The World in Cheeses

Exploring the world through cheese is a great way to get to know local cuisine and culture. Cheese, like wine, is indelibly caught up in the terroir of the place where it was made. Cheese can be made of any type of milk – goat, cow, or water buffalo, to name a few – and what the animal eats, where it goes, and how it’s handled all influence the taste of the milk.

The chosen milk is processed, which allows artisans to exert further influence on their final product. By the time you bite into a piece of cheese, whether you eat it plain or melted into a dish, you’re experiencing the best that region has to offer.

Many regions go so far as to protect their cheese legally, so that no cheese can carry that specific name unless it’s made locally. Here are a few types of cheese that you should try in your travels around the globe!

Raclette

Raclette is a Swiss cheese made from cow milk. It’s not the holey cheese that we’ve come to know as Swiss cheese, instead it’s a semi-hard cheese that is formed into large wheels and served either melted or raw. Raclette is also the name for a meal where this cheese is the star of the show.

To prepare a raclette meal various sides like boiled potatoes, gherkins, and bread are assembled, then the large wheel of raclette is placed next to a heat source. Traditionally, it was exposed to a fire, but now, small heating ranges specifically for raclette are commonplace. As the cheese slowly melts, it’s scraped off and added to a plate to be eaten with the various condiments.

margouillat photo / Shutterstock

Paneer

Paneer is a soft cheese that’s typical in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine. It’s prepared by heating up milk, then using an acid to separate the curds from the whey. The curds are then gathered and pressed, so that they create a dense, crumbly cheese that stands up well to being added to curries and other heavily sauced dishes.

Paneer can also be made into a dessert known as rasgulla. The paneer is whipped and formed into balls, then boiled in a sugary sweet syrup to make a luscious yet refreshing treat.

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Mozzarella di bufala

Mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella) is a fresh cheese made out of water buffalo milk. It is one of the many European cheeses that has been given the status of DOC (controlled designation of origin). This means that only certain producers in certain areas of Italy are able to produce authentic mozzarella di bufala.

Anyone who has ever had fresh handmade mozzarella di bufala will know how versatile and delicious it is. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a platter of charcuterie, or pair it with tomato and a little drizzle of olive oil.

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