Popular Cheese Varieties and Their Uses

Smooth, creamy, enticing, delicious, and a wonderful accent too just about any type of food, cheese is by far one of the most popular toppers that embellish our food, and it is favored at parties as an appetizer. No sandwich is complete without it, and many Italian and Mexican dishes would be left high and dry without cheese smothered, and oozing throughout the entire entree.

When you think of romance, you think of strawberries, wine and of course, cheese, and why not? It can be cut into bite sized pieces and served at a picnic or just about anywhere your heart desires. When pairing cheese to a favorite accompaniment, wine wins hands down due to their unique tastes complimenting each other. When looking for the perfect wine and the perfect cheese hook up, almost anything goes, but the following are the preferred choices of the experts and food lovers.

Pairing Wine & Cheese

Creamy cheeses require a wine with higher acidity. The whiter and fresher the cheese, the crisper and fruitier the wine should be. Heavy rich cheeses will partner well with light reds and Chardonnay. Strong veined cheeses usually demand a sweeter wine. Soft cheeses with bloomy white or red dotted rinds need full-bodied whites or younger reds. Orange-red rind soft cheeses pair well with full-bodied red wines or heavy whites. Semi-soft cheeses with a pink-grey rind require strong powerful white wines and mature whites.

Popular Cheeses

Swiss: Also known as Emmentaler or Schweizer, is a firm cheese with a sweet, mildly nutty flavor. This cheese is known for the holes that develop as it ripens. This type of cheese compliments sandwiches and is used as an appetizer.

Monterey jack: Monterey Jack is a member of the Cheddar family and is a mild, white cheese aged only three to six weeks. The texture of Monterey Jack cheese depends on the type of milk used. If whole milk is used, the cheese will be semi-soft, if skim milk is used, it will be harder and can be used for grating. Monterey Jack is great in Mexican Tex-Mex, and southwestern dishes.

American Cheese: This is a food product made from regular cheese, salt, food coloring, emulsifiers, and unfermented dairy ingredients. Processed cheese has a few advantages which are, extended shelf-life, and a resistance to separation when cooked. American is most widely used on heated, and cold sandwiches.

Colby: Colby is similar to Cheddar, but it is a softer, milder cheese that contains more moisture and has a shorter curing process. Colby has a mild and slightly sweet taste, but it can also be sharp and tangy. Because it is such a mild cheese, Colby is seldom used in cooking. It is used as a table cheese, for grating and grilling, and in snacks and salads. It compliments pears and apples, and it goes well with chili, burgers and barbecued dishes.

Mozzarella: Favored for its mild, milky taste this type of cheese is more of a cooking cheese than a cheese board cheese due to its good binding properties, moist texture, and ability to melt. It absorbs the flavors and juices of the ingredients surrounding it and is perfectly designed for cooking. Mozzarella is also low in fat, therefore, it is ideal to use even when dieting. Mozzarella is the perfect cheese for Italian dishes or melted over tomatoes and garlic bread.

Provolone: Italian-style aged provolone is a hard, sharp-flavored cheese used for grating. American-style semisoft Provolone is most often enjoyed in sandwiches. Both varieties accompany appetizer trays nicely.

Cheddar: Cheddar can have a diverse selection of tastes that range from mild too sharp. This is dependent upon the age of the cheese. Mild Cheddar is perfect for sandwiches because it has a mellow balance of flavors. Sharp Cheddar is great for cooking because its flavor is released when heated and it shreds well. Sharp cheddar goes well in salads and sandwiches. It is a favorite for deli, and snack trays.

Brick: It is a mild, but also pungent, sweet tasting cheese. It is a semi-soft cheese that slices well without crumbling. Brick has a reddish-brown rind and its inside is yellow-white in color with many small holes. Brick is delicious with fruits and vegetables. It also goes well on sandwiches and snack trays.

Cottage Cheese: It is an adaptable source of protein for table use, snacks, salads, and in baking. The flavor goes well with fresh vegetables or condiments, such as peppers, olives, or pimientos, as well as with fruits, such as pineapple, peaches, or berries. Low-fat cottage cheese can be used to replace higher-fat-content cream cheese in desserts such as cheesecake and Danish pastry, and it’s good in savory baked dishes such as lasagna. Found in salad bars, it stands alone or goes well with fruit or as a side dish.

Brie: This delicious cheese has a delicate and creamy texture and its rich, sweet taste can vary from buttery to mushroomy. This cheese has a thin, edible crust and becomes even more delicious with age, tasting best when served at room temperature. Brie can be eaten plain or melted over tomatoes and French bread. It is also wonderful on snack trays.

Muenster: Found in the form of semi-soft, this is a mild cheese that has an almost sweet flavor. It usually has an orange-yellow rind with a straw-yellow color inside and is produced in a loaf shape. This cheese adds a unique flavor to sandwiches and is perfect for snack trays.

Blue Cheese: There are two major types of Blue cheese: soft, white, and mild, with a sweet taste of herbs and hard with a crusty outside that has a sharp, tangy taste and smell. Blue cheese has a veined appearance within a white interior. This cheese ripens from the center to the crust. It is desirable that the veins be dispersed evenly throughout the cheese. Crumbled or in dressing, it’s a nice balance to bitter greens in salads. You can also pair it with bread, crackers, or fruit for an appetizer, or melt it on pasta or grilled meats.

Parmesan: This is a hard, grainy textured cheese varying in shape and size. It’s used mainly as a grating cheese on many different types of foods and is a good cooking cheese because it does not form threads as it melts. Parmesan cheese will keep for years when it’s whole and will continue improving with age. A perfect topper for pizza and Italian dishes.

Cheese Dips

Blue Cheese Dip:
12 ounces blue cheese, 4 ounces cream cheese, 1/4 cup milk, 2 tablespoons dry white wine, pepper to taste, chopped walnuts or pecans, optional. Serve with snack crackers.
Blue Cheese Dip:

Pesto Cream Cheese Dip:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened 1/3 cup prepared pesto, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, 1 Tablespoon chopped ripe olives, 1 tablespoon diced pimientos. Serve with your favorite snack crackers.

Cheese & Chili Dip:
1 jar of Cheez Wiz & 1 can of Chili mixed together. Top with jalapeno peppers and sour cream. Serve with warm with tortilla chips.

Cheese & Salsa Dip:
Mix 1 jar of Cheez Wiz to 1 cup of salsa, serve with warm tortilla chips.

Storing Cheese

Cheese must be well wrapped to protect it from picking up other aromas in the refrigerator, and also to prevent its flavor from migrating to other foods. Foil is the best wrapping, and plastic wrap is the worst as it traps moisture that may cause cheese to mold more quickly. Placing the wrapped cheese in a covered container provides an extra measure of protection for strong-smelling cheese.

Cheese Tidbits

Eating certain cheeses like aged Cheddar, Swiss, blue, Monterey Jack, Brie, Gouda and processed American cheese after meals or as a between-meal snack has been shown to help prevent tooth decay due to cheese having a content of calcium, phosphorus and other components.

The Perfect Cheese, Meat, Fruit, and Vegetable Appetizer Trays

Roast beef, turkey, ham, salami, pepperoni, and smoked turkey, accentuated with a variety of cheeses ranging from cheddar, swiss, muenster, brie, cream cheese’s dips, and a salsa-cheese dip.

Several types of fruits like grapes, strawberries, peaches, and mango, alternated with brie, cheddar, and gouda.

Snack crackers and tortilla chips for dipping and spreading cream cheese dips, and cheese/salsa dip.

Jalapeno peppers, tomato peppers, banana peppers, celery, Greek olives, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, cucumbers, alternating with fresh piles of provolone cheese and mozzarella cheese.

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