A Guide To Navigating Chalk & Cheese at B.I.G.

Buying the right cheese can be a simple process for those of us who already have an idea of what we’re cooking. Making a bolognaise for dinner? You’re probably already looking forward to grating as much parmesan over it before cleaning the plate. Making pizza? Mozzarella.

It’s good to keep things simple.


However, there is a lot to gain from understanding fermented, nature-made foods like cheese. With a little knowledge of the finer details, you may find that your next visit to our in-house cheesemonger may be a wholesome and rewarding experience.



Started From The Bottom Now Gruyere


Think about it – the cheese you see in-store is the final product of an arduous process of fermentation and aging, which all began as milk squeezed from the udders of cows, goats, buffalos, or sheep. The entire milk-to-cheese story is quite a mind-curdling phenomenon, so let’s just focus on the final product. Different cheeses contain varying levels of proteins and butterfat, giving them a touch of acidity (goats cheese) to richer, creamier flavours (cow, sheep, and buffalo cheeses).  


Bear in mind that what you see is a living thing, the cream of the crop (quite literally) of the miraculous handiwork of live bacteria. It certainly suffices to say that tasting it deserves respect and involvement.


The best way to get to know cheese is to actually ask for a taste at the cheesemonger. Beyond the finer details, just enjoy it and figure out which ones tickle your fancy. Sample a range of cheeses in order to broaden your perspective and make comparisons.  



Texture Details Please


You don’t have to memorize names like Brie de Meaux, or Brillat-Savarin (phew). Simply use these guidelines below and ask our staff for recommendations.


Note: some cheeses fall under more than one category eg. semi-hard Gouda, hard Gouda –  it’s just a matter of their cheesemaker’s individual manufacturing method.

Image source: https://www.castellocheese.com/en-us/cheese-types/

Fresh Cheese – young, freshly-made and unripened, most often used in cooking as well as eaten raw eg. added to salads. They are pale in color and feel soft due to high moisture content. Common types to know are feta, goat’s cheese, ricotta, and cottage cheese (eg. paneer).

Image source: https://www.castellocheese.com/en-us/cheese-types/

Soft-Ripened Cheese – still soft to touch but aged slightly with mold to which brings out interesting flavour profiles. Rich, buttery, and often pungent with an edible rind, famous varieties are brie, fontina, and camembert.

Image source: http://flinderscheese.com.au/products/washed-rind-brie/

Washed-Rind Cheese – ‘washed’ means it has been brined in an alcohol solution, usually consisting of wine, beer and brandy. The resulting exterior mold creates a pungent, ‘stinky’  rind that does not necessarily translate to overpowering flavour, in fact most are pleasantly mild. Examples are muenster, limburger, and tallegio.

Image source: https://www.castellocheese.com/en-us/cheese-types/

Semi-Hard Cheese – salty, nutty, and earthy with a crumbly texture, these cheeses have been aged to lose around 40% – 50% of its original moisture, and are often brined in alcohol solutions as well. Great on their own with a cracker or for melting in a fondue, common forms are cheddar, gouda, edam, and monterey jack. 

Image source: https://www.castellocheese.com/en-us/cheese-types/

Hard Cheese – we love biting into cheese that has some heft to it. Hard cheeses are aged for over 6 months to significantly reduce moisture (retains around 30%) and lock in flavour. Grate for grating over dishes or crumbling into salads, they have dense, complex flavours that complement anything they encounter – examples are cheddar, gruyere, parmigiano–reggiano, pecorino, manchego.

Image source: https://www.castellocheese.com/en-us/cheese-types/

Blue Veined Cheese – the mightiest of them all. Their blue-coloured ‘veins’ are actually Penicillium moldspores added during the manufacturing process by cheesemakers. They are kept under conditions of constant air circulation to nurture bacterial growth. Resulting flavours are deliciously pungent, salty, caramelised and almost animalistic. It’s no wonder why varieties such a gorgonzola, roquefort, and stilton sit at the head of cheese platters.


See You Platter

Image source: https://www.castellocheese.com/en-us/cheese-types/

There are plenty of cheese combinations for a cheese platter, so we won’t bore you with them. As we said, simply taste your way into choosing your favourites, and figure out the number of cheeses you’d like to lay out. We’d recommend 5 – 8.

Here’s a simple rule-of-thumb: start with softer cheeses (with one exception) and work your way to harder, firmer textures, and top it off with a creamy-soft blue cheese. What’s really happening is that flavours are getting increasingly intense, almost as though the whole idea of a cheese platter is to prepare humans for the wallop of blue cheese. Nibble on that.

Complement your cheese platter with bread, crackers, nuts, seeds, pickles, dried fruit (date season is near!!!), jams, and honey. Lick your lips at the start and you’ll be licking your fingers by the end.

Image source: https://stail.my/cerita/gaya-hidup/bens-independent-grocer/

We hope we’ve got you amped-up to begin your love affair with cheese, just as we have. Drop by Chalk & Cheese at Ben’s Independent Grocer to sample & pick up what you need, as well as have your questions addressed. Bon appetit!

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