Everyone has a favourite kind of cheese: There’s stinky cheese, yellow cheese, soft cheese, and goat cheese to name just a few.
But what about the lesser-known cheeses that you’re too afraid to buy at the grocery store?
We spoke with Sydney Willcox, head cheese monger at Murray’s Cheese in the Greenwich Village. She helped us come up with delicious alternatives to the most common and well-known cheese we all rely on.
Instead of brie or triple-crème cheese, try the famous Vacherin Mont d’Or.
The bloomy rind family (which both triple-crème and brie belong to) is delicious and creamy. But Willcox says to branch out beyond these two well-known options because there are so many others to try.
The Vacherin is a soft Swiss cheese made from cow’s milk that is only sold from September to May. Instead of cutting it, you scoop it out and spread on crackers or bread.
Instead of fresh goat cheese, try an aged goat cheese.
Goat cheese is another kind of cheese in the bloomy rind family. Most people go for fresh goat cheese (also known as “chèvre” or goat in French), but Willcox said that you should give slightly aged goat cheese a chance.
The ageing develops a mould on the rind, which can look a little scary, but it’s worth it since it enhances the cheese.
Instead of Parmesan, try nutty, dense cheese like Podda Classico or Piave Vecchio.
Podda Classico is made from a mix of sheeps’ or cows’ milk that has been aged for 6 months to a year and compressed to firm up the paste. This makes the cheese crumbly, and it can have a sweet and nutty flavour.
Piave Vecchio comes from pasteurized cows’ milk. It is also nutty and dense from being pressed repeatedly while it ages.
Instead of the classic Stilton blue cheese, try Fourme D’Ambert.
Stilton seems to be everyone’s go-to when it comes to blue cheese, but Willcox said we all need to branch out and embrace other blue cheeses.
Fourme D’Ambert is a rare, 28-day-old French cheese made with pasteurized cow’s milk in Auvergne. It dates all the way back to Roman times and has an earthy, mild taste for a blue cheese.
Willcox also said for those who don’t like blue cheese (or think they don’t), try a milder, buttery blue like Cambozola Black Label.
Instead of Gruyère, branch out and try the rest of the Alpine-style cheese family.
Gruyère is a classic. It’s sweet but a little salty and is one of those cheeses that only gets better with age. Plus, it’s probably the best cheese for baking and is a good melting cheese for fondues, ham and cheese sandwiches, and French onion soup.
But Willcox said that there are so many other cheeses in the Alpine-style family, such as the famous French Comté cheese or other Swiss mountain cheeses such as Challerhocker or Scharfe Maxx. All of these cheeses are hard, flexible, and yellow with a strong flavour.
Instead of the famous Manchego cheese, try a similar-style firm sheep cheese.
“So many people love this cheese, and they should,” Willcox said. “However, there are so many amazing cheeses made in a similar style that are worth more than a mention: Ossau Iraty Vieille from the Pyrnees of France and Roncal or Idiazabal from Spain.”
Ossau Iraty Vieille was one of the first cheeses ever produced, this cheese is white with a granular texture. It’s easy to pair with anything and melts down well, too.
Roncal and Idiazabal are two other pressed sheeps’ milk cheese from Spain. When they’re both aged, they can smell a little musty and have a similar texture to Manchego, but often a more full and complex taste.
Instead of Pecorino Romano, try a different kind of Percorini or a Tommes.
“Many people do not realise that Pecorino Romano is just one out of hundreds or thousands of Pecorini (sheeps’ milk cheeses from Italy),” Willcox explained. “You can find many with much more nuance and much less salt-impact.”
In addition, Willcox suggested trying Tommes cheeses from France, which are also natural rinded cheeses, though these are usually made with cows’ milk and are a bit smaller.
Because these cheeses are made from the skimmed milk leftover from butter making, Tommes are also low in fat.
Instead of Taleggio, try a different stinky cheese like Epoisses.
This semi-soft, washed rind Italian cheese has a very strong aroma (“stinky cheese”) with a mild flavour and fruity tang.
“There are so many stinky cheeses out there in the world, its so hard to generalize this family,” Willcox told us. “For a more mild taste try Morbier, for a serious kick go for Epoisses.”
Morbier is a rich, semi-soft cows’ milk cheese from France with a single black line separating the top and bottom. This used to be from when farmer’s had leftover curd and would have a morning layer and an evening layer separated by ash, but now vegetable dye is used.
Epoisses de Bourgogne is another pungent cheese from unpasteurized cows’ milk. It’s ripened in a similar way as Taleggio, but it’s served in a wooden box with a spoon due to its soft texture. It has a distinctive orange/red exterior thanks to the way it’s rinsed and tastes deliciously custardy.
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