Cheese is beloved by numerous cultures across the globe. It forms the foundation of classic North American comforts, whether it’s nestled between buttered bread or slathered over tender pasta. Elsewhere, it’s used as a filling, a topping, or simply eaten as-is. Its versatility is only outdone by the countless forms it comes in, both familiar and exotic. Today, in celebration of National Cheese Day, let us acquaint you with eight exquisite cheeses from around the world.
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Happy National Cheese Day! Here are cheeses from around the world to celebrate with
Originally hailing from Cyprus, halloumi can now be found across the Eastern Mediterranean. This unripen cheese is made by combining milk—goat’s, sheep’s, and sometimes cow’s—with rennet – a mixture of enzymes that causes curdling. Its high melting point, achieved by heating the curd before brining, allows it to be fried or grilled without losing its shape. This, coupled with its salty flavor, makes halloumi an ideal meat substitute for vegetarian dishes.
Cotija is an artisan cheese made in Mexico’s mountainous Michoacán region. Cheesemakers extract the curds from cow’s milk, which are then ground down and pressed into molds. The subsequent aging process can last anywhere from one hundred days to an entire year, resulting in a distinct crumbly texture. Cotija is an essential element of elotes, as well as a welcome addition to tostadas and entomatadas.
This acid-set cheese is a staple of the Indian diet. Like many other cheeses, it begins with the separation of curds and whey. Instead of relying on rennet, however, Indian cheesemakers induce curdling with the addition of food acid. Sources of said acid include lemon juice, vinegar, and yogurt. After the curds have been drained of excess moisture, they are immersed in cold water until solidified. In North Indian cuisine, the finished product is often cubed for use in curries, such as saag paneer. Elsewhere, the cheese is kneaded, heavily salted, then sliced and served at teatime.
Chanco was initially conceived at a small farm in the Maule region. Nowadays, production of the cheese is widespread throughout Central and Southern Chile. What’s more, chanco accounts for almost half of all Chilean cheese consumption. If that alone isn’t enough of a selling point, let its buttery taste and smooth texture speak for themselves.
More than four hundred and seventy-five varieties of cheese are made in Switzerland. Of these, gruyère is not only the favorite of the Swiss, but most of Europe as well. As it ages, the flavor profile of the cheese changes; young gruyère is slightly sweet, with nutty undertones, while aged gruyère delivers a deeper, earthier bite. Rich dishes like cordon bleu, croque-monsieur, and French onion soup are traditionally made with gruyère. Moreover, it melts beautifully, making it the ideal cheese for fondues.
Limburger is an exceptionally potent cheese, both in flavor and aroma. It shares these characteristics with other smear-ripened cheeses, which are treated with mold-bearing solutions to attract bacteria. Specifically, Brevibacterium linens—the same bacterium responsible for body odor—is to blame for limburger’s pungent smell. The most popular vehicle for this stinky cheese is the limburger sandwich, typically served alongside strong beverages like black coffee or lager.
Jarlsberg originates from the former countship of the same name. As a member of the Alpine cheese family, it is identifiable by the large holes, or “eyes,” that decorate its interior. These “eyes” are actually naturally-occurring, caused by the activity of Propionibacterium freudenreichii bacteria. Jarlsberg is aged for anywhere between three and fifteen months, yielding a cheese equally fit for cooking and snacking.
Kefalotyri is to Greeks as parmesan is to Italians. This hard cheese, made with sheep’s or goat’s milk, lends a sharp saltiness to pastas, meats, and vegetables alike. Of course, it’s purpose isn’t purely supplementary; kefalotyri can also be fried in olive oil and served as saganaki, or coupled with spinach and feta to form the filling of traditional spanakopita. The perfect cheese for National Cheese Day if you ask me!