Traditionally made from sheep’s milk or a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk, most Feta sold around the world today is partly or wholly made from cow’s milk.
It’s not known exactly when Feta was first produced but there are references to cheese-making in ancient Greece as far back as the 8th Century BC. The Greek word ‘feta’ comes from the Italian word ‘fetta’ meaning slice.
Feta is a brined cheese, meaning it’s covered in a brine solution of un-iodised salt and water which gives the cheese a salty and tangy taste. Its texture depends on its maturity and can range from creamy to crumbly.
Brie and Camembert are among the best-known French cheeses.
Brie, named after the French region of Brie, is also known as the ‘Queen of Cheeses’. It has a soft, creamy texture and its taste will depend on the ingredients that are used.
Camembert hails from the Normandy region of France and was first produced by a local farmer, Marie Harel, in 1791. Like Brie, Camembert is a creamy cheese that is milky and sweet when young and becomes rich and buttery as it matures.
Both Brie and Camembert are white mould-ripened cheeses traditionally made with raw milk. Most modern Camembert and Brie cheeses are stabilised, meaning their pH is stabilised with a Type E starter.
There is little real difference between the two cheeses although a wheel of Brie tends to be about 14 inches wide compared to 5 inches for a Camembert wheel.
Sweet Swiss is a milder form of the traditional Swiss Emmental cheese and is good for melting.
The distinctive holes in the cheese are created when the added bacteria reacts with the other ingredients to release carbon dioxide which slowly forms bubbles. Officially, the holes created by the bubbles are called ‘eyes’. A Swiss cheese without holes is referred to as ‘blind’.
As its name suggests, the taste of Sweet Swiss should be less savoury than that of the traditional Emmental. Its texture should be firm and supple.
Named after the Dutch city of Gouda, it’s often referred to as a sweet curd cheese because of the type of starter used.
The first references to Gouda cheese appeared in the 12th Century and it was traditionally made from cow’s milk. However, it can also be made using sheep or goat’s milk.
Gouda can be eaten young or matured with its flavour and texture dependent on the aging time. It usually has a sweet taste and a springy texture. Its texture will harden and its flavours strengthen the more it is matured.
A popular Italian cheese, Romano dates back to the first century BC.
Traditionally, there are three main types of Romano:
Pecorino – made from sheep’s milk
Vaccino – made from cow’s milk
Caprino – made from goat’s milk
A cheese can only be rightly called Pecorino Romano if it comes from the Lazio region of Italy.
Romano cheese should be aged for at least five months. Versions made from goat or sheep’s milk will have a sharp taste while cow’s milk Romano will have a much milder flavour. Its texture should be dense and crumbly.
Sometimes described as the most eaten cheese in the world, cheddar first appeared in the UK county of Somerset in the 12th Century. Its name comes from the caves in the town of Cheddar which were used to store the cheese.
The term cheddaring is derived from the cheese-making process whereby the curds are turned and stacked to drain off the whey. The curds are then kept warm for between 90 minutes and two hours.
Cheddar should have a crumbly texture. Young cheddar will have a creamy, mild taste while more mature cheeses will have stronger, more complex flavours.