend Of Cheeses
Using a blend of different cheeses can also help to add extra dimension to a cheese dish. Consider using mild or sharp Cheddar rather than one that is extra-sharp as you want to ensure that the flavor of the Cheddar will not overwhelm the taste of the other cheeses you are using. Some excellent cheeses that work well with Cheddar include Mozzarella, Provolone or Colby Jack. By experimenting with different cheese combinations you will rapidly learn which will work best with the different meals that you are trying to change.

-Written by Lisa Longworth

Friday, August 20, 2010

How the Texture of Cheddar Cheese Changes as it Ages

Cheddar cheeses are among some of the most complex in the cheese making world. The process of forming, cutting, stacking and pressing the curds is a lengthy one and that all must be done before the cheese can be aged. It takes specific techniques and specific aging conditions to produce a truly spectacular Cheddar cheese. One of the factors that can affect the taste and texture of Cheddars is how long those cheeses have been aged. A new Cheddar cheese will have a very different texture and flavor than one that has been aging for months or even years. But why does the texture vary so much between a new, unripe block of cheese and one that has been sitting for months or years? The answer is an interesting one.

All cheese uses certain ingredients to cause the milk to curdle. This forms curds and whey. The whey is a thin, watery substance that is separated out and the curds are retained. Some are sold fresh when they are squeaky and rubbery. Cheese Curd lovers look for this unique texture and sound when they eat their curds. Many of the curds are then packed together, cut, restacked and pressed to form the bricks of Cheddar that will then be aged. The ingredients that were used to curdle the milk then continue to act on the Cheddar cheese and continue to change its texture over time.

Over time, the enzymes and microbes that were introduced with the curdling agent continue to be active in the brick of cheese. These microbes and enzymes have two targets within any block of cheese” milk fat molecules and a substance called casein. Casein is a protein that is found in milk. As the casein and milk fat are broken down, they are reformed into fatty acids, amines and amino acids. The proportions of those elements can alter the texture of the cheese as it ages.

Younger cheddars have a texture that is very pliable. The surface will be very smooth and the taste will be very mild and may still retain a flavor that is somewhat buttery. Many people prefer younger Cheddars because they can slice them easily and this makes them easier to use in sandwiches and other dishes. A Cheddar cheese that has been labeled as “young” is usually one that has been ripening for between three and six months.

Sharp Cheddar cheeses have often been aging for between one and two years. They have a stronger flavor and a texture that is much crumblier than a younger cheese would be. This is because of the breakdown of casein and milk proteins. Cheddars that are sharp or extra sharp are also much crumblier than younger cheeses would be.

It is highly enjoyable to find which cheese is your favorite Cheddar cheese by exploring the different textures and tastes that come with aging this amazing cheese.

-Written by Lisa Longworth

Monday, August 16, 2010

Enjoying Smoked Cheese

What is Smoked Cheese?

Smoked cheese is any cheese that went through a process called “smoke-curing”. The same process is applied to beef, fish, processed meats and many more.

How is Cheese Smoked?

There are two ways to do this; the first one is called Cold Smoking. This process exposes the cheese in smoke for very long periods but with temperatures under 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This cures the cheese and imparts the “smokey” flavor of the wood that was used without cooking the cheese. The outcome of this is superior as compared to other methods however; it takes a long time to make – some taking more than a month. On the other hand, Hot Smoking is somewhat similar except for the fact that the temperature ranges from 100 -190 degrees Fahrenheit; intentionally cooking the cheese. It is relatively easy and fast to make however it won’t yield the same quality as that of the previous one.

What kind of cheeses can be smoked?

Almost all types of cheese can be smoked; Cheddar, Mozzarella, Swiss, Gouda, Provolone – even cheese curds are available in smoked varieties. The differentiating factor lies in the type of wood used for the process. Using different species of wood will give you different flavours you can use.

When and how should I use smoked cheese?

You can use it just like how you’d enjoy most types of cheeses. Most people eat it with just plain bread and butter; some step it up a bit by including it in their cooking. The mouth-watering recipe below is a rich and creamy variation on the classic lasagna dish with a hint of smokiness, leaving you wanting for more. This can give you ideas on how to incorporate smoked cheese into your cooking.

Smoked Four-Cheese Lasagna
Yields 4-6 servings

2 C ground beef
1 C chopped Onions
6 tbsp butter
1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 C Fresh milk
1 C Smoked Cheddar, grated
1/2 C Parmesan cheese, grated
1/3 C Spinach, blanched and chopped
3/4 C Mozzarella cheese, grated
3/4 C Swiss cheese, grated
1 pack lasagna sheets
2 C Canned tomatoes, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

To prepare the tomato sauce:
1. In a non-stick pan, sauté onions in high heat until lightly caramelized. Add the ground beef and thoroughly cook. Remove oil with a spoon and add the tomatoes. Sauté for another 10-12 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and mushy. Season with salt and pepper then set aside.

To prepare the white sauce:
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add in flour until blended and cook for 1 minute.

2. Gradually stir in milk, stirring constantly until sauce boils and thickens. Add in the grated Parmesan, spinach, swiss cheese and smoked cheddar. Stir until melted then set aside.

To assemble:
1. Grease an 8 x 10 inch glass baking dish. Spread 1/2 cup of tomato sauce unto the base of the pan to avoid pasta sheets from sticking.

2. Arrange 1/3 of the lasagna sheets over the sauce.

3. Add half of the tomato sauce and 1/3 of the white sauce. Sprinkle with a third of the mozzarella.

4. Repeat the process until you get to the third layer of lasagna sheets. Top with remaining white sauce and sprinkle the rest of the Mozzarella on top, adding more if needed.

5. Cover and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, uncover and cook for another 15 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Serve with toasted bread and some cheese curds on the side.

-Written by Gab Castellano

Saturday, August 14, 2010

How Cheese Makers Flavor Their Cheeses

If you have looked at the local cheese counter you will notice that there are many different flavored cheeses on the market. Skilled cheese makers can take a cheese such as Cheddar and alter its flavor in one of several different ways in order to create a product that may be completely different than the parent cheese may have been.

There are a few different ways that cheese makers can alter the flavor of their Cheddars and other cheeses. One is through adding herbs and spices to the Cheddar cheese as it is forming. The herbs can be added to the curds and are incorporated into the cheese as it solidifies and forms into a block. Because the herbs have been there throughout the aging process they generally give a very definite flavor to the cheese. Some popular herbs that are often added to Cheddar cheese include dill, garlic and sage. If you have a particular preference for one type of herb you may be interested in tasting a cheese that features that herb in its make-up.

Another method of changing the taste of Cheddar and other cheeses is to soak the cheese in flavored liquid. Depending on the taste that the cheese maker wants to give to the cheese, liquids that are used can include both red and white wines, port and beer. Cheese makers are exploring new flavor combinations every day and some are very tasty. If cheese is being placed in liquid in order to flavor it the cheese needs to stay in the liquid for an extended period of time in order to let the liquid flavor the cheese evenly.

Wrapping the cheese in different substances can also affect its flavor. Some cheeses may be wrapped in wax (such as Cheddar which may be wrapped in black wax) but this is less likely to flavor the cheese inside. Other cheeses are wrapped in herbs or leaves that will change the taste of the cheese as it ages. Some cheese makers will also place a paste on the cheese in order to change the taste. As the cheese sits in the wrapping or paste, its flavor will change.

A final way to alter the taste of cheese is through smoking. There are many different varieties such as smoked Cheddar, smoked Swiss, smoked Mozzarella, and smoked Gouda. Smoking cheese can also darken the color of the outer surface and gives it a beautiful appearance. The taste of the cheese will depend on which wood has been used to provide the smoke. One popular wood that is often used to smoke cheese is maple wood although apple wood is also used. The smoke can be applied to the cheese using a hot smoking process, which is much faster but heats the cheese or a cold smoking process. This second process takes much longer but many people prefer it simply because the cheese is not heated as it is smoked.

If you are planning to purchase smoked cheese it is important to look for cheese that has been naturally smoked. There are some cheese makers that use liquid smoke and coloring agents in order to alter the taste and the color of the cheese, but there is nothing to compare with a cheese that has been smoked naturally. Look for information on which wood was used in order to produce the smoke as this can be a sign as to whether the cheese has been naturally smoked or not.

-Written by Lisa Longworth

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What to Look For When Purchasing Cheddar Cheese

If you are in the market for Cheddar cheese, you may wonder how to separate high quality cheeses from ones that are run of the mill. Unless you have a lot of experience with choosing and purchasing cheeses the cheese counter can actually seem somewhat intimidating since there are so many different options to choose from. Here are a few suggestions on how to buy cheese so that you are sure of getting a top quality product.

The proper texture for good quality Cheddars is very rich. It is a solid cheese but it should be somewhat crumbly. If the Cheddars you are looking at do not have this texture, it can be a sign that the cheese is not high quality. Remember, however that Cheddars change texture as they age. Older Cheddar will be somewhat drier than a younger cheese will be. A high-quality Cheddar will have a very fine grained texture although the outside of the cheese may be somewhat flaky when it is handled. This may become more pronounced as the cheese ages.

Natural Flavorings
Cheddar can be flavored in a range of different ways. Quality Cheddars use natural ingredients to influence their taste. If a cheese is smoked, it should be smoked over real wood such as maple or apple. If you know that a piece of Cheddar has been flavored through the use of herbs such as thyme or jalapeno peppers, make sure that you can see signs of the herbs throughout the cheese you are purchasing.

If you are looking for quality Cheddar, the aroma should be a pleasant one. Unlike other cheeses, such as Blue that may have a very strong smell, Cheddar cheese should have an aroma that is clean and appealing. If a Cheddar is strongly scented it can be a sign that it has begun to spoil.

Hand Craftsmanship

The best cheeses are crafted by hand. Cheddar in particular is quite labor intensive since the Cheddaring process involves cutting, stacking and turning the curds in order to form the bricks of Cheddar cheese. Mass production methods usually result in a cheese that is inferior in quality.

Check that the cheese you are buying has been properly packaged. Cheese can spoil quite quickly at room temperature so cheese should be stored and transported at a low temperature. It is possible to get high quality Cheddar shipped through the mail as long as it is well sealed and has been sent using methods that keep the cheese at a good temperature. When the cheese arrives, ensure that there are no tears in the packaging and that no areas of the cheese have been allowed to dry out.

-Written by Lisa Longworth

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Using Cheddar, Mozzarella, & Swiss Cheese in the Kitchen

Most cheeses are best eaten fresh... Nothing beats enjoying the sunset on the steps of Notre Dame Cathedral - nibbling a piece of fine sharp cheddar in one hand, and a bottle of Merlot with fresh baked bread in the other. Like most dairy products, it acquires its flavor to the process involved in production and doesn’t need any cooking preparation to enhance the taste. Cheese platters, would be the best example here; it is usually just paired with fruits, cheese curds and some toasts, highlighting the texture and creaminess of the cheese.

In fact, even some cheeses don’t like to be cooked. The texture breaks down becoming grainy and some produce an after taste that bears resemblance to eating plastic. That is why most chefs play it safe, avoiding dishes that involve cooking certain types of cheese.

Among all cheese variants, Mozzarella is one of the safest cheeses to cook. The high fat content makes it hard to overcook, and since it is not aged, the flavor is easy to manipulate. Some chefs even use it as a cheating tool, hiding small aesthetic imperfections by covering the top with grated mozzarella and gratin it for that perfect crust.

Swiss cheese on the other hand, is somewhat of a culinary challenge. As some of you may have noticed, not a lot of recipes made with this cheese are going around. The sharp, nutty-sweet character of this cheese makes it a wonderful treat when consumed fresh. However the flavor tends to be potent when used for cooking, overpowering the whole dish. One tip when using this for cooking; mix it with mild flavoured cheeses like Meunster, mild cheddar, feta and cream cheese. This will help balance the flavours.

Cheddar is a very versatile cheese to work with. In general, a lot of varieties are out there ranging from mild, low fat, medium, sharp, extra sharp, dry, mature, high fat, vintage – and a lot more. Basing on these characteristics, one could choose what is best for them. Cheddar is usually used as a “flavouring” cheese, mixed with other cheeses to create complex tasting dishes. Never mistake real Cheddar with “Cheddar-style cheese” -These are processed cheese flavoured in a way to mimic the taste of real cheddar, and often bare little resemblance in taste to that of a real one.

Gouda cheese is also widely used in cooking. Most chefs take advantage of its creamy, sweet flavour and apply it generously to their dishes. It is similar in character to Edam, but creamier due to the higher fat content. Most variants are aged, some longer than others, so this gives you more ways to incorporate it in your cooking. Simple and upfront, the taste of this cheese is very easy to predict, therefore, it is a good cheese for beginner chefs. Personally, I prefer eating this as is.

When cooking cheese, always remember that ingredient substitution may not apply. The profiles of these cheeses are so complex that just by replacing one acquired from a different producer could change the outcome of your dish.

-Written by Gab Castellano

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Food and Wine to Pair with Cheddar Cheese & Curds

There are many varieties of Cheddar cheese, varying in strength. There is very mild, milky Cheddar, which has a smooth and creamy texture. This is a lovely, simple, everyday sort of cheese, perfect on crackers, sandwiches, or on a cheese board with other, richer varieties. Moving up the scale the cheese becomes slightly sharper, with a tangy taste that makes your mouth water. This one is well accompanied with pickles, to bring out the tang. Then we move on to even more mature varieties of Cheddar cheese. Some of these are an acquired taste, as they can be very heavy, but are delicious with the right wine and bread as an accompaniment.

Cheddar cheese curds are very similar, although they are not mature like full cheese. These ‘cheese nibbles’ are very versatile as they can be eaten alone, with crackers or biscuits, or mixed into casseroles, pasta dishes, potato bakes, and a whole host of other recipes. The curds can be frozen so they make a handy ingredient to keep at home, as you can get them in different mixtures, including things like herbs, Jalapeños, garlic, or bacon, which will add a nice touch to a bland meal, or a recipe that is lacking something.

Wine is most usually associated with cheese, along with images of a nice big cheese board surrounded by delicious fruits. To choose the right variety of wine to compliment the flavor of Cheddar is traditionally viewed as quite a precise art. There are generally three main varieties of Cheddar cheese: mild, which is aged for two to three months, and is smooth and creamy to taste; medium, which has a slight tang but is still a nice ‘everyday’ cheese; and then there is sharp and extra sharp, varieties which are aged for one year or longer, and are something of an acquired taste, or a variety to be savored on special occasions.

The best wines to accompany hard cheeses are usually red. A strong flavor of cheese generally needs a full-bodied flavor to compliment it. Wines such as Bordeaux, Cabernet and Merlot are recommended. Alternatively there are some white wines that taste lovely alongside Cheddar cheese. These are varieties such as Sauternes, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and even Champagne! To add a further twist to your beverage, you may like to try Sherry or Port with your Cheddar cheese. If wine isn't your usual drink then a pint of beer, cask ale, or lager works just as well.

Cheddar cheese is best served at room temperature and removed from the refrigerator at least thirty minutes before being eaten. The fruits that accompany it best are apples, pears, melons and grapes. When serving as a dessert, sweeter varieties of Cheddar are appropriate, served with fruit, figs, and a drizzling of honey or pecan praline for a touch of luxury. It is best served with sweet dark breads and biscuits, and a vintage Port, fruity Moscato wine, or crisp, chilled white wines.

There are other ways to incorporate Cheddar cheese into everyday eating, however. A classic favorite for BBQ's, parties and buffets, is to serve the cheese cut into cubes and mounted on cocktail sticks with cubes of pineapple. This is a great pairing due to the contrast of the smooth, creamy taste, with something a little acidic and tangy. A radical alternative might even be cheese with strawberries! Imagine smooth, creamy, mild Cheddar, with the sharp, sweet tang of strawberry. Delicious! Or a simple recipe is Cheddar cheese on toast with tomatoes. A medium to sharp variety works well for this. You simply toast your bread lightly on both sides, and then add the cheese and freshly chopped tomatoes, with a few herbs if desired, to one side. Grill them on a moderate heat for around 10 minutes and you have a delicious snack!

Cheddar is very versatile at any meal. How about for breakfast you try Pita Pockets? These are scrambled egg whites mixed with shredded Cheddar cheese, chopped mushrooms, onions and peppers, stuffed into toasted halves of pita bread. You simply wrap the pita in foil and away you go – breakfast on the go! Cheddar Cheese Curds can also be incorporated in breakfast meals. Bacon and Chive curds will be a great accompaniment to sausages, hash browns, fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms and baked beans. Wash it down with a good cup of coffee or English tea and you have a hearty meal to set you up for the day! Alternatively, plain or Dill Cheddar Cheese Curds will work nicely, especially for a Vegetarian breakfast or brunch.

Are you having a film night, a friendly get-together, or a social occasion where snacks are required? Well you could try a Savory Cheddar Snack Mix. This is quite simply chopped Cheddar cheese of any strength (or Cheddar Curds also), mixed in a bowl with salty pretzels and popcorn. You could make burritos with flour tortillas, using scrambled eggs, salsa, and medium Cheddar cheese or Cheddar cheese curds. These are an ideal party snack, or perfect for school lunch boxes or picnics.

A delicious savory meal is Cheddar cheese with macaroni. You can simply add the cheese to the macaroni with a little cheese sauce to moisten it, or you could also add some herbs and chopped spring onions for extra flavor. The stronger, more mature Cheddar varieties work well with this recipe, as the macaroni balances the sharp taste. Serve it up with chunks of warm crusty bread and butter, and a lovely glass of red wine, and you have a lovely, warming meal.

Now for something a little more unusual! Cheddar was traditionally served during the medieval era in Britain, as part of the great dinner feasts. It would be cut into large chunks, and the dinner guests would help themselves to a pile of cheese, crusty bread wedges, apples, grapes, and the beverage of choice was Ale served in wooden goblets. This would make for a fun, simple and tasty dinner party! You could even host it as a costume party for added effect!

-Written by Catherine Green

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cooking with Fresh Mozzarella Cheese

Mozzarella is a kind of cheese that has a stringy, chewy texture to it. It is not aged like most cheeses and is actually a treat when eaten fresh, just within hours of its making. Traditional mozzarella or Mozzarella di Bufala as it is called in Italy, is made from the milk of water buffalo, and is highly prized. However, most if not all mozzarella made in the US and places outside Italy, come from the milk of cows.

In cooking, mozzarella is valued primarily for the texture it adds to the dish. Just the thought of stringy mozzarella on a hot slice of pepperoni pizza, sprinkled on a luscious lasagna or simply topped on a hearty baked mac – Is sure to stir up our appetite. But did you know, there are more than a couple of ways to enjoy it?

It can be eaten fresh as is, sliced into slivers and topped on a healthy salad together with cheese curds and cheddar, even mixed with your favorite cereals for breakfast – The flavor is mild and creamy, and therefore could be generously added to any dish. As an ingredient in cooking, it will give you more than a couple of ways to introduce new dishes to your menu. Mixed with Swiss cheese, some spices and cream cheese, it can be transformed into a unique dip that will do wonders for your next fondue party. Sliced into small batons, it can be coated with flour and batter then deep fried to make those sure-hit mozzarella sticks. Personally, I enjoy it most when grilled. Just the thought of it – the charred crust that complements the soft inner core, the creamy flavor spiked with that hint of smokiness, and the chewy texture that you just can’t get enough of– makes me want to eat it every day. You can grill a hefty slice of fresh mozzarella and layer together with tomatoes and basil unto your Panini, grate and mix together with your burger patties, cut into cubes and skewered with Kebabs or my favorite; Grilled mozzarella sticks wrapped with Prosciutto... the possibilities are endless.

When cooking mozzarella, you just have to take into consideration its characteristics and how it complements other ingredients. Below is a list of guidelines that you can base on when cooking with it.

It has a very mild flavor; some even describe it as bland. Sometimes, this works to your advantage if you want to accentuate certain flavors. However, you can mix in some sharp Cheddar or aged Gouda if you’re after that piquant taste. Also, I find that adding paprika or pimiento also brings out the flavor of this cheese.

The texture of the cheese can also be altered. When making sauces, adding heavy cream lightens the mixture but does not distort the flavor. Mozzarella contains 40%-45% fat, so if you want to crust the surface on a grill, make sure to cook it on high heat so as not to melt the cheese.

Processed mozzarella can be kept up to 6 months when frozen. Unfortunately, it breaks down when thawed quickly, making it crumbly. Thaw it in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days to give it some time to absorb moisture before slicing it.

-Written by Gab Castellano

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