How to taste cheese

the 4 parts

sight

We eat with our eyes first. If food looks appetising, then we have taken our first step towards eating it. When choosing cheese, ask yourself these questions:
  • Does the outside rind have an appealing colour?
  • Does the inside paste also have an appealing colour?
  • If it is fresh cheese, does it look vibrant or dull?
  • If it is hard cheese, does the surface look neat and clear or sweaty and ‘blurry’?
  • If it is a white mould cheese, does the surface look bloomy and fluffy or wrinkly and tired with discolouration?

touch

Cheese is an especially tactile food, and it is not always possible (or polite) to touch it before eating it. But there are a few cheeses we can touch, due to their rinds, and this is what we need to look out for;
  • A hard cheese should be exactly that – firm and solid, not rubbery or slack in any way
  • Semi-hard cheeses like the popular Swiss styles, will have a generous ‘give’ to them. When they get hard, that’s when we know they are past their best.
  • A white mould cheese when medium ripe, should be a combination of firm to touch on the outside rim and slightly squishy on the inside. Unless you are after a gooey – triple cream, then it is pretty lovely and soft all round!
  • Fresh cheeses are difficult to touch unless they are in soft packaging. Rule of thumb is a soft cheese should be soft to touch. Once it dries out, the moisture that keeps it soft is gone and so are some of the fresh flavours of this style of cheese.

smell

When smelling cheese, make sure you keep some distance between the cheese and your nose—especially if you have a ‘big’ cheese at hand, it can pack a stinky punch! You can also slowly wave your hand towards your face, gently guiding those beautiful aromas right into your olfactory system.

Some smells to look out for, depending on the cheese of course, are:

    • Milky
    • Grassy
    • Fruity
    • Floral
    • Nutty
    • Earthy

taste

Now we get to eat the cheese! Start with a small amount, just enough to sit in the middle of your tongue so you can move it around the different areas of your palate. If you want to get serious here, closing your eyes can really help to focus on the developing flavours.

Using these five flavours our taste buds can identify to work out which is more prominent in the cheese. The standout flavours left over once you have swallowed are known as ‘the finish’.

  • Sweet
  • Sour/Acidic
  • Salty
  • Bitter
  • Umami (savoury)

Like anything, cheese tasting takes practice and if you can’t identify too many flavours at first, the only solution is to eat more cheese!

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