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What types of cheese are there?

There are around 6,000 different types of cheese worldwide, and each product has its own characteristics and its own individual taste. New types of cheese are always being introduced, and they titillate the heart and palate of cheese lovers.

Cheese has been around ever since man first tamed cows, sheep, goats, buffaloes and yaks. The first records of cattle rearing were made in the Stone Age, making it possible to assume that the art of cheese making can be traced back to that time.

Hard cheese

The characteristic qualities of a hard cheese are determined by the climate in the ripening cellar, the ripening duration, treatment during ripening, the ripening temperature and, last but not least, the region which the milk comes from. All hard cheeses spend several days in a salt bath. Emmental for example ripens at 20-28°C for the first four weeks, which results in the hole formation typical for this type of cheese. Although they may vary considerably in their shape and appearance (hard cheese is available in loaf, block and cylindrical form, with and without holes), a common factor is the widespread production from raw milk. They all mature in special ripening cellars or caverns for at least 3 months and up to 4 years in some cases (e.g. several Parmesan cheeses).

100 litres of milk produces 8 kilogrammes of hard cheese on average which contains 45% fat in dry matter which equates to an absolute fat content of around 28 per cent. The nutritional value is approximately 400 kilocalories per 100 grammes. As well as its good taste and ability to be stored for long periods, hard cheese also has the virtue of being easy to digest.

It is best to store hard cheese in the vegetable compartment of the fridge. A special cheese container which is not air-tight is suitable as a container.

Well-known types: Emmental, Cheddar, Chester, Mountain Cheese, Gruyère, Lindenberger, Manchego, Sbrinz, Comté, Illertaler, Allgäutaler

Semi-hard cheese

Semi-hard cheese is the largest of the groups by some distance. They require at least 4 weeks to ripen with the quality and intensity of taste of the cheese increasing if the period is longer. This means that cheeses which are ripened for a short period (such as Gouda) have a very mild taste, whereas those ripened over a longer period (like Appenzeller) are much more powerful and intense in their taste.

As with hard cheese the ripening temperature is the decisive factor in the formation of holes. Large holes develop at higher temperatures. Few small holes develop at lower ripening temperatures as is the case for Edam or Appenzeller for example.

Well-known types: Gouda, Edam, Tilsiter, Wilstermarscher, Raclette, Appenzeller 

The vegetable compartment and a special cheese container which is not air-tight are suitable for the storage of semi-hard cheese and hard cheese.

Semi-soft cheese

Semi-soft cheeses are softer than semi-hard cheese, and more solid than soft cheese as a result of their dry matter or water content. The surface (with or without rind) can be uncoated or it can be covered with moist or dried cheese flora, yeasts and mould or coated with wax, paraffin or a plastic skin.

Semi-soft cheese has a typical soft and smooth consistency and it is easy to cut. 

The semi-soft cheeses are stored in the same way as semi-hard and hard cheeses: Packed - not air-tight - in the vegetable compartment of the fridge.

Well-known types: Bergader Edelpilz, Weisslacker, Steinbuscher, Basils Original Rauchkäse, Biarom, Bianco, Morbier, Pyrenean cheese, sheep's cheese in brine, Reblochon, Esrom. Blue veined cheese also belongs to the semi-soft cheese category.

A blue veined cheese such as Bergader Edelpilz must be pricked prior to ripening so that the whole cheese block is streaked with blue. This means it is pricked with needles all round so that oxygen enters the cheese. It is only then that the mould can grow.

In the storage of blue veined cheeses it is particularly important that they are kept separate from other cheeses as there is otherwise a danger that the mould will "infect" the other cheeses and will no longer grow as a "good" edible mould but as a "bad" mould. Aluminium foil is the most suitable packaging.

Soft cheese

Soft cheeses are not just softer than semi-hard and hard cheeses as their name suggests. They are also completely different in the way they ripen. They mainly ripen from the outside to the inside. Eventually they either have mould on the outside or on the inside (the edible mould cultures are added to the milk prior to curdling) or they have a reddish-orange rind which is a sign of special surface treatment with red smear bacteria.

Soft cheeses include mild classics like Brie or Camembert while the cheese spreads are heartily spicy (examples: Romadur and Limburger).

It is best to store soft cheeses in cheese paper or cheese containers in the vegetable compartment so they can breathe. This allows white mould to form on the cut surfaces. The growth of mould is completely normal and a sign that the cheese is fresh, as the cultures can only live and multiply in fresh cheese. It is however important to pack and store the mould cheese separately from other cheeses as the mould spores can move onto other cheeses. There is always the danger of "degeneration" here, with good mould turning into bad mould.

Well-known types: Camembert, Brie, Romadur, Limburger, Münsterkäse, Bavaria blu, Bonifaz, Bergader Cremosissimo, Bergader Mini brie

Cream cheese

Cream cheeses belong to the group of sour milk cheeses. The skimmed milk is curdled with lactic acid bacteria and a small amount of rennet and the curd is cut roughly. Cream can be added to the resultant curd. For the manufacture of curd cheese and double cream cheese the curd is passed through a separator and it can then be enriched with herbs for example. For the manufacture of cottage cheese the curd is heated slightly and stirred lightly in the whey. This makes the fragments round. Then the whey is run off and the product is filled up.

Cream cheeses have a shorter shelf life than matured cheeses so preservatives are often added (especially for self-service products).

Processed cheese and cheese spread preparations

The development of processed cheese can be traced back to the request of the cheese exporting countries to make the cheese more durable. It should be sent to all corners of the globe without any reduction in quality. At the start of the 20th century Emmental cheese was "melted down" in Switzerland for the first time with the help of citric acid salts. This resulted in a product which is available in many different versions today.

There are precise regulations for the production of cheese spread with regard to the quality of the cheeses used. Today these are manufactured with the addition of 2-3% emulsifying salts and other ingredients like cream, butter, whey powder and also salami or ham and spicy ingredients like gherkins, peppers or herbs and also water depending on the degree of solidity which is desired. The cheese is heated and stirred constantly and then filled in moulds and cooled in cooling tunnels.