Most cheese is ripened for varying amounts of time in order to bring about the chemical changes necessary for transforming fresh curd into a distinctive aged cheese.

Traditionally, cheese was made as a way of preserving the nutrients of milk. In a simple definition, cheese is the fresh or ripened product obtained after coagulation and whey separation of milk, cream or partly skimmed milk, buttermilk or a mixture of these products. It is essentially the product of selective concentration of milk.

During ripening, degradation of lactose, proteins and fat are carried out by ripening agents. The ripening agents in cheese are:

  • Bacteria and enzymes of the milk.
  • Lactic culture.
  • Rennet.
  • Lipases.
  • Added molds or yeasts.
  • Environmental contaminants.

Cheese Ripening Classifications

Unripened Cheeses

These are consumed shortly after manufacture. One of the most common is cottage cheese, a high moisture soft cheese. Unripened low moisture cheeses are Gjetost and Mysost.

Unripened cheeses include: Abereen Crowdie, Boursin, Burrata cheese, Cream cheese, Cottage cheese, Dry Curd, Gjedost cheese, Mascarpone, Montrachet, Myost cheese, Neufchatel, Ricotta cheese.

Soft Cheese

Curing will progress from the outside or rind of the cheese, toward the center. Specific molds or cultures of bacteria which grow on the surface of the cheese assist in the specific characteristic flavors, body and texture. These cheeses contain a higher amount of moisture than semi-soft cheeses.

Soft ripened cheese include: Brie cheese, Camembert cheese, Cherve cheese, Derby Sage cheese, Lancaster cheese, Liederkranz cheese, Livarot cheese, Yorkshire cheese.

Semi-Soft Cheese

These cheeses ripen from the inside as well as from the surface. Curing will continue as long as the temperature is favorable. These are higher in moisture than firm cheeses.

Semi soft cheeses include: Alsatian Muenster, Altemburger cheese, American cheese, Brick cheese, Feta Cheese, Fontina cheese, Havarti, Limburger cheese, Monterey Jack, High Moisture Jack, Muenster cheese, Port du Salut

Firm Ripened Cheese

Ripen, utilizing a bacterial culture throughout the whole cheese. Ripening occurs as long as the temperature is favorable. Lower in moisture than the softer varieties and usually require a longer curing time.

Firm ripened cheeses include: Appenzeller cheese, Appetitost cheese, Arkadaz, Bel Paese, Cheddar cheese, Colby Cheddar, Edam cheese, Gouda cheese, Jarlsberg, Swiss Emmentaler.

Very Hard Ripened Cheese

Cured with the aid of a bacterial culture with enzymes. Slow cured and very low moisture and contains a higher salt content.

Hard ripened cheeses include: Alentejo cheese, Allgau Emmentaller, Apple cheese, Asiago cheese, Cheshire cheese, English Cheddar, Gammelost, Gruyere cheese, Parmesan, Pineapple cheese, Romano cheese, Sap Sago cheese.

Blue-Vein Cheese

Curing is with the aid of mold bacteria and a specific mold culture that will grow throughout the inside of the cheese and produces the familiar appearance and unique flavor.

Blue Vein cheeses include: Adelost cheese, Blue cheese, Gorgonzola cheese, Roquefort cheese, Saga cheese, Stilton cheese, Wensleydale cheese.

Read More: Food Facts