There are different ways to categorize types of cheese, but here are some of the categories used to differentiate families of cheeses. Some cheeses may fall into two or more categories: they are not necessarily mutually exclusive categories.
Fresh cheeses are not aged. They are high in moisture, generally not pressed, and include such cheeses as cream cheese, chevre, cottage cheese, ricotta, etc. This is the category of cheese where most cheesemakers start their journey into cheesemaking. Fresh cheeses are ready to eat sooner and often do not require as much equipment (no press and no aging chamber).
Stretched-curd cheeses are stretched by hand into long strands (kind of like toffee, if you’ve ever seen that process). This gives the cheese a unique texture. Common stretched-curd cheeses include string cheese, mozzarella, and provolone. Some (like mozzarella) can be made without aging or pressing.
Washed Rind Cheese
These are cheeses that are washed with a brine during the aging process. In some cases, a beneficial bacteria is added to the brine (B. linens) which gives the rind a reddish hue. This bacteria also ripens the interior of the cheese, creating a soft, “stinky” cheese. The most famous of the washed rind cheeses includes limburger, Muenster, and brick cheese. Because of the high-moisture level and high-pH of these cheeses, they are at a greater risk of supporting pathogenic bacteria.
These are cheeses that have been inoculated with a beneficial blue mold. The blue mold will cover the surface of the cheese, and piercing of the cheese at different intervals with a sterilized knitting needle will encourage mold growth in the interior of the cheese as well. The most famous of the blue cheeses includes gorgonzola and Roquefort. Be careful when making these cheeses! Penicillium roquefortii, responsible for the blue mold, is almost unstoppable in its quest for cheese domination. Once you have made blue cheese, it may very well decide to build up a residence in your aging chamber and turn all of your cheeses into blue cheese. If you wish to age multiple types of cheese at once, you may try containing your blue cheeses in an aging box alongside your other cheeses. Otherwise, you can alternate cheeses in the Cave, being sure to wipe down and sanitize the interior of The Cave between uses. If you are serious about making blue cheese, you may wish to age your blue cheeses in a separate aging chamber altogether.
These are cheeses that are intentionally inoculated with beneficial mold, which then cover the surface of the cheese during aging. The mold softens the inside of the cheese to create a high-moisture, high-pH cheese. Well-known mold-ripened cheeses include brie, camembert, and triple cream. These cheeses are made without a press, but many require particular conditions for aging. Mold-ripened cheese can be wrapped in ripening paper during the end of aging to protect the cheese and aid in ripening. Because of the high-moisture level and high-pH of these cheeses, they are at a greater risk of supporting pathogenic bacteria.
Washed Curd Cheese
Unlike washed rind cheeses, which are washed during aging, the washed curd cheeses are washed during the cooking process. A portion of whey (up to 50 percent) is removed and replaced with water. This leads to moist and tender cheeses, such as Gouda, Colby, and Butter cheese. These cheeses are pressed and aged like a hard cheese, and are generally either semisoft or semihard cheeses.
Cheese with Eyes
This is really just a category of semihard to hard cheeses, often known as Swiss chese. This type of cheese has “eyes” or holes in the interior of the cheese formed by carbon dioxide; a by-product of propionic acid bacteria. The most well-known cheeses of this category include Emmental and Gruyere. These cheeses age at relatively high temperatures (around 65ᵒF/18ᵒC) and are usually made in large wheels.
Feta is the best-known brined cheese, and a great beginner’s cheese as well. It is aged and stored in a brine solution.
Yogurt, Kefir, Buttermilk, Sour Cream
Well, these aren’t technically cheeses, but they are delicious cultured milk products that are relatively quick to make. These are some of the easiest milk products to make, and highly recommended for a beginner interested in starting out in cheese making.