When I was still a reporter for the Manila Times, my lovely editor would sometimes assign me to cover some social events– not just the “pa-sosyal” ones but the really high society events where I think the guest’s accessories are worth more than my annual salary.
Now for those who know don’t me personally, I’m actually kind of the shy type and would rather do multiple interviews than spend a few minutes exchanging pleasantries with people I barely know. So I dreaded those events, especially those that involved wines. I avoided wine tasting events were because that often meant there would just be pass around food, and no “real” dinner.
I only came to accept that I was officially a Tito, when I actually started to look forward and enjoy those events—not the small talks—but the ones that involved wine tasting and cheese pairing—but mostly because of the cheese.
I LOVE cheese.
As long as I could remember, I could eat anything as long as there’s cheese—even vegetables.
I only enjoyed hamburgers because of the cheese. I fell in love with pizza because of the melting cheese on top, my favorite ice cream flavore is cheese, and every time there’s a new cheese-flavored snack or chips I would immediately grab it with unbridled enthusiasm.
I think I’ve tried almost all sorts of cheese flavored anything you can buy at the supermarket. Funny thing though, I only got introduced to mac and cheese when I was already in college– as a side dish at that famous roasted chicken resto.
Besides wine pairings, I recently attended events which served those antipasto platters and Charcuterie buffets and while it can be overwhelming, I get excited when I see all those different kinds of cheeses!
It’s for this reason that I decided to write this post, since most of us Pinoys only know just a few types—parmesan, cheddar, mozzarella, keso de bola—and to help you my dear reader decide on which kind of cheese works best for a certain recipe.
The production of cheese-making dates back 5,000 years ago at a time when people learned to preserve naturally curdled milk by draining off the watery whey, then salting the curds to flavor and preserve them.
It may have originated either in Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, or the Sahara. The cheese making process is even mentioned in Greek Mythology, and there are even ancient murals documenting the cheese-making process. During the ancient Rome era, foreign cheeses were said to be transported to Rome to satisfy the tastes of the social elite.
The first factory for the industrial production of cheese opened in Switzerland in 1815. However, the large-scale production found real success in the United States. California has been producing cheese for as long as it’s been making wine— more than 200 years.
California’s cheese industry dates all the way back to the gold rush when many pioneers who trekked to California brought along dairy cows as a way of supplying milk to their families. In 1886, California’s dairy cow population reached 100,000 and the growing milk supply stimulated the start of our thriving cheese industry.
It is believed that Clara Steele, a pioneer woman whose family had settled near San Francisco, started the first commercial dairy in the United States. Her cravings for cheddar, which she enjoyed in her native New England, inspired her to make cheese from wild cattle’s milk using her English grandmother’s cookbook. Clara initially sold her cheese in the San Francisco market and after realizing quick success, she and her husband opened California’s first commercial dairy operation producing butter and cheese from their 6,000-acre farm in Point Reyes.
Today over 50 cheesemakers are producing more than 250 varieties and styles of cow’s milk cheeses that carry the Real California Cheese or Milk seal.
BENEFITS OF CHEESE
If you are a cheese lover like me, then knowing that our favorite food has a lot of benefits is a pretty comforting thought. Since cheese comes from dairy fermentation it also possesses many benefits that dairy provides to the human body. But as they say, you also have to eat it in moderation.
Some of the health benefits attributed to eating cheese include supporting healthy bones, a good source of fats, supporting healthy heart, a great source of protein, may help prevent cancer, a great source of carbohydrates, management and prevention of osteoporosis, supporting health teeth and reducing stress. Other benefits include promoting brain function, promoting immunity and supporting gut health.
One ounce of natural cheese, such as Cheddar, Jack, or Mozzarella, contains approximately 20 percent of a person’s recommended daily calcium intake. Those who are lactose-sensitive or lactose-intolerant can still enjoy cheese as long as they eat natural hard (aged) or soft-ripened varieties, which contain little or no lactose.
The best part? You can eat cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Start your morning with a shredded cheese omelet, or cheesy egg on a hot pandesal; sprinkle or grate cheese on top of your salad or pasta for lunch, and choose stuffed shells, enchiladas, or Chicken Cordon Bleu for dinner. If that’s not enough cheese, grab a bag of cheese puffs for snacks and you can still feature cheesecake for dessert! Cheese can make almost anything taste delicious.
If you want a taste of the world, you can do so by just heading to a cheese counter– Nibbling on Gruyere will take you to Switzerland; Dubliner cheese to Ireland, Pecorino to Italy, Cremoso to Argentina, and Brie to France.
And with over 650 varieties of cheese, there’s enough cheese for everyone to love. Cheese are sold in blocks, wheels, powder packets, spreads, individually sliced, shredded, and even from a whipped cream can. There are hard cheeses and soft ones, pungent cheeses and milder ones. To list each and every kind of cheese available would probably take days (if not years). I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t like cheese—and if they say they do, they probably haven’t tasted the right one for them just yet.
WHICH CHEESE ARE YOU?
A few weeks ago I got a package of cheese, nope not all the 650 varieties (I wish), but a few ones that I honestly haven’t tried yet or are not too familiar with. I’m listing them down since they are now available in groceries and you might want to try them out.
- A California original, the Monterey Jack (or shortened to Jack cheese) is an American semi-hard cheese, customarily white, made using cow’s milk. It is commonly sold by itself or mixed with Colby cheese to make a marbled cheese known as Colby-Jack (or Co-Jack). An aged version of this cheese is called Dry Monterey Jack, or Dry Jack, and it can be grated and used much like Parmesan cheese.
- (Raw Medium) Cheddar Cheese: Perhaps the most popular of mainstream cheeses known for its unique flavour which deepens over time.The most common adjectives used to describe cheddar’s strength are: mild, medium, strong, tasty, sharp, extra sharp, mature, old, or vintage. This cheese is created through a process called cheddaring, where after heating, the curd is kneaded with salt. It is then cut into cubes to drain the whey, post which they are then stacked and turned. Cheddar cheese can be enjoyed with crackers, in a soup, used for sauces, as a dip or melted on snacks like mashed potatoes nachose and mac and cheese. It is also best for sandwiches, omelettes, pizza, soufflés
- Pepper Jack: A derivative of Monterey Jack that is flavored with spicy chili peppers, as well as various peppers and herbs. It is used as an alternative to regular Jack cheese in dishes such as quesadillas, but can also be eaten with bread or crackers as a snack or as part of an hors d’oeuvre.
- San Joaquin Gold: According to its makers at fiscalinicheese.com in keeping with the European tradition of naming unique foods after the location where they were first produced, they named San Joaquin Gold after the rich San Joaquin Valley of Central California. Made in 32-pound wheels and stamped with cow’s shape on the center as its trademark identification, this cheese is aged for 12 months. Mildly sweet and mellow when young, this cheese develops a darker golden hue and nuttier flavor over time. Its flesh is firm and granular with an aroma of toasted nuts and browned butter with a pleasant acidity and lovely sweetness. Best enjoyed with beer, IPA or lager, it and can be used for snacking, cooking, for Macaroni and Cheese, burgers and grilled Cheese!
- Lionza: This Swiss style cheese is named after the tiny village high in the Swiss Alps that the Fiscalinis called home for more than 300 years. Following the same traditional steps that were developed generations ago by their ancestors who made cheese in Lionza.Made in 26-pound wheels, similar to the traditional Swiss wheel, this cheese is aged six months. Lionza is lightly straw colored with a few irregular eyes. It has a thin natural rind, a sweet milk caramel-like flavor, an enchanting aroma, and a semi-soft texture. This cheese is great for snacking, as fondue, and for making Ruben sandwiches. For wine pairing, it goes best with Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
RECIPE: Four Cheese Crispy Crunchy Grilled Cheese Sandwich
I’m not much of a cook but I do love to make sandwiches so for this post I’m making a four Cheese Crispy Crunchy Grilled Cheese Sandwich. It’s a sandwich I used to make when I was a kid and since we often only had one kind of cheese I would either use the spread or stuff a couple of slices in between white bread. But since I recently bought a sandwich maker this has greatly elevated my all-day go-to sandwich and comfort food.
1. Cheese spread
2. California Cheddar
3. California Monterey Jack or
4. California Jalapeno Jack
6. One pack Cheese flavored chips
7. White bread
- Heat sandwich maker.
- Spread mayonnaise on bread, then put cheddar cheese, apply cheese spread and then put another layer of either jalapeno or Monterey jack cheese.
- Place inside sandwich maker until cheese melts and bread turns a bit brown (depending on preference)
- Open sandwich and insert chips as desired.
For those of you who want to know more about cheese I’ve attached a chart of the different kinds of cheese as well as their uses. If you want to know which kind of cheese goes best with wine check out the chart at the end of this post.
So where do you get all these kinds of cheese? Good news is that of these are now available at leading supermarkets all you have to do is look for foods with the the Real California Milk seal.
Head over to the dairy section in groceries like Unimart, Robinsons Supermarket, Merkado and SM Hypermarket plus membership shopping giants S & R and Landers and you’ll find a wide range of dairy choices carrying the seal. With the Real California Milk seal, it’s a stamp of assurance that you’re getting a true blue dairy product from America’s leading and legen—wait for it–dairy state.
Generations have carefully tended and cared for the cows, their pastures and farms to produce only high quality dairy products. The climate in Northern California offers a lot of pasture-based grazing while in sunny Central and Southern California, farms use free stall barns.
Fans and misters keep the cows cool, and they have access to shade, food and water 24/7.
So when you see the Real California Milk seal, you’ll feel good knowing that the product is certified as having been made with 100% Real California Milk from Real California Dairy families.
This is a sponsored post, but photos, recipe and opinions are my own.