Thursday, September 27, 2012

What Is The Difference Between Vegetable And Animal Rennet? Should I Avoid Either?

Both vegetable rennet and animal rennet are used to make cheese, and they are both available in different forms, such as liquid, tablets, or powder. Rennet is used in the cheese making process to help speed up the thickening, or coagulation, of the milk proteins in order to separate the cheese curds from the whey. The whey is poured off and the curds are then cooked, and sometimes they are aged or further processed to make cheeses like Cheddar, Swiss and Mozzarella.

Animal Rennet

Animal rennet comes from an enzyme called chymosin that is naturally produced in the stomach of a baby cow, goat, or sheep before the animal has eaten anything besides its mother’s milk. When the young animal is slaughtered, the rennet is extracted from its stomach, and then the rennet is processed with milk to produce cheese curds. Adult animals do not have the enzyme, as it is not produced once an animal eats grass, grain, or anything besides mother’s milk. Most European cheese makers use animal rennet to make their cheeses, such as certain Cheddars, Brie, and Mozzarella. Many traditional European cheese makers also store milk in a sort of pouch made from the stomach as well.

Vegetable Rennet

Many plants are coagulants and can be used instead of animal rennet to make cheeses. Fig extract is one such plant, and others include thistle, nettles, mallow, and dried caper leaves. Essentially, the plants are just boiled in water, and then the liquid is strained off and stored to use for cheese making. The process for using the vegetable rennet is the same as for animal rennet; the milk is combined with a small amount of acid to begin the coagulation process, and as it is cooking, the vegetable rennet is added to the milk so that cheese curds will form. Some cheeses, like Mozzarella, are ready to be eaten soon after the curds are separated from the whey, while others, such as Cheddar, undergo further processing.

Should You Avoid Either?

Both animal and vegetable rennet are capable of producing delicious cheeses. Avoiding eating cheeses made with one or the other is simply a matter of preference. Many fine European cheeses are made exclusively from animal rennet, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano. Similar cheeses made from vegetable rennet are often considered inferior. On the other hand, many people are bothered by the idea of eating cheese that results from the slaughter of an un-weaned animal, so they choose cheeses that are made from vegetable rennet instead.

Cheese curd produced from animal rennet is not kosher either, so that is another fact to take into consideration. In fact, most kosher cheeses are made from rennet that is produced in a laboratory using microbes. Certain types of fungi, yeasts and microbes have been combined with animal genes so that they will produce chymosin, which is then used to produce cheese curds in the cheese making process. Laboratory produced rennet is generally thought to produce cheeses, such as mozzarella and cheddar, that have a taste and texture very similar to those produced from animal rennet.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Can You Freeze Cheddar Cheese?

Cheese; you either are completely in love with it, want it on everything or don’t really care for it. Take a vote and you’ll find people tend to be madly in love with cheese, eating it plain, with crackers or on a great many dishes. They may through a slice on apple pie or make veggies more appealing by melting it over them.

Why Freeze It If We’re Gobbling It Up?

The fact is, cheese can be pricey if you like the good stuff or if you like to enjoy it often.  There are a couple of different ways you can save money on cheese. One is taking advantages of sales and the other is buying in bulk. Both mean that you might end up with more Cheddar than you can eat before it starts to get moldy.  Now you are left with the inevitable question of what to do with all this delicious cheese. The first and often simplest answer is to consider freezing your cheddar, mozzarella or cheese curds. But now you’re left with wondering how it will hold up to it.

What Will Come Out Of The Freezer

Because Cheddar cheese isn't nearly as soft as Mozzarella or cheese curds you will find that it will hold up to the freezing process better than the soft varieties. Often our softer cheese (which isn't aged as long) has more space for the air to get into it and will lose flavor faster as well as its texture. To be honest, the last thing you’ll want to do is take a very fine cheese like a Camembert you've imported and toss it into the freezer. Instead send it to a real cheese fan that will gobble it up and enjoy every morsel!

Most likely you aren't asking about the gourmet flavors, you’re asking about some bulk cheddar cheese. If you are planning on eating the cheese in slices, served with crackers or another side like fruit then you might want to reconsider. The texture of a firm cheese like Cheddar tends to come out of the freezer with most its integrity intact, although it will be texturally different. Don’t worry though; your flavor will still be there. This is why freezing Cheddar or even Mozzarella (semi-soft) cheese for later use in cooking can be an excellent way to preserve your cheese and your budget.

Consider The Following Tips:
Cheeses like Parmigiano Regggiano, Asiago, Romano or aged Cheddar tend to fare the process very well.
Don’t freeze for longer than six months or you can run into freezer burn and poor flavor.
Freeze in small portions that you’ll use in a dish such as baked spaghetti, pizza, or casseroles.
Shred before freezing and toss the cheese in a light coating of corn starch or flour to keep them from sticking.
If freezing in slices, separate with wax paper to prevent sticking.
Take time to store it very well. Tightly wrap in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and then seal in a quality freezer bag being careful to get ALL the air out.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What Are The Hard, Crunchy, Crystallized Things In And On Hard Cheeses?

If you are someone who enjoys cheese there’s a good chance you’ve tasted quite a few different types. You’re likely to have enjoyed aged Gouda, Sharp Cheddar and even fresh cheese curds. During all these different taste tests you’ve probably ran across crystal crunchies on some of your cheese. These treats may have left you wondering if your cheese was fresh and just where the crystals come from. To better understand you’ll need to get a look at how cheese is made.

How Do You Make An Aged Cheddar?

When making Cheddar, as well as many other cheeses, they start with high quality milk. They ripen the milk with one of the many different ripening agents available. During this process lactose, the sugar found in milk gets consumed by bacteria to form lactic acid. After it has been ripened to the cheese maker’s satisfaction rennet is added to get curds to start forming. Once you have the curds you are well on your way to making your cheddar. These curds will be pressed and the whey (liquid) will be separated. Once all the whey has been drained off you will press the cheese and form it. If you’re making Cheddar it’s usually formed into a brick.

Aging The Cheddar

Cheese can’t just be aged in just any old place. The right area, with the correct humidity, temperature and mold spores have to be available. Specialty cheese cellars or caves are generally used. Here they will be checked on regularly to make sure the rind and moisture develop accordingly. Different countries have different rules for their aging areas. The French only get to age one type of cheese per room and the rooms aren't sterile. In the US sterile conditions are required and different cheeses are permitted in one room. Some of these cheeses can be aged for six years or more, creating a complex, sharp flavor!

What Does All This Have To Do With The Crystals?

Many people tend to think these bits are actually salt. This is not the case, unless you are talking about cheeses with washed-rinds. In these varieties you may have a salt residue from the brine.  With hard cheese, they are tyrosine which is from clusters of amino acid. They are generally found on cheeses that have aged longest, such as aged Cheddar, Swiss or Gouda as well as Parmigiano Reggiano among others. The protein casein, which is dominant in milk, actually makes Tyrosine. It is formed during the process of making cheese by trapping proteins and fats during acidification. It is perfectly edible and generally adds a lovely texture and compliments pairings with beverages such as wine and rich stouts.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why Is Some Cheese Orange?

All cheese is produced from milk that is then processed to produce cheese. Cow, goat and sheep’s milk are the most common milks used for cheese making. Milk is white, so why aren’t all cheeses white like mozzarella?  Cheddar cheese for example, is orange and many others range in color from off-white to light yellow to deep orange.


All milk isn’t actually white, and that leads to the explanation for why we have so much variety in the colors of cheeses. The actual color of milk produced from an animal varies according to the animal’s diet. For example, an animal might eat mostly hay in the winter, which produces slightly off-white colored milk. In the spring and summer however, pasture fed animals may eat a lot of fresh grass, which contains higher levels of beta-carotene. The milk they produce is orange tinged. The cheese curds produced from the different shades of milk are differently colored as well.

Yellow And Orange Cheese

Because of the variation in the animals’ diets the curds for some cheeses such as cheddar are different colors. Cheese produced in the spring and summer is more of an orange color, and cheese produced in fall and winter is more yellow or off- white. Because the cheese produced from grass fed animals was believed to contain more butterfat, the orange cheese was believed to be better. This left cheese makers with less desirable cheese to sell for half of the year.

To make the fall and winter cheese appear to be as orange as the spring and summer cheese, they began adding dye to the cheese curds to produce a more orange color. This led to no discernible difference between cheeses produced at different times of the year.

Adding Color To Cheeses

Raw, unpasteurized and pasteurized milks can all be used to make cheeses. The milk is heated, and sometimes a small amount of acid is added so that the milk will begin to thicken. In the case for most cheeses, the milk has been left to “ripen” a while so that lactic acid is naturally produced in order to begin the process.  Rennet is then added to the milk to aid in the coagulation process, which allows the cheese curds to be separated from the liquid whey. The curds are cut and continue cooking and then the whey is strained off.

Depending on the type of cheese made, the cheese may undergo further processing. Cheddar cheese, for example, then has dye added to it. Dye made from the Annatto tree is a common one used to dye cheeses an orange color. Cheddar cheese curds are stacked on each other to produce layers, and undergo further processes, such as aging, to complete the cheese making process. Other cheeses, such as mozzarella, are ready to be eaten very soon after the curds are cut and cooked, and have no dyes added to them. Not all cheeses are dyed with the same amount or same type of dye, which leads to the variation of yellow and orange cheeses.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Can I Eat The Cheese Rind?

For those of us who love cheese that comes with a rind it’s often hard to tell whether or not we should be eating it. For those cheeses like Cheddar and Mozzarella it’s nice to not have to worry about a rind. Unless you’re a true cheese connoisseur this can be a bit of a tricky question.  In truth, the more appropriate question is not whether or not you can eat a cheese rind but more of a matter of when can you eat a cheese rind. Here are a few simple rules to follow.

Man-Made Cheese Rinds

When it comes to rinds you really must divide them up into types. Those that are made with wax or plastic are inedible for obvious reasons. You’ll find these on Gouda as well as some varieties of Colby, Brick and Cheddar. There are certain types of cheeses, like these that are aged in coatings often made from a wax or plastic and you don’t want to eat them. Other cheeses won’t have a rind at all (Feta) and therefore you won’t have to worry about whether or not it’s edible.

Rinds That Are Natural And Add To The Flavor

Cheese makers across the globe actually plan on our eating the rinds of their cheese, at least for many of the delicate versions. If you were sitting across from a cheese taster or maker and just spooning out the gooey center of a Camembert or Brie they would cringe and wonder why you were even bothering to eat it at all. The fact is the rinds on such cheeses are meant to be an addition to the flavorful scope you can enjoy in a soft, pungent cheese such as these. They are made from the same elements as the cheese itself and add quite a bit to the flavor dimensions.

Natural Rinds That Are Unappealing

Eating natural rinds on any cheese is of course, a matter of taste. One of the biggest things you’ll want to do is to take a deep sniff of the cheese and get a feel for it this way. Just like wine, the aroma of a good cheese is truly part of the tasting process. Next take a small bite and decide whether or not you enjoy the rind. Some cheeses that are of a washed rind type such as Stilton have a rind that is unappealing. It is often ugly and gritty and doesn't taste very good. Other cheeses like some made from goat’s milk and some Blue have a very moldy layer on the outside. It is a matter of choice to eat this part or not.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What Is The Best Way To Wrap Cheese For Storage?

There are many of us that are true cheese-aholics. For this reason it can be very sad to get a lovely variety you enjoyed last week back out of the fridge only to find that it is all hard and nearly inedible. Most of us don’t mind a little mold and know that slicing this off can rejuvenate a Cheddar or Mozzarella allowing us to still enjoy its delicious flavor.

In regards to storing your cheeses it’s best to consider what kind (is it Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella etc.) and what form (shredded, brick, cheese curds). Knowing these facts can help you determine how best to store your cheese. For instance shredded can mold very quickly and this is simply because of the large area that is exposed to air. In addition, it is obviously not possible for you to cut the mold off of your shredded cheese. For this reason it’s best to store shredded of any variety in airtight containers and vital that it’s used as quickly as possible.

High-End Cheeses

A lot of people make the mistake of getting a really good, artisan cheese and then bringing it home and sticking it in the fridge in plastic wrap. This isn't the best way to keep the most delicious cheeses. If you’re getting a quality Brie or Gouda then you want to keep it at its best for as long as you can. Remember that cheese tends to be porous and for this reason can soak up flavors from your fridge that you don’t want it to have. Your best way to store it is to use cheese cloth or cheese paper. If you can’t easily find this then wax or parchment paper will work. It’s a good idea to mark the outside of the paper with the name of the cheese and the date. Once you have wrapped it then store it in an airtight container, preferably glass but plastic will work.

Brick Cheeses Such As Cheddar Or Mozzarella

With these cheeses it’s best to keep as much of the original wrapping as possible and then store in a storage bag or airtight container. You’ll want to use it up within a couple of weeks or so and keep an eye out for molding or hardening. If you’re storing a more porous cheese as in Swiss, then it’s a good idea to wrap in foil and then store in an airtight container.  All of these cheeses can be placed in the freezer and stored for a few months as well. You might get a cheese that is a little more crumbly and mealy but it will work well in cooked dishes.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What Cheeses Can I Eat With High Blood Pressure?

One of the bigger questions for cheese lovers when they are diagnosed with high blood pressure is what cheeses you can eat. High blood pressure of hypertension is a condition that is very serious and if you do not take care of yourself and your diet it can lead to heart failure. The problem with cheese when you are diagnosed with high blood pressure is that there is a fairly high amount of sodium in a lot of cheeses and sodium is something that you must reduce to a minimum in your diet. Whether you are a Muenster, Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella or a cheese curds fan, you need to know the sodium content so that you can remain healthy. Also keep in mind that according to the American Heart Association you should keep sodium under 1,500 mg per day.

Start By Having Appropriate Portions

You would have a hard time living without cheddar; after all it is one of the most consumed cheeses in the country. Cheddar is a variety that’s not as high in sodium as other types of cheese. 1 oz. of cheddar cheese has 176 mg of sodium which is way under the 1500 mg recommended. That means that you can have Cheddar cheese but you should not have it in large quantities or every day. A good alternative to cheddar would be Swiss cheese which has only 54 mg of sodium per oz.

Enjoy A Variety

Cheese curds are another cheese that per ounce is not so bad. An ounce of cheese curds will give you 244 mg of sodium. The problem is that it is difficult to stay with one ounce of cheese curds. Once you have a little you just want more. If you consume cheese curds you should do so with care and self-control. Having 5 oz. of cheese curds can give you close to the daily recommended amount at 1220 mg of sodium. If you can control yourself with cheese curds then you should go for it.

Use It As A Topper

If you like Mozzarella cheese you should know that it is not one of the bad ones. You can even get a variety of Mozzarella that is made from part skim milk. You should still control the amount of cheese that you consume as one slice of even the slimmed down version equals ten percent of the 1500 mg of sodium recommended. The trick of consuming cheese when you have been diagnosed with hypertension is to know the recommended amounts and reading the labels. A label that says “low sodium” on Mozzarella is a good indicator, but you should still read the nutritional contents label to ensure that you are not consuming more sodium than you may believe. You have options and you should make sure that you can enjoy your cheese guilt free.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

And the Winner is...

Congratulations to Nancy M of Bellevue, Nebraska for winning the Golden Age Cheese Cheese of the Month club membership this year. Although the winner is completely drawn at random, Nancy shared she would love to win this package because right now she has to drive over 3 hours to find cheese she enjoys eating. Hopefully we can help Nancy because now she will enjoy 2.5 pounds of cheese monthly starting this September until April 2013. We are offering up another drawing but for half the year until December 31, 2012! Win half a year's cheese of the month club by entering HERE.

Again, congratulations Nancy, we hope you enjoy our cheese!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What Cheeses Can I Eat With High Cholesterol?

Having high cholesterol and loving cheese can quickly create a dilemma. A lot of people believe that having high cholesterol means that you have to stay away from cheese altogether, but that is not the case. While it is true that bringing cholesterol under control will mean a reduction in your cheese consumption, there are a few exceptions. You do not have to simply replace the cheese with vegetables like mushrooms and sprouts, although those are very healthy alternatives.  You can also look for the cheese that will give you flavor and the benefits of calcium to your diet but has less cholesterol. So what are the cheeses that you can have when you still want to enjoy something like Cheddar or some cheese curds?

Mozzarella Cheese

Mozzarella cheese is one of the more popular ones in the country and in moderation isn’t a bad choice to have when you are trying to control cholesterol. The amount of cholesterol depends on the type of milk that is used when making the cheese. If the cheese is made with whole milk then you can expect 22 mg of cholesterol, while skim milk reduces the amount to 16 mg per oz. If you really love mozzarella and you cannot live without it, then it is recommended that you consume part skim mozzarella which can be as low as 15 mg per oz.

Consider Robust Cheeses

Though the content of cholesterol in Sharp Cheddar Cheese is higher than the one in mozzarella cheese, you will get more taste.  A 1 oz. slice of cheddar can contain 30 mg of cholesterol. Choose aged, Sharp Cheddar and have small portions. You can also try to lower the amount of cholesterol that you consume by choosing the cheese labeled “low fat.” The difference in cholesterol content is huge and in fact it is one of the lowest that you can have. While standard Cheddar Cheese has 30 mg of cholesterol, the low-fat version only has 6mg.

Try Cheese Curds

Cheese curds are another good cheese to have when you are looking to avoid high cholesterol. Of course it all depends on the cheese curds or how it is prepared. Needless to say you should stay away from deep fried cheese curds as they add a lot of saturated fat.  Common cheese curds are from Mozzarella or Cheddar and generally have about 9g of fat (6g of saturated fat) per ¼ cup serving. Depending on the meal plan your doctor has you on you can still enjoy the rich flavor and unique texture of cheese curds, just in moderation.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Can You Freeze Cheese?

The question of whether or not you can freeze cheese is a bit of a loaded one. The first thing you must address is what kind of cheese? If you’re talking about Cheddar or Mozzarella the answer is yes. In fact almost any cheese you freeze will still be edible; it’s just a matter of taste and texture.

Depending on the cheese that you freeze; whether it’s a hard cheese, soft cheese, processed cheese or artisan will dictate what it will look like when it comes back out of the freezer. Much like fresh veggies there will be a bit of a process and some things can get lost along the way.

If you’re thinking about freezing a high quality Brie or Camembert stop right there! Ask yourself why you would freeze for tomorrow what you could enjoy today? These cheeses simply do not hold up to the freezer process and shouldn't have to.

There are a wide variety of cheese you can store and use in your favorite recipes later. When it comes to the firm and semi-firm varieties like Gouda, Cheddar or Swiss you’ll have a better chance at maintaining the quality after freezing. This is simply because there are fewer separations in the cheese curds where it can fall apart. You will want to note that there will be a texture change resulting in cheese that tends to crumble easier. Here are a few things you can expect from some of your favorite flavors.


Whether aged, smoked or folded with delicious herbs and peppers, Cheddar holds up to freezing quite well. You can expect some texture loss but most flavors will be retained. It’s best to freeze in small, usable portions. You’re Cheddar cheese after the freezer will be slightly more crumbly or grainy in texture. This is because the process can break up the cheese curds.

Cheese Curds

Many people love to get their hands on delicious, creamy cheese curds; often buying them in bulk. If you’re one of these people then the good news is you can freeze them and enjoy later. Since the freezing process tends to crumble the cheese you might not notice it much in your curds. They can come out of the freezer, be thawed in the fridge and then used for baking. Put them in your casseroles, scrambled eggs or quiches.


Since Mozzarella is considered a semi-soft cheese you will most likely notice the largest difference in this cheeses texture after frozen. If you’re getting a high quality Mozzarella for nibbling at it is suggested to enjoy it now rather than later. If you’re getting your cheese for baking, melting and shredding then by all means you can freeze.

General Tips

Shred your cheese before freezing and you’ll be able to easily use it in baking when it comes out. To keep it from clumping together, toss it with a little flour. Also, make sure to wrap your cheese tightly in saran wrap or foil AND place in a freezer bag. Finally, thaw in the fridge before using it and enjoy!

Cheesiest Posts