Cheddar originated in England, however, there is no protected status for the term ‘cheddar’, so the cheese can be made anywhere. Typically made with cow’s milk, cheddar made with sheep’s or goat’s milk is becoming increasingly popular, as are smoked varieties. Round truckles of farmhouse cheddar, such as Pitchfork and Montgomery’s, are often cloth-bound and made with raw milk, whilst block cheddar, including Cathedral City and Pilgrim’s Choice, is made on a much larger scale in factories using pasteurised milk. There are no regulations on ageing, with mild cheddars typically sold at three months and “extra mature” at 15 months plus; the flavour getting more intense as they age.
Stilton is a crumbly variety of cheese, which can be blue, white or flavoured, with fruits such as apricots, for example. The most famous is Blue Stilton, which is geographically protected, which means that under its PDO, Britain’s most famous blue can only be made in the three counties of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire, using pasteurised cow’s milk. There are just six producers currently making this type of cheese, including Clawson, Cropwell Bishop and Colston Basset. Port is classically paired with Blue Stilton, but dessert wines and porters also work well.
This grand Italian cheese, correctly titled Parmigiano Reggiano, has been made for more than 900 years. Its protected status means it can only be made in certain provinces with raw cow’s milk. The hard cooked cheeses weigh up to 38kgs and are matured for at least 12 months, sometimes up to four years! The older the cheese, the harder and more granular it becomes with an abundance of amino acid crystals; the flavour also becomes more intense. This type of cheese is wonderful for grating over pasta, but also deserves its place on a cheeseboard, served with powerful reds, such as Barolo.
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Feta is a soft, crumbly cheese made from either sheep’s milk or a blend of sheep’s and goat’s milk and stored in brine or oil. The ancient cheese was in danger of losing its identity in the 1990s when it was industrially produced across Europe, but after a long campaign, Greece secured a PDO for the cheese in 2002 meaning feta can now only be made in Greece with a minimum of 70% sheep’s milk. Feta is great in pies, pastries and salads and the saltiness of this cheese variety makes it a good match for crisp, refreshing beers, such as Pilsner.
Ricotta is an Italian soft, fresh whey cheese made with milk from sheep, cow or goat. There is a protected Italian water buffalo version, but otherwise ricotta can be made anywhere. With its sweet, milky and citric flavours, this creamy mild cheese is a key ingredient in Italian cooking, such as a filling for ravioli and cannelloni, as well as desserts. Westcombe Dairy, which makes Somerset Ricotta with whey from cheddar production, suggests drizzling it with honey or spreading it on toast with jam or olive oil.
Cyprus’ most famous export, halloumi, has been made on the Mediterranean island since at least 1554, but it was only in 2021 that it was awarded an EU PDO. The cheese was traditionally made with milk from sheep and goats, but cows’ milk is now also often added. Traditional fresh halloumi is salty and minty in flavour, and its hard, close texture, often described as squeaky, makes it easy to slice. This, along with a high melting point, makes it a good variety of cheese for grilling or frying. Grilled halloumi served with watermelon is a favourite in Cyprus, as is grilled halloumi drizzled with honey.
A hard cooked cheese, Emmentaler (often shortened to Emmental) is arguably Switzerland’s most famous food thanks to its iconic holes. Whilst ‘Emmentaler Switzerland’ is registered as a geographical indication in Switzerland and specifies that raw cows milk must be used and the cheeses aged for at least four months, the term ‘emmental‘ is not protected and the cheese is consequently made all over the world from Finland to the US, where it is also known as Swiss cheese. A key ingredient in fondue, Emmentaler is a great cooking cheese for melting in baked goods, toasties and on burgers.
The recipe for this American hard cheese was first brought to Monterey County in California in the 1700s by Franciscan monks from Mexico. The cheese, made from cow’s milk, was made famous in the 19th century by immigrant Scottish cheesemaker David Jacks, who sold it as Jack’s Cheese. Monterey Jack can be sold rindless or coated in paraffin or wax, while mature versions (Dry Jack) are rubbed with oil, cocoa and pepper. The cheese is typically eaten at just a month or two old when the flavour is mild and milky and makes a great melting cheese for Mexican food.
Originally called “mozza” from the Italian word mozzarre – to lop off – a reference to the pasta filata “pulled curd” process, mozzarella is classified as a soft, fresh and unripened cheese. While mozzarella is made all over the world from buffalo and cows’ milk, it is mozzarella di bufala campana from central-southern Italy that is widely prized above all else. Due to its high moisture content, it’s best eaten the day after it’s made, but can be kept in brine for up to a week. There are some low-moisture varieties with have a much longer shelf life, but best reserved for cooking with.
Named after the Italian word for butter (‘burro’) because of its rich, creamy flavour, Burrata is a soft, fresh cheese that when sliced, the creamy interior should flow out. A pouch of mozzarella is made using the pasta filata (stretched curd) method, which is then filled with ribbons of mozzarella mixed with cream (stracciatella), and tied at the top. Like mozzarella, burrata should be eaten as young as possible. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and/or aged balsamic and serve with tomatoes and crusty bread.
Pecorino cheeses are a variety of hard cooked Italian cheeses made from sheep’s milk. There are six main varieties, all of which have PDO status. One such variety is Pecorino Sardo, which must be made in Sardinia and is an essential part of the island’s rural economy. It can be made in two styles: dolce (sweet/mild) and maturo (mature). The dolce cheese has a firm but springy texture and is mild and sweet, while Pecorino Sardo Maturo is hard in texture and more intense and salty. Both are good for grating over pasta dishes or as an alternative to Parmigiana.
This hard cheese, named after the city in South Holland, is a hugely popular cheese worldwide, accounting for 50-60% of the world’s cheese consumption. Usually made from cow’s milk, although goat’s milk varieties can be found, gouda itself is not protected and so is produced in many countries. The cheeses can be aged from one month to several years with older varieties tending to have a sharper, nuttier flavour, while cumin seeds and other spices are often added. Aged, smoked gouda works well on a cheeseboard with a robust red wine.
Wensleydale is a crumbly cheese originally produced by French Cistercian monks in the North of England in the 12th Century. Despite largely being made today in commercial creameries throughout the United Kingdom, “Yorkshire Wensleydale” is a geographically protected variety with the name only permitted for use by those made in the Wensleydale region. It is made with cow’s milk and aged for up to 12 months. Eaten young, the cheese is mild and milky with citrus flavours and goes well with an IPA or a light, fruity red.
One of the world’s favourite varieties of cheese, the term ‘brie’ is not protected and can be used to describe this soft, mould-ripened cheese, which can be manufactured anywhere in the world. Typically, bries have a very white bloomy rind with simple dairy flavours, rather than the complex vegetal notes associated with traditional Brie de Meaux, which is covered by a PDO and must be made in a specific way in a region just east of Paris. The bubbles of a sparkling wine work well to reboot the palate after this creamy cheese. Check out our collection of recipes using brie.
Goat’s cheese simply refers to any cheese that is made with goat’s milk, of which there are hundreds of different varieties. The cheeses vary from young, soft and very fresh to hard and aged and can be made into many varieties of cheese covering a huge spectrum of ages, textures and flavour, such as chevre log, blue and gouda.
As goat’s milk has a different structure to that of cows, with smaller fat molecules, it can be easier to digest. Some people refer to a cheese as having a “goaty” flavour, which tends to be tangy and earthy when young, and sweet and caramelly when aged. Goat’s cheese is perfect on a Christmas cheeseboard.
Manchego, protected by its PDO, can only be made in the La Mancha region of Spain from the rich milk of the Manchega sheep breed. There are various styles of Manchego, depending on age. The tender, buttery fresco is typically just a few weeks old. Semicurado is aged for up to four months and has a firmer texture, although still mild flavour, while the three-to six-month curado is harder still with the beginnings of Manchego’s trademark sweet dairy and nutty characteristics. This is fully pronounced in viejo (old) cheeses, which are aged for a year or more and have a long complex flavour.
Edam is a hard cheese that takes its name from the North Holland harbour town where it was first traded in the 18th century. Traditionally, Edam was made by hand and then the cheeses were stacked on top of each other; it was granted PGI status in 2010 and is only permitted to be made in the Netherlands with milk from Dutch cows. Young cheeses have a gentle, milky flavour which intensifies as the cheese ages. Aged edam has a drier, slightly crumbly texture with a flavour balanced between rich umami and caramel notes.
Camembert is a soft, mould-ripened small cheese, similar to brie. The term ‘camembert’ is not protected so can be used all over the world, but ‘Camembert de Normandie’ must be produced in Normandy with raw milk from herds with at least 50% Normande cows. The flavour tends to be stronger and more rustic than Brie de Meaux with intense vegetal and earthy notes. Typically camembert tends to be sold whole in thin, round, wooden containers made from poplar, which can also be used to bake the cheese whole therein. Enjoy with a buttery white Burgundy wine. Check out our collection of gooiest ever cheese recipes.
Classified as a hard cooked Alpine-style cheese, Comté is made in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France bordering Switzerland. Farmers in this mountainous region have pooled milk to make large wheels (up to 70cm in diameter) of cheese since at least the 11th century. With strict controls over its AOC protected status, only raw milk from Montbeliarde and French Simmental cows can be used and the milk must come from within a 25km diameter of the dairy. Aged for up to 36 months, the range of flavours is diverse, with sweet, nutty and savoury the most common.
This soft, unripened cheese is the richest of all the cream cheeses with a 60-75% fat. Mascarpone hails from the Lombardy region of Italy and dates back to the 16th century. Usually made from cow’s milk, mascarpone is not protected under EU law because it is already widely made around the world, however the Italian government have awarded it Prodotto Agroalimentare Tradizionale status, which recognises it as a traditional agricultural food. Soft and velvety in texture with a sweet, creamy flavour, mascarpone is a versatile ingredient: try spreading on bread, or use it to thicken sauces or fold into desserts.
Stracciatella is a soft, fresh cheese produced from Italian buffalo milk in the province of Foggia, located in the southern Italian region of Apulia. Stracciatella originated in Andria, Apulia, where mozzarella was traditionally shaped into a knot instead of a ball. Unsold knots would firm up considerably after a day on the shelf, so they were undone and peeled apart into strings, which were then soaked in heavy cream. Nowadays, it is made using a stretching (pasta filata) and shredding technique. When mixed with thick cream, stracciatella is also used to make burrata.
Cheshire cheese has a venerable history, stretching back to at least the 16th Century and was the most popular English cheese in the late 18th century, until cheddar and imported cheeses rose to prominence. Today this crumbly, mild and milky flavoured cheese is made using pasteurised cow’s milk in big factories all over the UK, with Appleby’s being the only farmhouse producer left making a traditional cloth-bound Cheshire with raw milk. The cheese should have zesty and mineral notes, plus a long finish. The interior can be ivory white or coloured a light red with the addition of annatto.
The origins of paneer are unclear; it is suggested that either Persian or Portuguese invaders introduced it in the 16th century, while India’s strong tradition with dairy products could mean that they had been making this soft, un-aged cheese for much longer. It’s a simple cheese, using heat and acid, usually lemon or lime juice, to coagulate either buffalo or cow’s milk. It tends to be mild and milky and typically doesn’t contain any salt. As paneer doesn’t actually melt, it’s often used in vegetarian dishes as a meat substitute.
Originally developed in the late 1800s, Jarlsberg disappeared around World War One, to reappear in the late 1950s. Today it is made by Tine, a Norwegian dairy co-operative with factories in Norway, Ireland and the US. They produce the cow’s milk cheese in 10kg plastic-coated wheels, as well as in a rindless block format and age it for between three months to over a year. The result, somewhere between a gouda and an Emmentaler, is a hard, yet pliable cheese with small to medium-sized holes. Mild, sweet and nutty in flavour, this is a staple in Norwegian sandwiches as well as being a great melting cheese.
Provolone is a hard cow’s milk cheese, made using the pasta filata (stretched curd) method. It is made around the world in various shapes (conical, cylindrical, melon- or pear-shaped) and sizes (1kg-100kg), but is believed to have first originated in Southern Italy. This aged pasta filata cheese is tied with rope or raffia and hung up as it matures. The name ‘Provolone’ is not protected so can be made anywhere, although there are two protected varieties: Provolone del Monaco PDO, which must be made with raw cow’s milk in the Naples region and Provolone Valpadana PDO, which must be made with cows’ milk in the Po Valley.
Historically, made on farms in Leicestershire from surplus cow’s milk from making stilton, most Red Leicesters are now produced in large, rindless blocks in factories and aged in plastic. But some smaller farmhouse makers, such as Leicestershire Handmade Cheese Company, still use the traditional way of maturing their Sparkenhoe Red Leicester in cloth for better flavour development, adding annato – a natural red colourant derived from dried plant seeds. The cheese is compact but flaky, with buttery and nutty notes. The malty backbone and sweetness of bitter or amber ales make a great pairing.
This mighty mountain cheese, which can trace its history back to 1115, takes its name from the Swiss market town of Gruyères, where it has long been traded. The hard, Alpine cheese is made in around 165 village dairies and, in accordance with its protected AOP status, must be made in the cantons of Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Jura, and Bernemust. It is matured by specialist affineurs for up to 18 months. Sweet and nutty when young, it becomes more savoury and complex as it matures. A wonderful cheese for melting in baked goods and fondue, Gruyère works well with fruity reds, including Burgundy and Côtes du Rhône.
There are two types of this Italian blue cheese: Gorgonzola Dolce, which makes up the vast majority of production, and is soft and creamy with a delicate blue spice, while Gorgonzola Piccante is aged at higher temperatures and for longer so has a crumbly texture and stronger flavour. Both varieties are protected under a PDO, meaning they can only be produced with pasteurised cows’ milk in the Lombardy and Piedmont regions of Italy. The sweetness of fruity reds and dessert wines work with both the creaminess of Gorgonzola Dolce and the spice of Piccante.
A cheddar that is influenced by Alpine cheeses, such as gruyère, poacher was first developed in 1992 and is now produced on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds by brothers and fourth-generation farmers Simon and Tim Jones. Made with unpasteurised milk from their own herd, this hard cheese is painted with a plastic coating, which enables the cheese to breathe as it matures, which can be from anywhere between 14-16 months. The cheese has a smooth and compact texture, with a wide range of flavours from tropical fruits to nutty, savoury notes, which intensify as it ages.
Cornish Yarg was first produced more than 30 years ago by a farmer named Alan Gray (Yarg is Gray spelled backwards), who found in an attic, a seventeenth century recipe for a nettle-wrapped cheese. Today, the crumbly cow’s milk cheese is made by Catherine Mead and her team at Lynher Dairies near Truro. “Nettlers” hand-paint foraged stinging nettles onto the young cheeses, attracting a delicate layer of white mold, which breaks down the paste as the cheese ripens for up to 12 weeks. The earthy rind gives way to a crumbly citrus and yogurt paste at the core.
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