Califonia Bountiful

FOOD 101: Cheese 101

Judy Creighton, a cheese educator, teaches how to slow down and enjoy the variety of California cheeses.

A trip to the cheese department at your local grocery store can be an overwhelming experience at times. But knowing how to buy high-quality cheese will help ensure you get your money’s worth each and every time!

And there’s no better person to enlighten us about cheese than Judy Creighton. Judy has been a cheese educator for 25 years and is currently an instructor at The Cheese School in San Francisco.

But school is one thing. Stepping into a cheese shop with hundreds of different cheeses in front of you is something entirely different.

“What I recommend is, take a good look at it all,” Judy said. “Savor all of the sizes and shapes. Then think about what you like. And then narrow it down into of a dozen flavor families.”

The 12 are broken into the following categories:

  • Whey
  • Fresh: Think of these cheeses as the ones without rinds. This category is where you’ll find casual favorites like fresh mozzarella, ricotta and cream cheese.
  • Pasta filata
  • Semi-soft: If you’re making a grilled cheese sandwich, consider these guys. Semi-soft cheeses—ones like Gouda, Provolone, Havarti and Jack—are great for eating out of hand and even better for melting.
  • Semi-firm: Cheddar is the king of this category, which also includes tasty favorites like Edam and Gruyère.
  • Hard: Grating cheeses and cheese tray stand-outs like Mimolette and aged Asiago rule this category.
  • Double and triple cream
  • Soft-ripened
  • Blue: These pungent, delicious cheeses are marked with blue mold, introduced when mold spores are injected or added to the cheese. Stilton and Maytag Blue are excellent examples of blue cheese done right.
  • Goat or sheep
  • Sharp
  • Processed

Judy recommends picking up the cheese you’re interested in and feeling it, smelling it and then talking to your local cheese expert to find out more about it. She also says not to be afraid to try new cheeses. A lot of them are seasonal, just like produce. So if you don’t try them, they might be gone the next time you visit!

And once you’ve selected your type of cheese to try, how do you properly taste it and enjoy it?

“My number one tip on how to taste cheese is to slow down, so you can really pay attention to it,” said Judy. “Put it on your palate and leave it there for two to three seconds so you let it release its aroma and texture and its taste.”

So now matter how you slice it, dice it, shred it or chop it, take time to enjoy the variety of California cheeses available to us every day!

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