There are many people who would pick a cheese board over dessert hands down and it’s no surprise when there are so many delicious varieties available. Cheese is a great source of calcium, fat and protein and it’s also packed with vitamins A and B-12. It’s also incredibly versatile, and can be enjoyed on it’s own, in sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes and many more.
One of the great things about cheese is that it comes in so many varieties, but it can be difficult to know where to start. If you want to put together a particularly delicious cheese board or make a meal to impress, then it helps to know your cheddar from your camembert. We don’t have room to include every cheese here, but if you want to know more about some of the most popular varieties, read on for our handy guide.
Hard cheeses have been aged for longer, giving them a lower moisture content and a stronger flavour. This makes them drier and more crumbly than other types of cheese and hard cheeses are perfect grated into soups, salads and pasta. We will look at some common types of hard cheese in more detail, below.
More commonly known as parmesan, this Italian cheese is made from cow’s milk and aged between 12 and 36 months. Many cheeses will be labelled as ‘parmesan’, but if you want the authentic article you need to look for the name parmigiano-reggiano. Italian law dictates that cheese has to meet certain standards to use the name and it has to be made in specific provinces of Italy.
The mild nutty flavour of parmigiano-reggiano goes well with crisp white wines like Sauvignon Blanc, or shave thin slices over a salad for a delicious rich finish.
This is another Italian cheese with similar qualities to parmigiano-reggiano, but it’s aged for a shorter period of nine to 16 months. Grana padano is delicious paired with something sweet like a light drizzle of honey or dried figs. It also goes well with cured meats and has a sweeter, subtler flavour that makes a great addition to a cheese board. If a block on its own is too much, shave generously over pasta or carpaccio.
This firm sheep’s cheese is made in the Spanish region of La Mancha, and can be aged for a period of anywhere from 60 days to two years. Manchego is often served alongside nibbles such as olives, sun dried tomatoes and anchovies, or as an ingredient in tapas dishes. Like grana padano, it’s also delicious drizzled with honey or it can be used in place of cheddar in a sandwich.
We couldn’t leave cheddar off the list, and this English cheese is one of the most popular and versatile varieties out there. Named after the English village of Cheddar in Somerset, this cheese can vary in flavour and strength, from a creamy mild cheese to a strong tasting mature cheddar. Take cheddar out of the fridge for about an hour before serving to get the best flavour and allow it to warm to room temperature.
Cheddar is the perfect accompaniment to stronger tasting chutneys and pickles, or pair it with fruits like apples and grapes. This cheese is also excellent when generously grated over pasta or layered in a sandwich with chutney and salad.
Soft cheeses are made using a short production process and little to no ageing time. This means that they maintain most of their moisture (in comparison, hard cheeses have over 50% of their moisture removed). Soft cheeses are characterised by a gooey, creamy texture and mild, tangy flavours. Soft cheeses have a shorter shelf life compared to hard cheese, so keep them in the fridge and use them to spread on crackers, bread, or as a creamy addition to salads.
This Italian soft cheese can be made from sheep, cow, goat or buffalo milk whey. Whey is a by-product leftover from cheese production, which can then be turned into an additional, rich soft cheese. Ricotta is used in both sweet and savoury dishes, including cheesecakes, pancakes, pasta, or as a pizza topping.
Ricotta has a creamy, mild taste and a low salt content which makes it just as suitable as a dessert ingredient. Mix ricotta, strawberries and honey together for a quick, delicious pudding, or spread on toast with some salted tomatoes and oregano for an instant lunch.
Also known as chèvre, goat’s cheese has a tart, tangy flavour. Cheese made from goat’s milk can vary in firmness and textures and the soft varieties are highly versatile. Spread onto toast and bagels, combine with pesto to make a creamy pasta sauce, add goat’s cheese to lasagna, or substitute it for cream cheese to make a rich dip.
Slices of soft goat’s cheese are also perfect spread on crackers, so consider adding it to your next cheese board. Caramelised onion chutney is a very popular pairing with goat’s cheese, as the sweetness won’t overwhelm the delicate flavour of the cheese.
Burrata is a soft Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. It uses a thin layer of mozzarella as a type of ‘pouch’ filled with creamy curds of cheese. It has a mild, lemony flavour and is delicious on its own with just a sprinkle of salt and olive oil.
Burrata is also great spread on toast, in tomato salads or as a pizza topping. If you’re looking for something sweet, it pairs well with berries, melon or stone fruits like cherries.
This soft cow’s milk cheese is named after the French region that it originated from. Brie has a thin white rind and deliciously gooey centre and can be eaten in whole chunks or triangles with a piece of crusty French bread.
Brie has a buttery, earthy taste and is particularly good paired with grapes, apples or fig jam as part of a cheese board. You can also bake it whole (like camembert) and serve with bread, crudites and crackers for dipping.
Blue cheeses can range in texture from soft (like gorgonzola) to hard and crumbly (like stilton). They’re characterised by the veins of blue mould that run through the cheese – but don’t be put off – it’s perfectly safe to eat. Blue cheese is made by skewering the curds with a cultured fungus which allows a blue-green mould to grow as the cheese ages. These types of cheese can be quite polarizing (some people love them and others can’t stand the stuff) but there are many varieties to choose from, like the ones below.
This English cheese is creamy and can be very pungent (which can divide cheese fans!). The classic blue variety adds penicillium roqueforti to achieve those recognisable blue lines, but you can get a white variety which comes without.
Stilton pairs well with port or rich, red wines that can match its strong flavour. It’s also a popular cheese board staple; add figs, grapes or celery to balance things out and cut through stilton’s richness.
This Italian blue cheese is made from unskimmed cow’s milk and can range in texture from buttery and firm to crumbly and soft. It can be aged for up to six months and has a savoury, nutty flavour. Gorgonzola tends to be milder than stilton and pairs well with fruits like apples, cranberries and figs.
Gorgonzola also melts very well, making it perfect in creamy sauces for pasta or gnocchi.
This sheep’s milk cheese hails from southern France and has a tangy, acidic flavour. It’s crumbly and slightly salty too and it’s a popular addition to souffles or caramelised onion tarts. Said to have been a favourite amongst kings and popes, roquefort also pairs well with steak, or crumble it into a salad for a hint of salty richness.
If any of the above have got your mouth watering for cheese, get in touch with the experts at Freshways. We’re proud to offer the highest quality wholesale cheeses at competitive prices and have built a strong reputation as the largest independent wholesale dairy for independent retailers across Great Britain. We stock a wide range of cheeses, from buffalo mozzarella and ricotta, to stilton, cheddar, brie, halloumi and many more.
We also stock many other wholesale products for your business, including milk, yoghut, cream, eggs, juice and bread products. With many items available from leading brands and bespoke deliveries to suit you, give us a call today or visit our website to find out more.