A Guide to Grocery Store Cheese Selection

Learn how to choose the highest-quality cheeses—and step into the art of cheesemaking with an easy home recipe.

| March/April 2013

  • Learn how to buy the highest-quality cheese from the store with our guide.
    Photo By Shutterstock
  • Cowgirl Creamery makes its award-winning Red Hawk triple cream cheese with wild bacteria native to its northern California home.
    Photo Courtesy Cowgirl Creamery
  • Hard cheeses such as Parmesan are good for grating onto pasta, pizza and salad. Superior brands can be served on a cheese plate with apples, pears and nuts.
    Photo By Shutterstock

If you are reading this, there’s a good chance you love cheese—so much so that you hope to become more knowledgeable about choosing the best cheeses and maybe even want to make your own. Different things lead people to cheesemaking. For me, it was a desire to return to my self-sufficiency roots, a love for dairy animals, and the desire to provide healthy, affordable cheese for my family. My goal is to help you become an enthusiastic, educated buyer and maker of truly great cheeses. If you’re the type of person for whom deep understanding of a subject brings enhanced enjoyment of the process, my book, Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking, is for you. But let’s first take a glimpse into the world of cheese. We’ll look at some of the basics, plus an easy recipe anyone can try.

More About Cheese

Quick and Easy Paneer Recipe
Easy Tips for Making Cheese

The Beauty of Milk

To understand cheese, it’s important to understand milk. The milk of every mammal, every species and every breed is unique. Milk varies based on the animal’s diet, her health, the season and how long it’s been since she gave birth. The milk’s taste, texture and color will change based on these factors. Milk is composed of sugar, fat, protein, minerals, vitamins and enzymes. It is the unique combination of these components, and then what the cheesemaker does to them, that creates a superior (or not) cheese.

■ Milk sugar provides food for the bacteria in the starter culture; the starter culture digests the sugar and produces acid. Acid production begins the process that turns milk into cheese.

■ The role of milk fat is to provide an appealing texture, a well-rounded flavor, and—through the changes it will experience during aging—wonderful aromas.

■ Cheese needs milk protein to create its structure. Protein traps the fat and transforms the milk into curd. Protein also supplies nutrition. Cheese normally contains all of the essential amino acids necessary for human nutrition.

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