If you love cheese, it's hard to not get excited when you approach the cheese display at the local supermarket or enter the front door of your favorite cheesemonger. The sheer variety of cheese can be exhilarating. So much creamy goodness, so much salty tang. Then it dawns on you: you must choose! But how will you select the perfect cheese when there's so much cheese variety?
Here, in Wisconsin, we're pretty used to making those hard decisions. It never gets easier, but we're consoled by the fact tomorrow is another day – and another opportunity to enjoy a different cheese variety. It also helps that no matter what variety of Wisconsin cheese you choose, you know you're in for a culinary thrill ride through a safari of texture and a deep dive into flavor.
There are more than 1,800 cheese varieties in the world, falling into several well-known categories.
Hard cheeses are typically of the grating cheese variety – think parmesan, asiago, pecorino romano, and cotija cheese. These types of cheese derive their sharp flavor and crystalline texture from being aged up to two years or longer. Hard cheeses are typically packed in molds and pressed for days or weeks to compress the curd and remove moisture.
The semi-firm cheese variety includes some of the most beloved cheeses, including cheddar, gouda, emmenthaler, edam, and monterey jack. These cheeses are heated, pressed, molded and allowed to ferment for 3-to-9 months. These are also some of the best cheeses for a baked mac and cheese recipe.
The semi-soft cheese variety is made with lightly press curds and has a rubbery, slightly elastic texture. Havarti, muenster, and Jarlsberg are great examples.
The soft cheese variety has interiors that are not pressed or cooked. They have a creamy, velvety texture thanks to high moisture levels and a significant percentage of butterfat.
Fresh cheese varieties are the youngest of cheeses and meant to be consumed within days. With high moisture content and no rind, the texture of fresh cheese can be wet and moist, or stringy, firm, and crumbly. Famous fresh cheeses include mozzarella, mascarpone, ricotta, cream cheese, and oaxaca cheese.
The blue cheese variety, including roquefort and gorgonzola, contain spots or veins of blue-green mold – the result of penicillin cultures added to the cheese during the cheesemaking process.
The soft-ripened cheese variety like camembert is made by exposing the cheese to mold, which gives the cheese its buttery flavor and creamy texture.
Washed-rind cheese variety, also known as stinky cheese, is made by repeatedly washing the rind with a saltwater brine that encourages the growth of a certain bacteria which gives this pungent cheese type its distinctive aroma and earthy flavor.
Mozzarella is probably the most famous pizza cheese and one of the biggest sellers as well. But many other kinds of cheese are also great on pizza. Parmesan adds a zesty flavor punch, while pepper jack adds bite and creamy texture. Detroit style pizza is big on brick cheese, and smoked gouda, butterkäse, and havarti are all favorites as well.
Monterey jack, fontina, queso quesadilla, baby swiss, and mascarpone are all great melting cheeses. Alpine-style cheeses like emmenthaler and swiss are also natural melters and the basis of a classic fondue recipe.
When you're making fried cheese, you need a cheese that has a high melting point so the cheese won't melt when subjected to the high heat of frying oil. Queso blanco, halloumi, and paneer are all popular cheese varieties for frying.
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When you're looking for the greatest variety in cheese, look north to Wisconsin. We produce more than 600 flavors, styles, and varieties of cheese – more than anywhere else in the world. In addition to producing the most cheese, we also produce the best chance. Just ask our award-winning cheesemakers who together have racked up 5,552 cheesemaking awards, more than other state or country on the planet.
That amazing cheese variety and quality is the product of an entire state focused on one thing: to produce the tastiest, highest-quality cheese in the world. Nine out of every ten cows in Wisconsin gives its milk for cheesemaking. We are the only state in the nation to require a license for making cheese, and the only place in the world outside of Switzerland to have a master cheesemaker program.
So next time you're undecided about which cheese variety choose, just make sure you pick up a chunk of Wisconsin cheese, because no matter the variety, it's bound to be great.
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.