Types of Hard Cheese - An Ultimate Guide
Do you like your grana soft and ready to grate while your cheddar in chunks? We are not surprised if you do because cheese is one of those delicacies that come in a variety of forms and hard cheese is one of them.
As the name implies, hard cheese is firm and savoury. It’s often divided into two categories: hard and semi-hard. To learn more about hard cheese and its types, tag along!
What Is Hard Cheese?
Hard cheese is formed when the curd is cut finely and cooked at a higher temperature, up to 55 degrees Celsius or even higher. This process dries away moisture and then the curd is placed in hoops, soaked, turned, and left in a cellar to mature.
Hard cheese is suitable for grating because it has low water content, a strong flavour, and some aroma, and a crumbly and dry structure.
Types of Hard Cheese
Hard cheese comes in a variety of types, each having a distinctive flavour, texture, and colour. There are several hard cheese examples and it may take us all day to remember them!
For now, here’s a rundown of the 10 most famous types of hard cheeses from around the world:
Where it’s from: Italy
Flavour: Salty, spicy, sharp and Smokey
Texture: Flaky, grainy, dense, and crumbly
Pairs well with: Fresh pears, wine, walnuts, Italian chestnut honey
Basically, any cheese made from sheep’s milk is Pecorino cheese. The country of origin for Pecorino is Italy and it refers to 4 varieties of Pecorino.
This type is traditionally creamy, hard, and comes in a drum-like shape. Depending on the aging period, Pecorino comes in a variety of flavours including spicy, salty, smokey, and sharp.
The most aged form of this cheese is called Stagionato. It has a hard and crumbly texture but has a nutty and buttery taste.
The young form of Pecorino is called Fresco and it has a softer texture. It has a mild and creamy flavour.
The best type of Pecorino has a smooth pale yellow or dark brown colour. The rind varies in colour depending on the age of the cheese.
Classic Pecorino comes in several flavours such as red chili and black peppercorns and the aroma is strong.
Pecorino Romano is a sharper alternative to Parmesan cheese and is widely used when Parmesan is not available.
Since it’s a grating cheese, it goes well with pasta, bread, and baked casseroles. You can also drink it with a light beer or a glass of strong Italian red wine.
Where it’s from: Italy
Flavour: Sharp, nutty, fruity, savoury
Texture: Grainy, crystalline, dense
Pairs well with: Pasta, soups, Champagne and dessert wines
Parmesan (the English name) is originally called Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s among the top hard cheeses.
It’s produced from crows grazing on hay or fresh grass. This Italian delicacy is named after the provinces it’s made in e.g., Reggio Emilia, Modena, and Parma.
True Parmesan cheese has a gritty, hard texture and a tangy, nutty flavour. Some inferior form of Parmesan has a bitter flavour though.
Parmigiano is used in soups and risottos and is typically grated over pasta. It can also be consumed as a snack on its own.
Parmesan has a brownish-gold oily rind but, on the inside, it has a granular gold texture that gets brittle as it ages.
The rich and savoury flavour makes it the king of all cheese types. It also pairs well with zesty pear, walnuts, sparkling wine, and champagne.
Where it’s from: United States
Flavour: Spicy, grassy, floral and salty
Texture: Creamy and flaky
Pairs well with: Pasta, salads, ravioli, sweet fruits, served on its own
Italy is not the only country where cheese is made. Pepato (means pepper) that hails from the United States.
It has a hard and bit crumbly texture which makes it perfect for grating.
It’s a raw sheep’s milk cheese that is produced using San Andres’s recipe but is studded with whole peppercorns.
It’s aged for 3 and a half months to each that flaky and creamy consistency. When it comes to flavour, Pepato has a floral and grassy taste with nutty undertones.
The presence of Peppercorns adds earthy and savoury notes to it. The floral, grassy, nutty, and spicy flavour makes it a perfect table cheese.
Feel free to save it on your favourite salads, add in pasta or use it as a filling for gnocchi or ravioli. You may even place it in a turkey sandwich to add a spicy flavour to it.
Where it’s from: Italy
Flavour: Tangy, sharp and mild.
Texture: Crumbly, flaky, dense, and brittle
Pairs well with: Figs, berry or strawberry jam, juicy fruits, salads, pasta, and can be served on its own.
This hard cheese is made from cow’s, sheep’s, goat’s milk, or a mixture of two or all of these. The country of origin is Italy and it’s made from the first Century B.C.
Romano has a gritty texture and a rough, brittle peel that easily grates. This type of hard cheese requires at least 5 months to age, and even more if it is intended for grating.
Romano cheese comes in different flavours, shades, and textures. The one that’s made from sheep’s milk has a sharp and tangy colour.
The one made from goat’s milk has an even sharper taste whereas the one made from cow’s milk has a mild flavour.
Apart from being a great table cheese, Romano can be shaved over soups, salads, and pasta. It can also be used for making cream sauce and grated over cooked dishes.
It’s one of those hard cheeses that pair well with fruity wines such as Prosecco and Riesling.
5- Gouda Cheese
Where it’s from: Netherland.
Flavour: Creamy, full-flavoured, nutty, and sweet.
Texture: Springy, Compact, Smooth, crumbly, and dense
Pairs well with: Mustard, fruits, bread, beer, whiskey, crackers, wine or can be eaten on its own.
Guoda is one of the most popular hard cheeses in the world. Guoda is used as a general term for several other cheeses that produce the traditional Dutch manner.
This Dutch cheese is made from cow’s milk (pasteurized or unpasteurized). As it ages, it moves from semi-soft cheese to hard-aged cheese.
It is a great melting cheese that means you can use it in a variety of dishes such as pasta dishes, sandwiches, and even soups.
Where it’s from: Spain
Flavour: Nutty, sweet, fruity, tangy, and light touches of spice.
Texture: Buttery, firm and crumbly
Pairs well with: olive, honey, crusty bread, robust red wine, figs, almonds, roasted walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, marmalade, and dry sherry.
Manchego is a staple cuisine in Spain that is an ideal table cheese due to its crumbly texture and nutty flavour.
It is made from the sheep’s milk, giving a creamy, richer consistency that grows flaky as it ages.
It features the distinctive zigzag pattern on its rind, which proves that it is Manchego from the heartland of La Mancha.
This pattern on wax rind also guarantees the use of Manchega sheep’s milk. It has been aged for two months. It is available in many variants like Fresco, Curado, and Viejo that depend on its age.
Where it’s from: Switzerland
Flavour: Nutty, salty, and sweet
Pairs well with: Bread, crackers, fruits, mustard, beer, pecans, wine, whisky or served on its own.
A natural rind covers this Swiss cheese. It has a dense texture during its young age, and however, it becomes granular and flaky as it ages.
If you like its nutty flavour, its aged version can be eaten on its own. It turns gooey when you cook this hard Alpine cheese.
It is an ideal candidate when you want a nice and creamy result of your recipe.
Gruyère is allowed to ripen for 12 months. However, it is aged for 90 days to 6 months.
You can pair this dark yellow cheese with wine, fruits and crackers. However, the pairing will depend on its age.
Where it is from: Italy
Flavour: Sweet, tangy, mild, buttery, sharp and spicy.
Texture: Grainy, firm and open
Pair well with: Sandwich, baked pasta dishes or served as a table cheese.
Provolone cheese is a plastic curd cheese like mozzarella that opens with hints of salty undertones and nuts.
Made with cow’s milk, provolone is a common table cheese with a grainy, smooth texture. It has two distinctive verities i.e. Provolone Piccante and Provolone Dolce.
Its production takes place in Vento and Lombardy, in the Po valley region of southern Italy.
It is known to take on a variety of sizes and shapes. Provolone is often moulded into sausages, fruits, pigs and other fanciful shapes.
This Italian cheese is commonly used in sandwiches and often served as a table cheese.
9- Grana Padano
Where it’s from: Italy
Texture: Grainy and crumbly
Pair well with: Apple, Fig, olives, pear, honey, nuts, cured meat and dried fruit.
Cistercian monks of Chiaravalle created this hard cheese in the 12th century, and it is still made in northeastern Italy.
It means ‘grainy’ in Italian, which is reflected in the granular texture with a sweet flavour.
Made from semi-skimmed and unpasteurized cow’s milk, Grana Padano is less complex and milder than Parmigiano Reggiano Grana Padano.
It develops a thick and firm rind protecting the dry and fragrant interior. Grana is generally aged for about 2 years and sold at different ripening stages.
The flavours become more savoury, pronounced and complex as it ages. Its texture also becomes more crumbly as seasons go.
It pairs well with anything sweet like honey, fig, pears, and apples. It also works well with cured meat.
10- Cheddar cheese
Where it’s from: England
Flavour: creamy, sharp
Texture: Crumbly and compact
Pairs well with: Fruits, wine, beer, crusty French bread, whisky, crackers, or eaten on its own.
Cheddar cheese is one of the world’s most popular, eaten, and purchased hard cheeses.
This natural cheese is made from cow’s milk. It has a slightly crumbly texture when purely cured, and however, its younger version has a smooth texture.
It gets a sharp taste when it matures, and it takes around 9 to 24 months to mature. Cheddar’s shape is like a drum around 15 inches in diameter.
It has a natural rind, and its colour ranges from white to yellow-orange. This yellow-orange is manually added.
Cheddar has the hearty tones of browned butter, ending in a sharp finish. Cheddar has a mild flavour when it is young that gradually becomes stronger as it matures.
Its pairing depends on the age of cheddar cheese. The aged cheddar can be eaten on its own. It pairs well with crusty French bread, beer, wine, fruits and crackers.
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