No single method of categorization can capture the exceptional diversity of Chester County artisanal cheeses currently available-and those yet to be created. Nonetheless, this primer should point your palate in the right direction.
Cheese varieties that either have not been cured (e.g. Ricotta) or have been cured for a very short period of time (e.g. Feta).
Cheese varieties cured longer than six months.
Cheese, typically semi-firm or firm cheeses, cured for three to six months resulting in a mellow, mild flavor (e.g. Cheddar).
Firm or hard
A classification of cheese varieties that have been salted, pressed and aged for longer periods of time (sometimes more than a year) to produce a lower moisture content, which yields a distinct, firm texture and deeper flavor concentration (e.g. Romano).
Semi-Soft cheeses have a texture slightly harder than the soft cheeses. These cheeses contain a high percentage of moisture and melt well when cooked (e.g. Gouda).
Semi-firm or semi-hard
Semi-firm cheeses have a texture which feels firmer than the semi-soft category and contains even less humidity. In semi-firm cheeses, the curd had been cut with a smaller grain, which in turn releases more whey. The majority of semi-firm cheeses are salted in brine during production. As these cheeses age, they become firmer (e.g. cheddar, Colby).
Also referred to as "blue-veined" or using the French word "bleu," blue cheese varieties possess blue or green streaks. These streaks are the byproduct of harmless, flavor-producing blue mold being exposed to oxygen during the production process. The result gives the cheese an assertive piquant flavor (e.g. Roquefort).
Cheese aged using mold on the rind to encourage ripening closest to the rind first and then inward towards the middle. Cheeses result in a runny texture closet to the rind and firmer in the middle Washed-rind (e.g. Limburger) and bloomy-rind (e.g. Brie) cheeses compose what the soft-ripening classification.