What is hard cheese?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question” What is hard cheese?” with an in-depth analysis of its texture. Moreover, we are going to highlight different varieties of hard cheese, and the difference between hard and soft cheese.

What is hard cheese?

As the name indicates, hard cheese is firm and is often savoury. It can be divided into two types: 

  1. Hard cheese (such as  Parmesan)
  2. Semi-hard cheese (such as Gouda).

Steps in the production are 

  • Separating
  • Draining most of the way before pressing the curd

This curd is then either brined to create a hard rind or waxed. The shelf life of cheese is between 2 and 36 months, and in some cases, it is even longer. The factor of ageing determines the intensity of the flavour. A well-aged cheese will be more flavourful, less creamy, and grainier in texture. 

Dense, savoury, firm:

Hard cheeses which are dense, complex, and often with strong notes of hazelnut and sautéed butter bring depth and savour wherever they go. These cheeses have a moreish umami taste.

Hard cheese has a sense of smoothness. Its texture is granular and firm. Its firm texture forms natural salt crystals with age, and in turn produces a crumbly body, perfect for running through a cheese grater.

Most hard cheeses have a rind that is natural and tough. Hard cheese amasses an abundance of flavour over time. Hard cheeses are too hard to eat on their own. When hard cheese is mixed into soups, sauces, and stews, the rinds of hard cheese add decadence and strata.

Types of hard cheese:

The family of hard cheeses has members aged, these members have a longer shelf life.  This family has members aged both in history and maturation. Hard cheeses have rounded and tangy nuances. These nuances work wonders in dishes and salads. It offers a wholesome experience when enjoyed on its own.

Parmigiano-Reggiano:

This is known as the king of cheeses. This Italian pure-blood has a sharp, intense, and full-bodied taste. When it is young, the texture of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is firm. It becomes granular and crystallized as it ages. It has a shelf life of 12 months. Its iconic flavour is due to its maturation. 

This is paired with walnuts, zesty pear, and champagne or sparkling wine.

Pecorino:

This is Italian classic cheese. It is made by using fresh milk from sheep. This type of cheese is slightly milder than Parmigiano-Reggiano. Its notes of spice and caramelized butter stretch its palate in the union, offering a savoury and full-bodied profile.

Pecorino is paired with fresh figs, honey, and white wine.

Manchego:

This variety of cheese resides in the heartland of La Mancha. Manchego cheese is a native. As you know, it is the product of the region. It is nutty. It has a nutty flavor with a light touch of sweet fruit and spice. If you use sheep’s milk, it allows for a richer, creamier consistency. This consistency of hard cheese grows granular and flaky as the seasons pass.

Manchego is paired with honey, figs, and roasted walnuts.

Grana-Padano:

The texture, taste, and appearance of Grana Padano are often mistaken for that of Parmigiano-Reggiano. This type of hard cheese holds its own against its close relative. It is slightly milder. The body of hard cheese is less granular. This Italian cheese only requires 9 months of maturation.

Pair with fresh apples, figs, and honey.

Gruyère:

This is known as a traditionally cultured, raw cow’s milk cheese, Gruyère which first originated in Switzerland. Now, it is produced in several countries. It has been somewhat industrialized with the use of pasteurized milk. Its flavor is salty, earthy, and nutty. This type of cheese contains granular, crystallized protein deposits.  You can blend it with Emmental cheese for fondue.

Parmesan:

It is known as a popular cow’s milk cheese. The flavor of parmesan is hard, pale-golden rind, and sharp. This type of cheese is produced in Argentina, Australia, and the United States. Italy’s Parmigiano-Reggiano has typically longer shelf life, of at least two years. Parmesan has a complex flavor and granular texture. 

Roncal:

This type of hard cheese is produced from raw whole milk of two unique breeds of sheep. These breeds of sheep graze in the mountain regions of northern Spain. This cheese is not easily available. It has an intense aroma. The flavor of this cheese is strong, slightly piquant, and buttery.

Difference between hard cheese and soft cheese:

The main difference between hard and soft cheeses is consistency. Consistency is determined by the presence of moisture content in the cheese. If the moisture content is higher the cheese will be softer. First of all, to be classified as hard cheese, the moisture content needs to be lower than 50%.

Anything higher will be classified as soft cheese.

How to make hard cheese?

To make hard cheese

  • Cut the curd in a very fine way
  • Then cook it at temperatures as high as 55°C.
  • This high temperature of 55°C maximizes the amount of moisture (whey) removed before the curd is placed in hoops, soaked in brine, and turned regularly
  • After this, it is left to mature for six to 36 months.

The hard-cooked cheese that is aged, can become slightly gritty with tiny white crystals appearing over time. These are calcium lactate crystals. These crystals have a zingy flavour and are often a sign of well-matured cheese.

Here, you can find the manufacture of hard and semi-hard varieties of cheese.

Other FAQs about Cheese that you may be interested in.

Can you eat jack cheese when pregnant?

Can you eat gouda when pregnant?

Can you eat grana Padano when pregnant?

Conclusion:

In this brief guide, we answered the question” What is hard cheese?” with an in-depth analysis of its texture. Moreover, we highlighted the different varieties of hard cheese.

Citations:

https://www.castellocheese.com/en/cheese-types/hard-cheese/#:~:text=As%20the%20 name%20 suggests%2C%20hard,a%20hard%20find%20or%20waxed.

https://www.dairy.com.au/products/cheese/hard-cheese

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.