- How many styles of cheese are there? Answer »
There are countless ways to classify cheese. We've adapted our categories from others and presented them in the way we think works best, whether you're getting to know cheese or just wanting to identify the style of cheese you prefer so you can branch out and try new things. At Antonelli's Cheese Shop, we group cheese into seven major styles, according to the most defining characteristic of a cheese. (Note that in many cases a cheese can be categorized in more than one style due to numerous variables, including maturation and mold influences.)
- Fresh: rindless cheeses meant to be consumed in a short period of time [ex. ricotta, fresh chevre, fresh mozzarella]
- Soft-Ripened/Bloomy Rind: generally cheese with a Penicillium Camemberti or Geotrichum Candidum white molded rind [ex. Brie, Bonne Bouche, Humboldt Fog]
- Washed Rind: orange-colored, wet-looking cheese with a distinct aroma and flavor due to the presence of Brevibacterium linens, a result of regular washing in a brine or other solution [ex. Epoisses, Red Hawk, Munster]
- Semi-Soft: pliable in texture, great melters [ex. Tomme Crayeuse, Fontina, Menage]
- Firm: dry, yet smooth paste that cracks when bent [ex. Comte, Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar]
- Hard: driest cheese that crumbles and shatters when broken [ex. Parmigiano Reggiano, aged Gouda]
- Blue: cheese with pencillium roqueforti (generally) in it; often has visual blue veins or coloring [ex. Rogue River Blue, Roquefort, Gorgonzola]
- What are the differences between milk types and why does cheese come in different colors? Answer »
Trying to define all cheeses of a certain milk as having a same flavor profile is impossible, due to the sheer quantity, as well as variances in animal breed type, animal diet, seasonality, maturation, and terroir (loosely meaning the specific environment of a place, like climate, soil, altitude, etcetera that cannot be exactly replicated anywhere else and go into making a cheese uniquely its own). However, flavor profiles of the milk types are often described as follows: Cheese from Cow's milk has the greatest diversity in flavor resulting from the large variety of vegetation consumed by the animals during summer months. Most generally, it's thought to be buttery, grassy, and sometimes sweet. Cheese made from Goat's milk is characteristically tangy and acidic. Cheese made from Sheep's milk has a rich, nutty, oily quality about it. Finally, cheese made form Water Buffalo's milk has a wet hay, lactic flavor profile.
The color of the cheese paste is often an indicator of what type of milk was used to make the cheese. Goat's milk cheeses are whitest, Sheep's milk to a lesser extent, and then Cow's milk cheeses often have a golden hue; these color variations are due to the animals' varying abilities to process the Beta Cartotene in the grasses they eat. As for the extreme color variation between "white" cheese and "orange" cheese, the addition of annatto is the culprit. Annatto is a natural, plant-based dye that is used to give many products a distinctive yellow or orange hue. While some folks may say they can taste when annatto has been added, most people generally don't think there is a difference in the flavor profile of the cheese.
- What does artisanal mean? Answer »
Quite the buzz word these days, folks throw "artisanal" around to mean a lot of different things. At the cheese shop, we use it to distinguish "cheese that's been touched by hands." In other words, "artisanal cheese" is often based on traditional cheesemaking practices and requires a bit of science and a good deal of artistry since the cheesemaker must adapt his or her cheesemaking procedures to fit each batch of milk (instead of making the milk always fit the particular procedures of the making). Although "artisanal" and "industrial" cheeses are often referred to as opposites, they are not mutually exclusive and the lines can sometimes be blurry. Our shop's choice to focus primarily on "artisanal" cheese does not mean that we think "industrial" cheese is bad; it's just that we're looking for cheeses that have taken a good deal of human labor to create and that can be traced to cheesemakers and the milk source.
- What does farmstead mean? Answer »
A "farmstead cheese" is one that is made on a farm that also cares for its own animals, often meaning that the same group of folks who take care of the animals also make the cheese and that the milk doesn't have to travel far or sit long before being made into cheese.
- Why does cutting to order make such a difference? Answer »
Cheese is a living thing, and as soon as a wheel is cut into, its vitality begins to decline. Cutting to order ensures freshness, preserves flavor, and minimizes waste. We offer cheese in bulk format so that you can peruse our selection and taste before you choose, purchasing only what you need. This also means that the open face of our cheese never lies under plastic wrap for a significant period of time. Cheese needs air to breath and live and after too much time in plastic wrap, it has a bad habit of picking up that nasty plasticky flavor. Equally important as ensuring freshness, cutting to order also allows us to provide you with just the right amount of cheese that you need. While most customers purchase between four to five ounces, it is not uncommon for guests to purchase one pound or even one ounce of a particular product. Ask the cheesemongers for advice and they can guide you to perfect amount to fit your needs (because no leftover cheese should go to die in your refrigerator!).
- What is the best way to serve cheese? Answer »
To fully experience all of the aromas and nuanced flavors a cheese has to offer, it's important to let the product come to room temperature (since cold refrigeration often masks flavors). Depending on the style and ripeness, take your cheese out at least 45 minutes to an hour before serving. (Keep in mind that room temperature generally means about 65 degrees; it does not mean Texas summer hot!) It's also important to put a separate cheese knife out for each wedge of cheese, so that flavors and molds don't mix resulting in any off putting flavors. Lastly, if you're serving your cheese in big, beautiful chunks, it's always a good idea to slice the first piece or two; this sets an example for your guests, so that they know how to go about cutting the remainder.
- Do you have any pairing advice? Answer »
Have fun with pairing! It's easy to opt for classic choices like fresh fruit, nuts, olives, preserves, or honey. However, it's often fun to be more adventurous and use savory pairings (like a shallot confit or tomato jam), an assortment of chocolates, mustardos, or charcuterie. You can also ask a cheesemonger. A lot of pairing technique depends on the particular cheese that you choose, so come in and chat with us; we'll assist with your selection and then help you find the perfect, creative pairing. (And we always have wine, beer, and other beverage pairing advice. We've even paired with teas, coffees, and sodas!)
- What is the best way to store a cut piece of cheese? Answer »
Depending on the type of cheese that you have, there are a number of ways you can store your cheese in order to maintain the quality and flavor. First and foremost, we always suggest buying only what you'll use within a week's time. Sure, cheese can last longer, but it does lose its nuance and takes on "fridge funk flavor" the longer it's stored in your fridge. That being said, here are a few suggestions to assist in caring for your cheese:
- Use cheese paper which is designed to allow the cheese to breath and live, or
- Place the cheese in a Tupperware container along with a damp paper towel to keep the humidity high. If you go this route, remember to freshen the air inside every other day to ensure that the cheese can breathe, or
- Wrap cheese in wax paper or aluminum foil (for blue cheese) and loosely wrap in plastic. Make sure that the cheese does not directly touch the plastic as off flavors may seep into the cheese.
- What is lactose intolerance? Answer »
One of the most repeated comments we hear behind the cheese counter is "I wish I could have that, but I'm lactose intolerant." We have good news if that is your situation! The process of making cheese involves converting lactose into lactic acid. Although there are small amounts of lactose in fresh cheeses, as cheese matures almost all of the remaining lactose is converted to lactic acid by the cultures that are thriving within the paste of the cheese. Because of this, we often suggest that you try cheeses from the firm and hard categories to see how they affect you. Instead of lactose intolerance, some folks find that they have mild protein allergies to certain types of milks and they may find that they can eat cheeses made from the milk of one animal but not another (ie goat's milk but not cow's milk). Of course, we are not doctors; we are just cheesemongers trying to stop the spread of intolerance against cheese. So it is up to you to experiment.
- I'm pregnant, what cheese can I eat? Answer »
Cheesemongers are often the first people to find out about a pregnancy. Women looking for only pasteurized hard cheeses are a dead give away. Others are unsure about what cheeses are permitted during pregnancy and whisper over the counter for our guidance. Here's our disclaimer: we're cheesemongers, not doctors. So at the end of the day, follow your doctor's advice. Opinions differ, so if you do not like the advice of your current doctor, switch. Or stick to your doctor and tell your husband to pre-order a gift basket to be delivered to the hospital only hours after giving birth. (It won't be the first time we see a daddy with his hospital bracelet on.)
- Where can I learn more about cheese? Answer »
The American Cheese Society is a great resource and organization to support. The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Vermont Cheese Council, and Real California Milk sites all offer educational information about cheese, recipes, and cheese trip maps of the each region if you're looking to take an awesome, culinary adventure!