Zariq Mohd Ali
Date 14 June 2021
Think cheese and your mind might transport you to the Swiss Alps or the French countryside, where you picture artisans working tirelessly to create some of the world’s most famous dairy delicacies. Who can really say no to some Brie and biscuits as an appetizer, or a slice of Emmental dipped in honey at the end
of a meal. It is estimated that France alone produces anywhere between 250 to 400 different types of cheeses, with estimates of sub varieties exceeding 1000.
In terms of volume, this represents roughly 1.7 million tonnes of cheese a year, or about 20% of all the cheese produced in the European Union. On a global scale this puts France at 2 nd on the list of largest producers behind only the United States, and number 1 in terms of consumption (the average Frenchman or woman consumes about 26 kilos a year!)
But enough about France. This article isn’t only about how much cheese the French produce or how great their cheeses are. (If you haven’t tried any yet, read on to learn more). It’s about introducing you to a whole new world of other well-known varieties. Together we’ll explore some of the most famous
cheeses around the world and what makes them unique. The origins of cheese have been widely disputed. While some say the birthplace of cheese was in fact in the Swiss Alps around 4,000 years ago, others speculate that it has its origins further back in 8,000 BCE in the Middle-East, after goat herders and merchants attempted to transport milk in pouches made from animal stomachs. Irrelevant of where it started though, cheese has now found its way into the
cuisines of numerous countries, and today more and more countries are looking to not only produce it locally, but also adapt it to local taste buds. Below are 10 of the most famous cheeses around the world.
Originating from the small English town of Cheddar in Somerset, this cheese much like the empire inwhich it was created, has truly taken the world by storm. By far one of the most popular cheeses due to its mass commercialisation and adoption in various cuisines, this relatively hard, off white, pungent yet sharp cheese is now produced in more than a dozen countries around the world. To give you an idea of how common this cheese is, 51% or every second cheese sold in or exported from the UK is a variety of cheddar. This number climbs to 55% in Australia and at one point in history was Canada’s second largest export after timber.
Patriarch of the Pasta Filata or stretched curd family, Mozzarella has come to be known as Italy’s most famous export. It is unique for its stretching process which gives it a characteristically stringy and stretchy quality about it. Originally made exclusively from buffalo milk in the region of Campana, the name “Mozzarella” itself comes from the action of “cutting off” and fashioning little smooth balls of white stretched cheese. Used on Pizza or mixed with salads, Mozzarella, or more specifically their little brother bocconcinis can even be infused with various herbs and spices by marinating them in concoctions of whey, making it one of the most versatile cheeses around.
Now we travel to the Greek islands, the birthplace of Feta cheese. Sheep or goat’s milk had long been common in and around the Mediterranean for centuries. In fact the first mention of feta like cheese dates back to the 2 nd century, although in all likelihood the origins of this soft cheese predate those records. This soft brined curd cheese that gets its name from the Italian “fetta” meaning to slice, is traditionally served as a table cheese, in salads, or even in cooked into pastries, while others prefer to have it grilled or eat it on its own with a touch of olive oil.
We know we said we wouldn’t talk too much about France and its cheese, but what kind of list would this be if we didn’t? And yes, we know, although technically not the same, we can sometimes group these together as they share many similarities. Coming to us from the Parisian region of Ile-de France and Normandy respectively, these white/grayish soft cheeses with an edible rind are probably some of the most famous cheeses the country has to offer. They do differ in size as Brie is usually served cut from a larger wheel, while Camembert is served as a single wheel (although today, they both come in a variety of sizes depending on the region). They also differ in taste and smell. As the Camembert is a smaller version of Brie in many ways, when cut it unleashes a more pungent aroma and tastes stronger and even slightly sour.
Yes it’s the cheese with all the holes. From cartoons to keyboard emojis, the triangular, holed riddled Emmental has become the most widely recognized depiction of cheese. Originating in the little town of Emmental near the Swiss capital of Bern, this semi hard yellowish cheese has been around for over 700
years, although it was only in the mid-1500s that people started using the name we use today. While usually consumed cold as chunks or slices like in a sandwich, it is also melted with Gruyere cheese to form the basis of any decent fondue.
Paneer or Panir in Hindi literally translates to “cheese”. Believe to have spread to the Indian subcontinent from Persianate or Afghan lands during Muslim rule of the area, this version of cottage cheese is one of the few cheeses to originate from the Asian continent. A soft cheese, it is has become a favourite in India, Pakistan and other countries in the area. Eaten plain or mixed into dishes, and sometimes even deep fried, it is quite unique for curdling either buffalo or cow milk with fruit or vegetable derived acids such as lemon juice.
Much like the Asian king of fruits the durian, this cheese is a hit and miss for many. Its either you love it or you hate it. This blue cheese originates in the south of France and is probably one of the better known blue cheeses out there. Known as the “King of Cheese”, this crumbly and slightly moist cheese is made famous by its blue mold that adds a sharp tang to the overall taste. The sheep milk cheeses are placed in caves to age where the bacteria from the soil is responsible for creating that distinctive pungent blue mold. Commonly eaten on its own for the bravest, it is also widely used in the French department of Aveyron as part of sauces and quiches.
Go to Italy and try using the word Parmesan, we dare you. Nothing bad will happen to you, but many locals might have a hard time understanding what you are asking for. Its official name Parmigiano-Reggiano – later shortened to Parmesan when translated into English – is composed of the two provinces
from which the cheese originates but regular Italians general refer to the cheese simply as Grana because of its granulated consistency. It is very often considered one of the most consumed cheeses in the world, being used both in savory and sweet dishes.
With close to 2,000 different options to choose from, it’s no wonder many still aren’t sure of their favourite. One thing we can guarantee though, is that if you’re not a cheese lover or have never even eaten it before, this list is probably a very good place to start exploring.