Cheese 101: Flavored Cheese and Flavoring Cheese

February 12, 2010

The Man’s BFF, Gary, recently sent an email to The Lady asking how flavors are added to cheese. He had a very hot experience with a “Firehouse” Cheddar that was too much for him and it got him to thinking…inquiring minds always want to know.

The Lady did some research and consulted two of her cheesy friends, Amy Wattam, her BCFF and a DPI Northwest Customer Service and Merchandising Consultant, and Tom Van Voorhees from Rogue Creamery and fellow American Cheese Society Member. The Lady and I thank them for their generous assistance in answering her questions.

  1. Fresh Cheeses such as Cottage Cheese and Fresh Chevre have their flavors added after the cheese is made. In most instances, the flavors such as chives, herbs, nuts, etc. are just simply mixed into the cheese. With fresh Chevre logs, often they are rolled in various food stuffs. At the kiosk, The Lady takes Montchevre Plain Logs and rolls them in chives, various dried fruits or nuts. At home, The Man stirs crushed pineapple into his cottage cheese and liberally grinds fresh pepper on top.
  2. Smoked cheeses are cold smoked after the cheese is made (cold, so it won’t melt away). Rogue Creamery cold smokes Oregon Blue for 16 hours over hazelnut shells. The result if Smokey Blue that has a perfect balance of sweet caramel and hazelnut flavors that contrast nicely with the sharpness of the blue cheese.
  3. Made cheeses can be wrapped with various leaves to add flavor. Valdeon Blue from the Leon region of Spain is wrapped in either sycamore, maple or chestnut leaves. Cabecous Feuilles fresh goat cheese from the Perigord Region of France is wrapped in chestnut leaves (after being dipped in plum brandy and sprinkled with coarse ground black pepper). The 2009 American Cheese Society “Best of Show” cheese, Rogue River Blue, is wrapped in grapes leaves that have been macerated in Oregon Pear Brandy, which adds a wonderful flavor to this top-drawer cheese.
  4. Made cheeses can also be brushed or soaked in various liquids to add flavor. Spanish Winey Goat is soaked with red wine and this adds both color to the rind and flavor to the cheese.
  5. Tom Van Voorhees offered the following information regarding flavored cheeses: “Flavored cheeses are a different story. The short answer is that flavoring is added after the curds are formed and before the curds are pressed into their hoops.  The flavor works its way through the cheese during aging. If you’re familiar with the cheddar process you know that the curds are formed (pearl sized), whey is drained from the vat, curds are left to mat together blanketing the bottom of the vat, curds are then cheddared (cut into large slabs and stacked to expel more whey), the slabs are run through a mill and salted to be “cheddar cheese curds” (ready for sale as curds – about the size of packing ‘peanuts’), FLAVOR IS ADDED HERE, curds are hooped and pressed into a 40 lb block or 56 lb wheel. Mild cheddar may age for a month or two, extra sharp ages for years some times.  Flavored cheeses tend to be sold on the young side (less than 6 months). Flavored Jack is made similarly but curds are smaller (rice) and the cheddaring step is skipped.  Flavor is added before the curds are pressed into the hoop or cloth.”

The Lady is still researching her “Got Milk” chapter for Cheese 101 and will be adding it soon.


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