There are an enormous variety of different cheeses from countries all over the world. Cheese is not only produced in factories but to this day also in traditional cheese farms.
The assortment offered on the Dutch market is extensive, not only the huge variety of Dutch cheeses but a great many imported cheeses from all over Europe and beyond.
The type of milk used in cheese production is the biggest factor in the flavour of the cheese. Mainly cows’ milk is used but a lot of cheese is made from goats’ milk and ewes’ milk. However there are to a lesser extent other types of milk used for cheese making, for example reindeer cheese in Lapland and Mozzarella cheese in Italy, made from buffalo milk.
Apart from the type of milk used, other factors play an important role in the flavour of the cheeses include the breed of the animals, the climatic conditions, the types of grazing or feeding, with mountain air, sea breezes, highlands and marshlands all playing their part. A wealth of human skill and creativity is also required for the preparation, the ripening and maturing processes involved.
In Holland most cheese is made from cows’ milk but there is a definite trend in restaurants to use more ewes’ and especially goats’ cheese.
The method and the amount of time the ripening process takes play an important role in the texture and rind forming of the cheese. By the addition of cultivated moulds, a characteristic flavour is produced on the rind. The flavour of cheese can be neutral as in Cottage Cheese or very dominant such as Roquefort or Stilton.
Cheese can be eaten at any moment of the day and with every meal:
- At breakfast, with bread
- With aperitifs, as savoury snacks or hors d’oeuvre
- With a brunch, lunch, or dinner, as part of a dish or as amuse
- With an afternoon tea or high tea in sandwiches or quiches
- As cheese fondue
- Incorporated in supper dishes
Important point for assembling a cheese board:
Cheese can be served as an individual dish, such as a cheese board or plateau. There are eight broad categories of cheese to choose from:
- Fresh cheeses
- White-rind cheeses
- Washed-rind cheeses (red rind flora cheeses)
- Goats’ cheeses
- Blue-mould cheeses
- Half-hard cheeses
- Hard cheeses
- Melting cheeses
When choosing cheeses for a cheese plateau a good balance is found if soft cheeses (fresh cream cheese, fresh goats’ cheese), aromatic cheeses (Kernhem, Saint-Nectaire) and strong cheeses (Munster, Dutch Freise nagelkaas). Each cheese has its own particular way of being cut or sliced.
The temperature that cheese is served is very important. Cheese should be removed from the fridge at least half an hour before serving. A cold cheese has less flavour and aroma than cheese at room temperature. When choosing cheeses for a cheese selection, it is important to get a good balance of flavour, aroma, colour and structure.
Whether to eat cheese before or after the dessert is a matter of national taste. In France, cheese is eaten traditionally before the dessert; in Germany, England and some other countries it is eaten at the end of the meal.
The following chart will demonstrate that cheese can be used for all courses of a menu.
Hors d’oeuvre/cocktail savouries
Cubes of cheese with mustard
Small balls of Brie with chives
Cold sauces and dressings
Môn Chou crème sauce
Feta, Kernhem, Mozzarella
Small cubes of Gouda cheese in tomato soup
Crostinis with gratinated Parmesan cheese
Cordon bleu with Edam cheese
Lasagne, macaroni or spaghetti with gratinated Mozzarella
Salsify with melted Camembert
Vegetable savoury tarts with gratinated cheese
Mornay sauce with cauliflower
Gratinated potato dishes or accompaniments
Choux pastry puffs filled with cheese mousse
Cheese sticks with Parmesan cheese
Cheese has a high nutritional value. The nutrients found in milk such as protein, calcium, phosphor and vitamins, are also found in cheese.
Cheese is one of the cheapest forms of protein. In 70 grams of cheese the same amount of protein can be found as in 100 grams of meat. The proteins in cheese are partly broken down which makes cheese easier to digest.
The fat content of cheese refers to the fat content in the dry components or matter of the cheese. The older the cheese, the dryer it becomes. For this reason it is difficult to give a percentage of the fat content of the total composition which consists of dry matter plus water. It is only possible to give the fat content as a percentage of the dry matter.
In general cheese is made up of 40% liquid and 60% dry matter. If, on the packaging, 48+ is stated, this means that the cheese contains 48% fat in the dry matter.
Looking at 100 grams of 48+ cheese, the following can be calculated:
100 grams of cheese 48+ contains:
- 40% liquid
- 28,8% fat (= 48 percent of 60 grams (60 percent) dry matter)
- 31,2 gram other materials of which roughly 25 grams of protein + vitamins and minerals
Fat (28,8 grams of fat)
Minerals + Vitamins (together 31,2 grams of fat)
Liquid (40 grams
The following points should be taken into consideration when cheese is being purchased:
- The types of cheese available
- The physical condition of the cheese
- The quality hallmarks of the different types of cheese
- The price of the various types of cheese
- The types of cheese available
A choice can be made between native (Dutch) cheeses or foreign cheeses. The foreign cheeses come mostly from other countries in Europe: France, England, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Spain and Belgium.
Which cheeses are chosen, depends on the company for example, in Holland, for breakfast, often Dutch cheese is used. In a pizzeria, mostly Italian cheese is used.
The type of cheese depends therefore on its use in the kitchen. For the use of cheese in for example a dish with lamb, the cheese must not be too dominant – a soft, fresh cheese such as cream cheese would be most suitable. A dish such as fondue on the other hand would require a type of cheese with a very definite flavour. For this an older Gouda would be more suitable or some of the Swiss cheeses.
2. The physical condition of the cheese
After cheese has been produced, a ripening process follows: The less time a cheese ripens, the softer it remains.
With this in mind, the following classification can be made:
- Fresh cheese
- Soft cheese
- Half-hard cheese
- Hard cheese
- Melting cheese
a. Fresh cheese
Fresh cheeses are very soft, as they have undergone very little or no ripening process. These cheeses have therefore no rind. They can be eaten with a spoon. An example is Cottage Cheese.
b. Soft cheese
Soft cheeses have a core, which sticks to the knife when they are cut. The soft cheeses have often a mould on the outside. Soft cheeses do not dry out. Examples are Brie and Camembert.
c. Half-hard cheese
These cheeses can be sliced with a knife or machine. Examples are Gouda and Cantal.
d. Hard cheese
These types of cheese are very strong and firm. They tend to crumble when sliced or cut. Examples are Parmesan, Provolone, Pecorino and cheddar.
e. Melting cheese
These cheeses are suitable for fondue. Examples are Emmenthaler and Gouda.
3. The quality of the various types of cheese
- The International Dairy Farmers Association has the responsibility for controlling the production, it organises the sampling and testing and controls the composition of the end product.
- The Food Safety Act controls the trade and public health.
If there is any doubt about the quality of the cheese bought, the producer should be contacted straight away.
Dutch cheeses have etiquettes, several centimetres in size and in harmless black ink; the following information must be given:
- The fat content
- The land of origin
- A number, which refers to the producer, where and when the cheese was made
- A series of letters, which refer to the region which the producer belongs to. For Dutch cheeses there are four possibilities:
- F (factory made cheese from Friesland, Groningen, Drenthe and Overijssel)
- NH (factory made cheese from the North of Holland)
- HB (factory made cheese from the rest of Holland)
- Z (traditional farmers cheese from the whole of Holland)
It is important that the authorities and the producers ensure between them that the production, storage (including ripening) and sale of cheese is constantly under control. In this way they can offer a good product both at home and on the international market.
In this chapter about cheese, quark will not be discussed any further as the use of quark is very different to that of cheese. In the preparation of quark, rennet (a coagulant) is not used. Centrifuging thick, acidic milk makes quark and the curd and whey are separated. Sometimes the curd is stirred till it is smooth and mixed with cream. This product is quark.
- The price of the various types of cheese
The price of cheese is dependent on the production process and the amount of time during ripening. In general factory produced chesses are cheaper than traditionally made cheeses. Factory or processed cheeses are made by an automatic system and in large quantities. Obviously the production costs per cheese are lower than traditional hand-made cheeses/
As well as this, the age of the cheese has an influence on the price. Young cheese is cheaper than old cheese. Since the cheeses dry out the older they are, their weight decreases. The ripening of cheese costs time, storage space and manpower to control it. All these aspects cost time and money. This is transferred in the higher price of these older cheeses
Cheese is a ‘living’ product. The flavour, aroma and colour can change during storage. To maintain the quality of the cheese or to improve the quality, it is important to store cheese properly.
Golden rule: store cheese separate from other products
Since cheese absorbs the odours of other products, it is important to store in suitable packaging or containers. Opened cheeses, cubes or slices should be stored in the fridge. Cheese that is to be used quickly can be packed in seal-foil and stored in the fridge.
If cheese has to be stored for a longer period of time, it is better to vacuum pack it for storage in the fridge. Packed in this manner, cheese can be stored for several weeks. Remove cheese at least half an hour before use from the fridge and out of the packaging. The flavour and aroma will be much fuller if the cheese is at room temperature.
Other important points to take note of include the following:
- The delivery of cheeses to the kitchen
- The storage of cheeses
- The preparation of cheeses
- The delivery of cheeses to the kitchen
Take note on delivery of the following:
- The type of cheese
- The amount of cheese
- The quality of the cheese
a. The type of cheese
It is possible to see the type of cheese by the rind. For example:
- Fresh cheese such as cream cheese or Boursin have no rind
- Half-hard and hard cheeses such as Gouda and Emmenthaler have a dry rind
- White mould cheeses such as Brie and Camembert have a white mould crust
- Blue-mould cheeses such as Gorgonzola and Roquefort have no crust and blue veins running through the cheese.
- Red rind flora cheeses such as Kernhem and Port Salut have a brown-red rind.
b. The amount of cheese
Cheese, as mentioned earlier, is a sensitive product. Cheese absorbs the odours of other products in the vicinity. This should be taken into consideration with the amount of cheese ordered. Order no more than what is required for a few days to ensure that the current stock tastes good and is free of strange flavours and decay.
c. The quality
When cheese is delivered to the kitchen it is important to check both the packaging and the physical condition of the various cheeses.
For fresh cheese it is important to check the use-by-date on the packaging. Fresh cheese is always sold already packaged. Further important items to check are:
- That the colour is even and shiny white
- That it is smooth, without lumps
- That the smell is fresh
- That the flavour is neutral
Soft, half-hard and hard cheese types can be purchased whole or in portions. For these cheese types it is important to check:
- That they have the correct shape – they may not be dented or cracked
- The age of the cheese (see following chart)
- The rind must be perfect not damp or sweaty
- Soft cheeses have a less smooth rind
- Half-hard and hard cheeses have a smooth, firm rind
- White-mould cheeses and red rind cheeses must be even in colour. There should be no other moulds or bacteria present in these cheeses.
- Take note of the smell and where possible, the flavour!
The following is a cheese calendar for Dutch cheeses
At least 4 weeks old
Young matured cheese
At least 8 weeks old
At least 4 months old
Extra matured cheese
At least 7 months old
At least 10 months old
“Extra” old cheese
At least one year old
- The storage of cheese
Fresh cheese such as cream cheese should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Whole cheeses such as Gouda should be stored at a temperature of 12º C so that the ripening process can continue. These cheeses should be stored on unpainted wooden planks. These planks absorb moisture and ensure that the cheese does not sweat or mould. The cheeses must not come into contact with each other so that the air can circulate between them. Turn the cheeses regularly to aid ripening and help keep their shape.
Whole mould cheeses should be stored in their packaging in airtight plastic foil, in the fridge.
What is the reason for plastic-food-packaging?
The aim of a paraffin or wax layer around cheese or packing in plastic, half-hard or hard cheese is two-fold:
- To avoid moisture / weight loss
- To exclude dirt and bacteria
The cheeses with rind are sold in pieces or slices in vacuum packaging after they are fully ripened.
The aim of packaging soft cheeses is also two-fold:
- To continue the ripening process
- To avoid drying out and flavour loss
Soft cheeses are always packaged, as they are quite fragile. They are often sold in small portions. Soft cheeses with red rinds such as Limburger, Romadur or Munster are packed in:
- Lacquered aluminium foil
- A paper-layer containing aluminium foil
- Laminated paper, which has a synthetic layer on top. Water and gasses can evaporate through this paper layer during ripening
This packaging is also used for soft cheeses with a mould culture such as Brie and Camembert. Since the outside layer of the packaging allows air and light through (a thin wooden or carton box), this prevents the mould layer on the cheese from choking.
Fresh cheese is packed more frequently in synthetic boxes from pressed or sprayed materials, which are closed with a removable aluminium layer.
Note: A lot of work is being done in the field of packaging and new techniques for improving the shelf life of cheeses is taken very seriously.
- The use of cheese
The melting point of cheese is like the melting point of fat, variable. The melting point is the temperature at which the cheese melts and/ or changes in a warm liquid.
The melting point of each type of cheese is different due to the differences in the proportions of moisture, fat and protein. It melts normally easier when it has been grated. Whether to grate a cheese or not depends on the use the cheese will be put to in hot dishes, the flavour, the age and the fat content of the cheese.
- Due to their relative high moisture content, young, fat cheese has a lower melting point than hard, dry cheeses.
Young cheeses can melt easily but the chance is high that they will become tougher and form threads. Slicing young cheese is easiest if the cheese is cooled. The cheese does not then stick to the knife and is stiffer. Grating with a rough grater is normally sufficient for young cheese.
- One way of reducing the melting point of old and mature cheeses is to grate them very finely or to a powder. Hard cheeses normally melt in liquid, as they melt slowly.
Old cheese can be sliced at room temperature due to its hard structure.
Grated cheese can be used for the preparation of fondues, in salads and sauces. It can also be used for added flavour or to gratinate various dishes.
The basic ingredients for the preparation of cheese are as follows:
- Milk from cows, goats or ewes
- Starter culture. The lactic bacteria converts lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid and this lowers the degree of acidity (pH) of the milk. Harmful bacteria are thus destroyed. Lactic starters ensure the correct acidity and flavour development in the cheese
- Rennet / coagulator. The active material in rennet is the protein splitting enzyme chymase. Under the influence of the calcium in the milk the chymase allows the protein casein to coagulate. Rennet is obtained from the stomach of young calves although it is also found in certain strains of fungi and bacteria and is called ‘vegetable’ rennet. This is becoming increasingly popular among vegetarians nowadays.
- Additional material. In certain cheeses the following additional material is added:
- Salt in the form of a pickling solution. This is used for all cheeses except fresh cheeses.
- Calcium chloride to encourage coagulation – mainly in factory processed cheeses.
- Carotene to colour the cheese. Especially with half-hard and hard cheese types. An example of a coloured cheese is Cheddar.
- Other materials. Herbs and spices are sometimes added to give cheese a particular character and to improve the flavour.
Cheese production in general
Cheese making capitalises on the curdling of milk. First, the milk is carefully selected to make sure there are no antibiotics or harmful agents that could affect the process. Factory made cheese first of all standardises the milk – that is the milk fats are standardised to a set fat percentage. This standardised milk is placed in a stainless steel tub and is then heated and held at a given temperature for a short period to destroy any harmful bacteria (i.e. pasteurisation). Special starter cultures are then added to the warm milk and change a very small amount of the milk sugar into lactic acid. This acidifies the milk at a much faster rate and prepares it for the next stage. Rennet (mainly chymosin) is then added to the milk and within a short time a curd is produced. The resultant curd is then cut into small cubes, and heat is applied to start a shrinking process, which, with the steady production of lactic acid from the starter cultures, will change it into small rice-sized grains. At a carefully chosen point the curd grains are allowed to fall to the bottom of the cheese vat, the left-over liquid, which consists of water, milk sugar and albumen (now called whey) is drained off (and used for other products including baby food, drinks and medicine) and the curd grains allowed to mat together.
In the factory process, the curds and whey are separated by suction but in the traditional cheese making process, the curds are pulled to the side by a large sieve and the whey drips through the sieve where it is drained off.
In the factory, synthetic cheese moulds are filled with curds and the lid closed. It is then pressed under pressure and the curds take the shape of the cheese moulds. In traditional cheese making, cheesecloth is first placed in the mould and then the curds. When the moulds are filled, etiquette is placed on top of the curds before the lid is closed.
The pressed cheeses are pickled or salted in a pickle bath for two reasons:
- To increase the flavour and to encourage rind forming
- The salt halts unwanted bacterial growth. It has therefore also a preservation function.
The time the pickling takes is dependent on the type of cheese. After pickling some factory cheeses are coated with a protective plastic layer. This is also the case with traditional cheese making. Included in this plastic layer is the fungus protector ‘pymaricine’. The plastic layer should always be removed before serving the cheese.
During storage the cheese will develop a specific aroma and protective rind.
The ripening process
In the warehouse the cheeses are stored on wooden shelves. The temperature and humidity are carefully controlled, as these factors are very important for the correct ripening of the cheese. During this period, the cheeses are regularly turned over.
Initially the cheeses have little or no character or flavour. The cheese develops a special character through the bacterial development during the ripening process. The bacteria influence the chemical structure of the cheese and also the flavour. The lactic acid bacteria convert milk sugars to milk acids. During this conversion, gas is formed. Since the cheese has a firm shape and a protective crust, the gas cannot escape. In this way natural holes are formed in certain cheeses.
The production process for the various types of cheese
Fresh cheese types
Fresh cheese is cheese that is not ripened. Fresh cheese is called cheese as soon as the curds are separated and acidified and the whey removed.
Hard cheese types
In hard cheeses the curd is heated so that it shrinks and there is little whey left over. In this way the cheese hardens. The ripening process is quite long whereby the cheese looses more moisture and becomes harder still.
Melting cheese types
Melting cheeses are made by melting one or more types of cheese together with melting salt, (with or without flavouring). There are several types of melting cheeses:
- Rindless melting cheese which is able to be sliced but not spread
- Smoked melting cheese, often packed in a brown tubular foil. This melting cheese has a smoked flavour and is able to be sliced
- Spreading cheese, which is unable to be sliced. This is because spreading cheese has a higher moisture content than melting cheese.
Powdered cheese is obtained by drying cheese or melting cheese and then grating it very finely or milling it. Various herbs or spices can be added to give it a specific flavour.
Veined cheeses are developed during the storage and ripening time. There are three types of veined cheeses:
- White surface moulds such as Brie and Camembert
- Red rind flora such as Kernhem and Limburger
- Blue veined moulds such as Roquefort
a. The white mould types
Brie is a good example of a white mould type of cheese. During the production of Brie, the curds are put in a stainless steel ring. The excess whey is removed with a type of skimmer. The Brie is placed on a mat of reed, the underside being able to breath. It is regularly turned. After a few days the Brie is sprinkled with a mould in powder form. After roughly four weeks ripening at a temperature of 11 à 12º C gradually a cheese is produced with a regular white rind flora. The inside is soft and the specific flavour is created by the mould on the rind.
b. Red rind flora cheeses
A Dutch example is Kernhem. After the curds are lightly pressed, the Kerhem is placed in a pickle/salt bath. The ripening process follows. Kerhem ripens at a temperature of 15º C on wooden planks in humid conditions. The cheese is regularly rubbed with water to encourage the cornye bacteria, which give the cheese the orange rind and special flavour.
c. Blue veined mould cheeses
In most blue veined cheeses the mould culture is added to the milk. After pressing and pickling the cheeses are injected with a small air channel. The mould can come into contact with oxygen and develop, not only on the outside of the cheese but the inside.