With more than 1,000 cheese specialties and a per capita consumption of 22.8 kilograms of cheese in Germany in 2010, differentiating between the different types of cheese can be helpful. Cheese groups allow conclusions to be drawn about the character, taste and possible uses of the cheese and thus orientation in the big wide world of cheese.
In general, the name “cheese” is protected by law in Germany, as cheese can only really be called “cheese” if the German cheese regulations are met. The regulations of this German cheese regulation govern the type of production, appearance and taste of the cheese as well as the maturing time.
In Germany, a distinction is made between six different cheese groups depending on the water content in the fat-free cheese mass: hard cheese, semi-hard cheese, semi-hard semi-hard cheese, sour milk cheese, soft cheese and cream cheese.
How firm or soft a cheese is can be determined by its water content; the softer the creamier a cheese is and the longer a cheese matures, the less water a cheese contains. In other words, a cheese that has matured for a long time contains less water and therefore has a firmer consistency. However, this division is not tied to specific types of milk, as sheep's cheese and goat's cheese are also available as soft cheese, cream cheese, semi-hard and/or hard cheese. This classification is based on the German Cheese Ordinance, which regulates the classification.
The AOC and AOP quality marks denote the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée and Appellation d'Origine Protégée. The AOP symbol guarantees that the products have been rooted in the area of origin for centuries and are manufactured, processed and refined in accordance with the local tradition. The AOC symbol indicates a controlled designation of origin for French agricultural products.
A basic distinction is made between rennet and sour milk cheese groups. Sour milk cheeses include cream cheese, granular cream cheese, quark, Harzer and cooking cheese. Here the milk is acidified by lactic acid bacteria and the milk protein casein is separated from the whey. In some varieties, small amounts of the enzyme rennet are also added.
Furthermore, a distinction is made into the following groups:
This cheese is a very soft, spreadable cheese that can be consumed immediately after production without aging. It is offered in a wide variety by being refined with herbs, spices or vegetable mixtures. There are also differences in consistency depending on the fat content of the cheese. It's not that easy to define the cream cheese from slightly crumbly to creamy-soft, airy or firm. The fresh cheese group includes, for example, the varieties Quark, Ricotta, Bresso, Géramont, Le Tartare, Chavroux...
If cream cheese or semi-hard cheese matures, processed cheese can be made from these groups. Its history goes back to the end of the 19th century in Switzerland, when Emmental cheese began to be exported. Due to a lack of refrigeration options and long transport routes, a form had to be found that would last for a long time without constant refrigeration: processed cheese. Since salts lead to a melting consistency and bring about a natural preservation of food, these salts were of great importance for the longer shelf life of the cheese and thus for the creation of the processed cheese. The cheese wheels are first reduced in size and then gently heated without losing any valuable ingredients. After adding the melting salts, a finely structured molten mass is created that cools in a mold. Processed cheeses can be refined with cream, herbs and spices during their production.
As the name suggests, the cheeses that belong to the soft cheese group are very soft. That's because these cheeses mature from the outside in for about two to eight weeks. They are often covered in noble mold or rust smear. Sometimes soft cheeses can also be covered with ash, charcoal or hay to protect them from drying out.
As the cheese ripens, the quark-like core of the soft cheese becomes smaller and smaller, so that the cheese ultimately consists of a uniformly soft and creamy dough. The longer a soft cheese matures, the more intense its aroma is. If a soft cheese has not matured for a long time, its dough is still light yellow to white.
Unlike the other cheese groups, the soft cheese is not pressed during production, but rather carefully and carefully scooped into its shape.
Due to its variety and its strong, spicy aroma, the soft cheese fits into both warm and cold cuisine; Well-known soft cheeses include Brie, Camembert, Chaumes, Saint Albray, Saint Agur...
With its strong, intense taste and firm, sometimes hard cheese dough, we mainly find cheeses with a strong character in the group of hard cheeses. It also finds space in the hot and cold kitchen. With a maturation period of at least two months to several years, the character of the hard cheese is already in the childhood hours and determines both its hardness and its taste. Due to the long maturation, the water slowly but steadily evaporates from the cheese dough; The strong bark on the edge is caused by drying out. The same applies here: the longer the ripening time, the more concentrated the cheese mixture and the more piquant the taste. Examples of hard cheeses include Parmigiano and Pecorino, Gruyére and mountain cheese.
With a maturation period of between a few weeks and several months, the fat content of the semi-hard cheese is between 45 and 50 percent. This cheese ripens evenly from the inside out. Here too, the consistency, color and taste changes depending on the length of maturation; Less matured cheeses, i.e. young cheeses, are milder and less intrusive than older cheeses. Semi-hard cheeses are often made from cow's milk, although in southern countries we find semi-hard cheeses made from goat's or sheep's milk. Semi-hard cheeses can have a natural rind, which is sometimes covered with red smear, or a layer of wax that is intended to protect against drying out. However, the wax train is not suitable for consumption.
Although the name may be misleading, sliced cheese can also appear in one piece. It's just easier to cut and may therefore play an essential role in the cheese bread culture. The difference also lies in the ripening time and therefore in the consistency of the dough. Due to the shorter ripening time, semi-hard cheese is softer than hard cheese, but harder than semi-hard semi-hard cheese. For example, we find classic sliced cheeses in Gouder, Tilsiter, Edamer, Appenzeller and Etoriki. Semi-hard cheeses include butter cheese, Tomme de Savoie or Roquefort with a ripening time of at least three weeks and a soft, supple dough.
Sour milk cheese
Made from sour milk quark and refined with many cultures, cheeses in this group of cheeses are formed and mature for a few days to a few weeks. Like the soft cheeses, these cheeses can also be covered with rust smear or mold. The supple dough, which ripens from the outside in, has a yellowish color. If the dough is ripened for a shorter period of time, the dough is young and curdly and becomes increasingly lighter, whitish and crumbly as it ripens. Naturally, sour milk cheese is particularly rich in protein and low in fat. The group of sour milk cheeses includes, for example, Harz cheese, hand cheese and stick cheese.