How many times have you been in a restaurant and been confused by the different cheeses offered on salads, or entrees? The most commonly seen on menus nowadays are Gorgonzola, Feta and Blue cheeses. All have a unique taste all of their own, and all vary in degrees of potency. Here is a little info on each, and how to use them.
Gorgonzola cheese is one of Italy’s great cheeses. It has an ivory colored interior that can be lightly or thickly streaked with bluish-green veins. This cow’s milk cheese is rich and creamy with a savory, slightly pungent flavor. Gorgonzola is aged for 2 to 3 months and sometimes up to 6 months. When aged over 6 months, the flavor and aroma can be quite strong, sometimes even stinky. Younger cheeses are sold as Gorgonzola dolce, while longer aged cheeses are sold as Gorgonzola naturale or Gorgonzola piccante.
Feta cheese is one of the world’s oldest cheeses, and has been made in Greece and other Balkan countries for centuries. Today feta style cheeses are made by numerous producers in countries around the world including Denmark, France, Germany, Israel and the united States. In October 2005, the European Union granted Greece Protected Designation of Origin(PDO) status for its Feta, which meant that other European countries (which produce tons of Feta cheese), had to rename their cheeses. Undoubtedly the European Union also will press the United States to discontinue using the name Feat. PDO -approved Feta must be produced by traditional methods, only in designated areas in Greece and primarily from sheep’s milk, though up to 30 percent goat’s milk may be added. Though traditionally made of sheep’s or goat’s milk, today large commercial producers often use cow’s milk. Because it is cured and stored in brine, feta is often referred to as pickled cheese. White, crumbly and rindless, feta is usually pressed into square cakes. It has a rich, tangy flavor and contains from 445 to 60 percent milk fat and can range in texture from semisoft to semihard.
Blue Cheese is a genre of cheese that has been treated with molds to form interior pocket and veins that range in color from dark blue to blue-green to blue-black and everything in between. The mold used in Penicillium. Though the spores may be naturally airborne, most cheesemakers strive for consistency and add the blue-mold strain(either in powder or liquid) to the milk or curds, or in some instances by spraying or inoculating the formed cheese. Because the cultures won’t create bluing without air to feed the bacteria, the cheeses are pierced with metal skewers so that oxygen can reach the interior. Some of the more popular of the blues include Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and Stilton. Blue cheeses then to be strong in flavor and aroma, which increases with age.
So what does all this mean? Well, if your looking for a mild cheese, Feta is probably the way to go. It works well in most dishes, and give a great cream texture. For people more adventurous, try some of the blue cheeses, Gorgonzola being a favorite of mine. Be sure to pay a little more for it, since better ingredients are used, and the flavor is more well-rounded, and not to sharp. Stores like Whole Foods have a cheese counter where you can try a few before you buy. Also, the people who run these counters usually have some great ideas how to use the different cheese , so don’t hesitate to ask for their opinion. All of these are great on salads with dried fruit and nuts and a light balsamic vinaigrette. Try them out for yourself and find your own favorites!