European cheeses – varieties and characteristics
For the peoples of Europe, dairy products part of a healthy and balanced diet and holds a prominent place in our gastronomic culture. It is very beneficial for the human body, with particularly tasty and aromatic features and great nutritional value.
The excellent varieties of cheeses that are produced, give us the opportunity to enjoy them plain, or creating many, delicious dishes. Savory, spicy or mild in taste, they each offer a different culinary experience.
Let’s see some of the most famous and favourite cheeses, their characteristics and how we can enjoy them.
A much-loved, soft cheese from Naples in southern Italy. It has an almost plastic texture and is traditionally produced from buffalo milk, although for mass consumption now, cow’s milk is also used. Its colour is usually creamy white, it has a soft milk taste and a characteristic smell, while it is quite malleable. Used in cooking, mainly as a material for pizzas. Fat content 22%.
It is a traditional, hard cheese, with a smoky taste of southern Italy, which took its name from the Neapolitan word «prova» meant ball.It is produced from cow’s milk and matures for 4 to 12 months.
During the production process, it is placed in cylindrical molds, which are tied with string and left to mature hanging. Its texture is soft, its mass is very compact and smooth, especially when it is very fresh, because with ageing it becomes more grainy. When it is fresh, it is quite spicy and a little intense, while when it matures, it becomes very spicy and noticeably saltier. It is suitable for all uses, especially in pizzas, as it is used in cooking, as a dessert, but also for rubbing. Fat content 27%.
It got its name from the Parma region of Italy and is one of the most famous cheeses in the world. It is produced from cow’s milk, it has a hard texture, strong and salty taste and it matures for more than 2 years, in an environment with a lot of humidity, but nevertheless, it contains a very small amount of water. Ideal for spaghetti and pies. Fat content 26%.
This is a semi-hard cheese originally from England and is considered the best known type of cheese worldwide. It is produced from cow’s milk, with curd that matures but does not reheat. It has a yellow or orange cheese mass and a taste from mild to intense, depending on the degree of ripeness.
It matures for 6 to 24 months and it is worth noting that, unlike other known cheeses, the name “cheddar” is not protected. Cheddar is rarely used alone because it does not “spread” well, instead we mix it with other types of cheese, especially in pizzas. Fat content 33%.
It is one of the most known and famous cheeses and is made in southern France, with milk from sheep reared under specific conditions and matures in natural Kampala caves (300 meters below the earth), the Roquefort region (Roquefort sur Soulzon). It has a distinctive aroma and taste characterized by butyric (butane) acid, it is semi-hard, pale yellow, brittle, slightly moist and dotted with the characteristic blue mold, the formation of which is due to the fungus Penicillium roquefortis. Fat content 31%.
The name comes from the Dutch city of Gouda, just outside Rotterdam and has a very long history. It is a traditional semi-hard, to hard cheese, produced from cow’s milk and has a sweet and fruity taste.It is used as a table cheese, but also in cooking, in pizzas, in pies, in gratin and soufflés and wherever else the nice golden-red crust that it gives to food is appreciated.
Fat content 27.5%.
It is an authentic, Dutch semi-hard to hard cheese, named after the town of Edam in the north of the country. Made from fresh pasteurized skimmed or semi-skimmed cow’s milk and has an elastic texture and soft, sweet taste can be enjoyed pies, gratins and soufflés, with our favourite bread or crackers in green salads while we can try together and with some fruit.
Fat content 28%.
Famous cheese originating from the Emmental Valley in Switzerland, but also produced in other countries, such as France and Germany. It is made from fresh cow’s milk (not pasteurized), and has a hard texture and yellow color. The bacillus Lactobacillus helveticus, as well as some other bacteria, give the cheese its delicate aroma and characteristic holes, while its maturation period ranges from 2 to 14 months.
Emmental is consumed as a table cheese, but it is also used in cooking, in ograten and souffle, but also where the nice crust that it gives to the food is appreciated. Fat content 28%.
It is a more modern kind of fresh cheese produced from cow’s milk. It is mild in taste, with a velvety creamy texture and is used in cooking, confectionery and on its own, where it is usually spread on bread. It is the most suitable cheese for our cheesecakes. Fat content 34%.
A soft white cheese with a mild flavor, produced in the USA, UK and other countries. Produced from cow’s milk, it matures in 1-2 days, its texture is creamy and contains lumps. It is ideal for slimming diets, due to its low fat content and is used in cooking, confectionery and on its own on bread. Fat content 3.9%.
Camembert (Camembert de Normandie)
A well-known French cheese, dating from the 18th century and named after the renowned Normandy region. Its main feature is the white shell of the cheese and its particularly strong smell. It is creamy, delicate and salty, and looks a lot like brie. It is produced from cow’s milk and is combined with foods such as pasta. Fat content 24%.
It is perhaps the most famous French cheese and takes its name from the homonymous province of France, where it was first made. For its preparation, cow’s milk, whole or semi-skimmed milk is used and its coagulation is achieved by the addition of rennet, at a temperature of 37 ° C. The cheese is then put into molds, which are filled with successive thin layers of cheese and drained for about 18 hours.
The cheese is then removed from the molds, salted, hardened on the surface with cheese mold and aged in the basement for at least four weeks. To be able to enjoy it to the fullest, you should serve it at room temperature and mostly as a dessert cheese. Fat content 28%.
We could say that this cheese is the answer of the Italians to the French Roquefort. The mold it contains, gives it a sharp and spicy taste, which creates an excellent contrast with the rich texture of the cheese. Gorgonzola is produced in the homonymous village of northern Italy, from pasteurized or unpasteurized cow’s milk, to which fungi are added.
The cheese matures for 3 to 6 months and its color varies from white to pale yellow, while it also has characteristic “touches” of green – blue color, due to the fungi it contains. It is used in various traditional recipes, it goes into pasta sauces, cooked together with polenta, etc. Fat content 19%.
A traditional, soft, white, fresh cheese from Italy, produced from cow’s milk. It is a cheese with medium or high humidity and with a grainy texture. Depending on how it is prepared, it can be malleable and easily smeared, or so thick that it stops being smeared. The taste of fresh ricotta is sweet, delicate and its aromas are almost reminiscent of sour cream.
Ricotta is eaten raw, but is mainly used in cooking and confectionery, because it gives excellent thickness, to any food you add it, without making it greasy. Fat content: 13% (from whole milk). Although foreign cheeses are admittedly very nice, they have no luck compared to the excellent quality and taste, traditionally,
Greek cheeses , which we Greeks have the opportunity to find and enjoy!
o ensure the quality and protection of products produced in specific regions, the European Union has adopted a regulation (EU 510/2006), on the basis of which, 232 European cheeses have been registered, including 20 types of Greek traditional cheeses , with the designation Protected Designation of Origin. The PDO designation in dairy products, is determined by the way the animals are raised and the breed, as well as by the practices during the production and maturation process of each cheese.