You can tell a lot about a person by the type of cheese they champion. Next time you meet somebody new, ask them this simple question: what's your cheese type? Do you freak-out for fried cheese curds, or go bananas for burrata? Is havarti a slice of heaven? Or, are you crazy for queso quesadilla? Does emmenthaler whisper sweetly in your ear? Or, does the magic of mozzarella steal your heart every time?
Of course, in Wisconsin, the answers to all those cheese type questions is "yes!" We're a tough crew up here, but if you really want to watch a Wisconsinite weep, tell them they have to pick one cheese type over all the others. Thankfully, we live in a state with more varieties of cheese than anywhere else in the world. So, when it comes to choosing a cheese type, we're more likely to answer: "One of each."
By some counts, there are more than 1,800 different cheese types in the world. And while there's no single accepted way to divide them into categories, many break it down this way:
Fresh cheeses are the simplest cheeses, made to eat right away. These rind-less cheeses are high in moisture content and can be stringy firm or wet and crumbly. Cottage cheese is one of the most popular fresh cheeses. Cheese made from whey like ricotta and stretched-curd cheese like mozzarella are also considered fresh cheeses.
Soft cheeses are young cheeses that are aged no more than a month. They have a creamy, velvety texture with high levels of moisture and butterfat. Bloomy rind soft cheeses like camembert have a culture added during the cheesemaking process that gives the cheese a white and fluffy rind.
Semi-soft cheese types are made of lightly pressed curds and have a somewhat elastic texture with little to no rind. Popular semisoft cheese types are havarti, muenster, and butterkäse. Semisoft cheeses are great in grilled cheese recipe or a baked mac and cheese recipe.
Semi-hard cheeses are made with curds that are heated, pressed, molded, and left to ferment for up to 8 months or longer. This cheese type includes many of the most popular cheeses in the world: cheddar, swiss, gouda, emmentaler, edam, manchego, monterey jack, and oaxaca cheese.
Hard cheeses have the most complex flavor. These are pressed for hours or weeks to make the curd more compact and remove the whey. Less water content produces a hard texture that can be even crunchy or crystalline. Hard cheeses are typically packed in molds and aged for longer periods. Asiago, parmesan, and pecorino romano are among the most well-known. Ricotta salata is a hard cheese made from ricotta that is salted and left to age for several months.
Blue cheeses have blue-green veins created by mold that is introduced during the cheesemaking process. Roquefort and gorgonzola are the most famous varieties.
Washed-rind cheeses or stinky cheeses are washed repeatedly with a saltwater brine that encourages the growth of a special bacteria gives the cheese its strong flavor. Limburger, taleggio, and epoisses de bourgogn are the most well-known.
Brined cheeses are ripened in a saltwater brine, and are usually white and rindless with salty and acidic flavors. Feta and halloumi our popular examples.
It's estimated that there are more than 1,800 different kinds of cheese.
Mozzarella is the world's most favorite pizza cheese and one of the most popular cheeses overall. Many also favor the taste of parmesan on their pizza, but any cheese with good melting properties can help to take a pizza to the next level. Pizzas today are made with everything from milder cheeses like butterkäse, colby and havarti to cheeses with strong flavors like gorgonzola, brick cheese and even limburger.
Macaroni and cheese recipes usually feature two types of cheeses: one that melts well and one that adds flavor. Good melting cheeses are monterey jack or fontina, while cheeses that pack a flavor punch include cheddar, havarti, smoked gouda, and pepper jack.
For a great grilled cheese sandwich, you want a semi-soft or semi-hard cheese with great melting properties. Colby, provolone, blue cheese, muenster, and monterey jack are among the best options.
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The great thing about Wisconsin cheese? We make nearly every cheese type in the world, and we make it extremely well. That's the reason we've won so many cheesemaking awards – 5,552 to be exact – and the reason we sell more cheese than any other state in the nation.
That's what happens when a whole state is dedicated to making the tastiest, most award-winning, highest-quality cheese in the universe. For us, it's a matter of pride, because we are serious about our cheese. For you, it's a matter of confidence, because you know every time you pick up a chunk of cheese with the Proudly Wisconsin Cheese ™ badge on the label, that cheese is guaranteed to rock the recipe of your choice.
Craving award-winning aged cheddar, pining for parmesan, or searching for a new cheese to try? The world’s best cheese is just a click away! Explore our directory of Wisconsin cheesemakers and retailers who offer online cheese shopping and get cheese shipped right to your door. What are you waiting for?
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In Wisconsin, we make more flavors, varieties, and styles of cheese than anywhere else in the world. We believe in tradition, producing everything from Italian classics, like parmesan and ricotta, to swiss cheese and cheddar varieties. But every Wisconsin cheesemaker is an innovator as well, which is why we have so many Wisconsin originals, like colby and muenster. Whether it’s a grilled cheese sandwich, potatoes au gratin, or a charcuterie board, Wisconsin cheese makes every dish and recipe tastier.