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Soft Ripened Cheese

Washed Rind Cheese

Natural Rind

Semi Soft Cheese

Hard Cheese

Semi Firm Cheese

Blue Cheese

Types of Cheese

The many uses for good cheese are only outnumbered by the types of cheese that we have available at Williams-Sonoma. The tough outer coating, which is called the rind, defines the cheese. There are some cheeses, known as fresh cheeses, that have no rind, and they are consumed shortly after being made. Aged cheeses develop their signature textures and flavors inside wheels with rinds. Cheese makers apply various techniques to create the rinds depending on the type of cheese. Soft-ripened gourmet cheese is sometimes called bloomy rind cheese because of its fuzzy or dusted outer coating. Many people are familiar with the soft-ripened cheeses known as brie and triple-creme cheese. Some soft-ripened cheeses are wonderful melting and dipping cheeses because they’re naturally runny and creamy. Soft-ripened cheeses may taste nutty, milky, earthy or slightly savory depending on the milk used and the additives used to create the specific cheese.


Soft-ripened cheese can taste mild or garlicky, so try a few varieties to understand how individual cheeses pair with your favorite recipes and menus. Soft-ripened cheese tends to pair well with fruity wines and fruit courses. The mild taste and aroma help the nuanced flavors of seafood and poultry shine. There’s a highly spreadable nature to some selections in the soft cheese group. This means they make great toppings for appetizers. Soft-ripened cheese also melts well and is a great addition to the fondue pot. Use a flavorful artisan bread full of texture when you serve a soft-ripened cheese – or any gourmet cheese – on a board or cheese plate. A slice of French baguette or small cocktail rye loaf gives a chewy complement to crumbly, smooth and soft cheeses. You don’t have to eat the rind of any cheese if you don’t prefer to do so, but you may eat the rind of a soft-hardened cheese if it’s appetizing to you.


Washed-rind cheeses are made similarly as soft-ripened cheeses. Beneficial spores and bacteria are added to the milk to create the varieties and flavors of washed-rind cheese you select. Washed-rind cheeses are used for everything from appetizers to sandwiches and more. Washed-rind cheeses are stripped of their very outer coating with a bath or scrub in an agent of some sort. Alcohol and brine are used to take away any fuzz on the rind and encourage proper aging of the cheese. Think of the rind on Muenster cheese for an idea of how a washed-rind cheese looks and tastes. Limburger cheese is also a washed-rind cheese. One cheese is nutty and mild while the other is meaty and bold. Both have their uses in the menu.


Natural-rind cheese, also called wild-rind cheese, has no additions to the wheel surface and is allowed to age naturally. Some natural-rind cheese is bound with cloth and rubbed with lard. This cheese category contains varieties that are classified as blue cheeses. Wild-rind and hard cheeses like cheddar are good choices when used with meat dishes and sandwiches.


Firm cheeses are also wonderful choices for a cheese display or cheese plate. An artistic cheese plate is a sophisticated touch to any cocktail hour or appetizer course. Use a variety of cheese types and add a selection of fruits and nuts that complement the presentation and the cheese. Grapes, apple slices, berries and pear slices are good fruit choices for cheese displays and plates.


Experiment with gourmet cheese types when creating casseroles, gratins, stuffed entrées and sauces. Even a hint of a gourmet cheese tang adds complex flavors to side dishes including potatoes, vegetables and risotto. Create a new variety of macaroni and cheese or stuffed peppers with gourmet cheese and pasta. Shred or grate cheese on bread and bagels before baking, or use shaved hard cheese on salads for a specialty cheese kick.

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