Cheese 101: “Everyday” Cheeses
Like most cheesemongers we had a cheese drawer in the fridge (recently, we “upgraded” to our own mini-fridge just for cheese) filled with various cheeses that are acquired through samples sent our way and cheeses The Lady buys to taste and get to know. She also visits cheese shops and combs through their markdown baskets* looking for gems at bargain prices. As a result, she can put together a respectable cheese plate most any evening or throw together a yummy mac n cheese or au gratin when the fancy strikes.
However, we also keep a staple of cheeses on hand that The Lady calls her “everyday” cheeses. With these cheeses, you are never at a loss regarding lunch or a snack. The two criteria in choosing “everyday” cheeses are: accessible taste-wise and cheeses that won’t kill the budget.
These are the cheeses you will find in “my” fridge everyday of the week:
Cheddar. This is a “universal donor” cheese; you can never go wrong with this cheese and it pretty much goes with anything: fruits, nuts, on sandwiches and for snacking. My personal favorite is from the local Tillamook Co-Op: 2-year Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar. This is a full-flavored cheddar. If you want something milder, go with a medium sharp cheddar. You’re looking at under $5.00 a pound and if you’re a member of Costco or another Club Store, the price will be even lower. (This cheese may have been discontinued by Tillamook – still awaiting confirmation… what a travesty for the cheese world, if true… will advise…)
Swiss. Another must-have cheese in the house. For kids, Jarlsberg is almost always a winner and again the price is right. You can move up to a cave-aged Swiss but the price will rise considerably.
Gouda. Aged Goudas are among the best hard cheeses in the world and many of them are quite affordable. You can also find smoked Gouda and young Gouda for a very fair price and again, Gouda can be used in so many ways.
Parmesan. If you enjoy making pasta dishes, then you have to keep a Parm in the house and a couple of the domestic Parms can go toe-to-toe with the Italian greats and when it comes to price, hands down domestic is the way to go. BelGioioso’s American Grana is a terrific Parm as is Sartori’s SarVecchio. Both are multiple award-winning cheeses and often half the price of Parmigiano-Reggiano. And don’t ever forget Parrano, the Dutch Gouda that thinks it’s parmesan; this is another of the great cheeses that we always have on hand…
Blue Cheese. The last cheese you want to keep around the house, especially if you are into making salads, is a quality blue cheese. Wisconsin’s Black River Blue and Gorgonzola cheeses are high quality without the high cost. You can buy Black River for under $10 a pound and it has a nice shelf life.
Alpine-Style Cheese. A new addition to the “everyday” “must-carry” cheese around the manse. Gruyere and Comte are the most popular in this category. You may recall The Lady went to Wisconsin as a guest of The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and made Gran Cru Gruyere at the Roth Kase plant in Monroe.
To maximize your cheese’s life, wrap in waxed paper and place inside a zipper-style bag, leaving a bit of the zipper open. Cheese is living and needs to breathe. If the cheese develops mold, slice it off. While you don’t want to eat the mold, the mold doesn’t hurt the taste or quality of the cheese. We joke about knowing when blue cheese has gone bad… not to worry… you’ll know. If it doesn’t smell and taste “right”; then it’s probably time to toss it. But most cheeses, when wrapped properly, can live and thrive in your fridge for weeks or even months with harder and low-moisture cheeses, assuming you don’t eat them quickly.
*Most cheese departments have baskets where they put cheese that has a close-to-expiring selling date. Most cheeses have long shelf lives (brie and triple creams being exceptions) and many get better with age. These baskets are a great place to find cheeses to make up a very proper cheese plate. At The Lady’s cheese island, the cheeses will be marked half price; you can’t beat the bargain price for specialty cheeses. Also, many cheese shops, including The Lady’s Kiosk, have baskets of small morsels of cheese – usually under $3.00 each – great way to try specialty cheese without taking out a loan…
For more information regarding the types of cheese made, please check out Cheese 101: The Eight Faces of Cheese.
(Stay Tuned: we are only 6 posts and pages away from our 500th post here (doesn’t include our sister recipe blog, cheesemonger recipes). We have big plans for 500!!)