Soft Cheese – Fresh – Cow’s milk cheese

Soft Cheese – Fresh – Cow’s milk cheese
Keep in mind, these tips are from my own experience, I’m not a party organizer nor am I a sommelier or a turophile (a cheese connoisseur). I just love cheese, wine and spending time with my friends.

Young Fresh and Soft, Creamy Unripened Cheeses

Soft, spreadable cheeses that typically have a mild, lactic flavours accompanied by a tangy finish.

Fresh cheese is not ripened, aged or fermented during the manufacturing process or at any point during the lifespan of the cheese. These cheeses have a high moisture range of 40-80%, which greatly reduces their shelf life.

For these simplest cheeses, milk is curdled and drained, with little other processing.

In some countries, such as US, Federal law dictates that cheeses aged less than 60 days must be made from pasteurized milk/cream.

These can be made with cow, goat or sheep milk.

Cow’s milk cheese

Boursin
Cream cheese
Ricotta
Stracchino or Crescenza
Mascarpone

Mild

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.”

Cow milk cheeses are as varied and rich as the producers who make them around the world. Starting with a base of rich, mild cow’s milk, cheesemakers then let their imaginations lose to create cheeses that can be creamy and sweet, hard and salty, and everything in between.

Boursin or Gournay

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.”

Boursin is a brand of Gournay cheese invented by Francois Boursin, a cheesemaker from Normandy. He chose the name “Gournay” for his cheese, naming it for the small town in France where he grew up. Today, every package of Boursin is labelled “Gournay Cheese”, the statement of identity for Boursin.

Even though Boursin is available today in more than 30 countries, it has achieved maximum popularity in France.

Characteristics & Tasting Notes

Boursin is a rich fresh triple-cream and soft cheese, made with cow’s milk flavoured with herbs garlic and spices of cylindrical shape without rind. Although, it is just an herb-flavoured French Cream cheese that can be easily imitated, only Boursin with its buttery flavour and slightly crumbly texture can be labeled as an “All natural Gournay cheese”.

Boursin does not need any affinage.

Serving Suggestions & Food Pairings

Add the original Boursin cheese to salads, pasta or serve it as a typical appetizer. It can be spread on crackers and bread or used on raw vegetables such as carrots, celery and peppers. Also, the cheese melts well to create a smooth sauce for pasta and chicken. This cheese is a favourite brand amongst top chefs. Chefs around the world use Boursin as a ingredient in numerous dishes from appetizers to entrees.

You can also pair these cheeses with apples and grapes or use them in cooking.

Boursin is the perfect match with a baguette. It goes also very well with almost any bread.

Boursin adds flavour to many products such as meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables. You can use it in mashed potato or in sandwiches instead of butter, or even in tomato soup instead of sour cream.

Wine Pairings

Confidently pair, dry white wine such as Sancerre or fruity red wine such as Beaujolais with Boursin. You can also serve a nice Gewurztraminer.

Pinot Noir brings out its fresh and intense taste the best.

Substitutes/Similar cheeses

If you need a substitute for Boursin, you can use:

  • Rondele
  • Herbed Cream cheese with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter, softened.

Variations

Today, Boursin is available in various flavours whose availability varies from country to country. In most cases, Boursin is spiced up with herbs like tomato, onion, chive, fig, nuts, garlic, pepper, shallot, cranberry, fine herbs & cinnamon. A favourite member from the Boursin family is a low fat version with only 21% fat and is flavoured with garlic & herbs.

The most common flavours are:

  • Garlic & Fine Herbs (1963-present)
  • Pepper (1966-present)
  • Fig & Walnut (2004-present)
  • Shallot & Chive (2007-present)
  • Red Chili Pepper (2014-present)
  • Cranberry & Spice (originally a limited edition Flavour in US, sold as Cranberry & Pepper in France)
  • Basil & Chive (2017-present)
Best wine pairing White Wine: dry white wine such as Sancerre or Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc, Touraine – Sauvignon, Pinot Blanc
Red Wine: Light Reds such as Pinot Noir, or fruity red wine such as Beaujolais Nouveau
Sparkling Wine: Champagne 
Dessert Wine: Semillon
Pair with Crackers, baguette or any bread, apples and grapes, vegetables such as carrots, celery and peppers
Type Soft, processed
Texture Creamy, crumbly and spreadable
Rind rindless
Colour White
Flavour Buttery, full-flavoured, herbaceous, smooth
Aroma Fresh, strong
Source of milk Cow’s milk
Family Cream cheese
Country of origin France

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Cream cheese

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.”

Cream cheese is a soft, usually mild-tasting fresh (unripened) cheese produced from unskimmed cow’s milk. Given that it is made from a combination cream and milk, the cheese has a high fat content, by definition must contain at least 33 % milk fat. The cream cheese product is available in full fat, low-fat or light. The high fat ones are considered double or triple cream cheese. In German, it is also called Doppelrhamstufel meaning cheese made with “double cream”.

Cream cheeses made using traditional methods tend to be more crumbly than spreadable while those with stabilizers like guar gum are more firm.

Cream cheese is not naturally matured and is meant to be consumed fresh, so it differs from other soft cheeses such as Brie and Neufchâtel. It is more comparable in taste, texture, and production methods to Boursin and mascarpone.

Cream cheese is suitable for vegetarians since it uses acid, such as citric acid to coagulate the milk.

Characteristics & Tasting Notes

Cream cheese has a mild lactic aroma, sweet taste with a pleasant slight tang. It is a smooth, spreadable cheese at room temperature and comes in various flavoured varieties including those with herbs, fruits blended in.

Serving Suggestions & Food Pairings

The cheese is widely consumed in United States where it used to enrich cheesecakes, frostings, dips, toppings, sweet & Savoury dishes and desserts. It is also used to make flavourful desserts with colourful fruit combinations such as blueberries, raspberries and kiwis. And it is also served with crackers, or on breads such as bagels.

Substitutes/Similar cheeses

If you need an alternative to cream cheese you can use:

  • Equal parts of cottage cheese, drained, blended with half-and-half or cream + a little butter
  • Or 230g/8 oz lower fat cottage cheese plus 1/4 cup margarine
  • Or Equal amounts of lower fat (Neufchâtel) cream cheese
  • Or Equal parts of ricotta cheese plus plain yogourt

Variations

There is also a spreadable version which is simply whipped cream cheese which gives the product a light easy-to-spread texture.

To produce a lactose-free cream cheese, lactase (an enzyme) is added to the organic cream, converting the lactose into simple, easy-to-digest milk sugars. Probiotic cultures are also added to the cream following a gentle vat pasteurization. Light and fluffy-textured with a slightly sour scent, this lactose-free cream cheese is silky and buttery on the palate. Full-bodied and slightly sweet with only a hint of tang, it reminds us of buttercream frosting.

Best wine pairing White Wine: White Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
Red Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Malbec
Sparkling Wine: Champagne
Pair with Fruits, oat, wheat crackers, or on breads such as bagels
Type Fresh soft, processed
Texture Creamy and spreadable
Rind Rindless
Colour White
Flavour Creamy, mild, sweet
Aroma Fresh, pleasant
Source of milk Cow’s milk
Family Cream cheese
Country of origin United States

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Ricotta

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.”

Ricotta (literally meaning “recooked”) is an Italian whey cheese made from sheep, cow, goat, or Italian water buffalo milk whey, left over from the production of other cheeses. Italian cheese makers didn’t want to waste whey from hard-cheese production, so they’d add it to milk. The result is sweet, creamy and mild. Like other whey cheeses, it is made by coagulating the proteins that remain after the casein has been used to make cheese, notably albumin and globulin.

Technically, it is not a cheese but a creamy curd made by reheating the whey, a byproduct of cheese-making.

It is highly perishable. However, ricotta also is made in aged varieties which are preservable for much longer.

The shape and weight might vary, depending on the milk used in the process, but it usually has a conical shape achieved by the usage of fuscella – a traditional container in which the cheese is placed after skimming in order to drain.

Ricotta is suitable for persons with casein intolerance. Being low in fat and high in protein, Ricotta is a dieter’s dream cheese.

Characteristics & Tasting Notes

Ricotta curds are creamy white in appearance, very fresh, and slightly sweet in taste. The fat content changes depending on the brand and the type of milk used. In this form, it is somewhat similar in texture to some cottage cheese variants, though considerably lighter. It is smoother than cottage cheese and tastes mildly sweet. Good Ricotta is firm, not solid and consists of a mass of fine, moist, delicate grains, neither salted nor ripened.

Serving Suggestions & Food Pairings

It can be consumed alone or accompanied by other cheeses or cold cuts, but its subtle aroma also makes it an excellent ingredient in many recipes.

The light, delicate consistency and clean flavours make it a perfect accompaniment to a variety of recipes and dishes. Like mascarpone in northern Italian cuisine, ricotta is a favourite component of many Italian desserts, such as cheesecakes and cannoli. Also, a variety of different cookies include ricotta as an ingredient.

Ricotta can be beaten smooth and mixed with condiments, such as sugar, cinnamon, orange flower water, strawberries, and occasionally chocolate shavings, and served as a dessert. This basic combination (often with additions such as citrus and pistachios) also features prominently as the filling of the Sicilian cannoli and layered with slices of cake in Palermo’s cassata.

Ricotta is also commonly used in many Italian savoury dishes, including lasagna, ravioli, calzone, stromboli, pizza, manicotti and dips. It is also suitable as a sauce thickener.

It also is used as a mayonnaise substitute in traditional egg or tuna salad and as a sauce thickener.

Wine Pairings

Light and fruity wines, served cool. Sweet, creamy ricotta loves tangy Riesling. Try ricotta with both the sweet and the dry variations of this German classic wine.

Best wine pairing White Wine: Riesling, Pinot Grigio
Sparkling Wine: Champagne, Prosecco
Pair with Citrus and pistachios
Type Fresh firm, whey
Texture Creamy, fluffy and grainy
Rind Rindless
Colour White
Flavour Sweet
Aroma Fresh
Source of milk Cow’s, goat’s, sheep’s and water buffalo’s milk
Family Cottage
Country of origin Italy

Variations

There are three distinct varieties of ricotta: ricotta salata moliterna (ewe’s milk whey), ricotta piemontese (cow’s milk whey + 10% milk) and ricotta romana (a byproduct of Romano cheese production), Ricotta di bufala, Ricotta di Pecora, Ricotta di Bufala Campana.

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  • Ricotta Salata

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.”

The words ‘Ricotta’ means re-cooked and ‘Salata’ means salted. Ricotta salata is the saltier, aged version of the famous fresh ricotta. This Italian cheese hails from Sicily and it’s made from sheep’s milk whey. The cheese is salted, formed into a wheel, then aged for about 3 months.

The texture is creamy, but firm and the flavours are salty, mild, and nutty.

The cheese is often used in salads or pasta dishes. Ricotta salata can be crumbled, grated, and even sliced. And anywhere you’d usually use Feta cheese, try ricotta salata instead.

Best wine pairing Red Wine: Dry Red Wines Full-Bodied such as Cabernet Franc Reserve, Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon
Sparkling Wine: Champagne
Type Hard, whey
Texture Soft, firm and crumbly
Rind Rindless
Colour White
Flavour Salty
Aroma Fresh, rich
Source of milk Sheep’s milk
Family Pecorino
Country of origin Italy

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  • Ricotta Romana

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.”

Ricotta Romana is a fresh milk product made with sheep’s milk whey obtained from animals in the Lazio region that are pasture-grazed or fed on forage that grows in the region. Pastures and grass reserves are the only food for the sheep and the reason behind the sweet flavours of the whey.

At the beginning of 1900, it was the only source of food for the sheep herders who produced it. The sheep’s particular diet, which mainly consists of typical grassland and pastures in the geographical production area, influences the quantity of lactose in the milk whey (no less than 3,55 %).

This attribute gives Ricotta Romana the sweetish taste that distinguishes it. Ricotta Romana is made following traditional techniques: whey is warmed up to 90°C and stirred lightly to help it coagulate in small flakes. Flakes are gathered and put in the traditional cone shaped pots called fuscelle.

Ricotta Romana is white and lumpy with a characteristically sweet and milky taste. The cheese can be eaten on its own or used as an ingredient in the preparation of various dishes. It is particularly recommended to pair it with rye bread or dill bread.

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  • Ricotta di Pecora or sheep milk ricotta or Sicilian Ricotta

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.”

Ricotta di pecora is produced in many Italian regions, and each cheese has a slightly different flavour. It is an Italian whey cheese produced from raw, sheep’s milk. Since it is rich in protein and amino acids, the cheese is easily digestible and a must in many people’s diet.

A small quantity of sheep’s milk can be added to whey in order to improve its softness and flavour – generally, sheep milk ricotta has a slightly richer flavour than the one made with cow milk.

This soft, creamy, white latticino with a delicate flavour reminiscent of a freshly squeezed milk is widely used in cooking, it works great in both savoury and sweet dishes.

Ricotta di Pecora tastes excellent by itself, as an appetizer, smeared on bread, or it can be flavoured with lemon juice and grated parmesan, served with pasta, gnocchi, lasagne, or, typically Sicilian, used to prepare luscious desserts – paired with chunks of chocolate, candied fruits or nuts, ricotta di pecora is what gives that distinctive taste to cannoli, cassata, or sfinci.

It is delicious if sprinkled with sugar or accompanied by honey and Vin Santo dessert wine. It also goes well with seasonal salads and fresh vegetables seasoned with extra virgin olive oil.

 

Best wine pairing Dessert Wine: Vin Santo
Pair with Smeared on bread, sprinkled with sugar or accompanied by honey, or paired with chunks of chocolate, candied fruits or nuts.
Type Fresh soft, whey
Texture Creamy and crumbly
Rind natural
Colour White
Flavour Creamy, sweet
Aroma Fresh, grassy
Source of milk unpasteurized sheep’s milk
Family Cottage
Country of origin Italy

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  • Ricotta di Bufala

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.”

Ricotta di Bufala is made from a full-fat pasteurized water buffalo’s milk cheese and the whey from Mozzarella di Bufala from Italy. It is made with whey gathered while processing buffalo’s milk.

The texture is firm, fluffy, creamy, melting and grainy. The aromas are rich and fresh, while the flavours are subtle delicate and slightly sweet with a distinct aroma.

This cheese is ideal for desserts such as cheesecakes and cannoli. It’s recommended to pair it with a glass of sparkling wine.

Best wine pairing Sparkling Wine: Champagne
Type Fresh firm, artisan, whey
Texture Creamy, firm, fluffy and grainy
Rind Natural
Colour White
Flavour Subtle, sweet
Aroma Fresh, rich
Source of milk Pasteurized water buffalo’s milk
Family Cottage
Country of origin Italy

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  • Ricotta di Bufala Campana

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.”

Ricotta di Bufala Campana is a product obtained through the processing of the ‘first whey’ (sweet) obtained in the cheese-making process which uses milk from the Mediterranea Italiana buffalo breed. The production area is within the provinces of Benevento, Caserta, Naples and Salerno in Campania; the provinces of Frosinone, Latina and Rome in the Lazio region; the Province of Foggia in the Apulia region and Isernia in the Molise region.

Ricotta di Bufala Campana is different from other ricotta cheeses due to its creamy consistency, softness, colour and sweet milky aromas, characteristics which are given to the fact that buffalo whey is richer in fats and free from lipase, an enzyme that can influence the sensory properties of fat.

The ricotta is porcelain white, rindless, with a grainy but not sandy consistency that is soft and creamy. The flavour is characteristic, fresh and slightly sweet, whilst the aroma is reminiscent of milk and cream. It can be eaten on its own or used as an ingredient in many recipes and stuffed dishes.

The product is generally used to prepare local sweet and savoury dishes from the Neapolitan cuisine. Amongst the most famous recipes, there is the Pastiera Napoletana, a typical Easter cake.

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Stracchino or Crescenza

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.”

Stracchino also known as crescenza, is a type of Italian cheese that is typically made with cow’s milk, but it can also be made with water buffalo’s milk. The name of the cheese derives from the Lombard adjective stracco, meaning “tired”. It is said that milk produced by tired cows coming down from the alpine pastures in the autumn is richer in fats and more acidic. These qualities were discovered, according to legend, in the milk of cows that were moved seasonally, up and down the Alps, to different pastures. The milk of such cows gives the cheese its characteristic flavours.

Characteristics & Tasting Notes

It is eaten very young, has no rind and a very soft, creamy and buttery texture and normally has a mild, fruity, creamy, sweet and delicate flavour. It is normally square in shape and is often used as a spread.

Serving Suggestions & Food Pairings

It is recommended to serve stracchino with fresh fruit and cold cuts. This rich, fresh cheese is usually eaten on its own or paired with fresh rocket salad and prosciutto but also as a filling for some kinds of bread.

In Recco, on the Ligurian riviera east of Genoa, focaccia col formaggio (“cheese focaccia”) or focaccia di Recco is typically filled with crescenza, while in Romagna and in parts of some nearby regions (e.g. northern Marche, Umbria and eastern Tuscany) it is a common filling for the cascione which is made out of piadina, a thin flat bread.

It can also be used on pizza, in risottos, melted over pasta to add a rich, tangy touch, or used as a topping for warm polenta.

As a part of the cheese board, Crescenza is usually served beside a selection of jams and honey. With its rich, spreadable texture, Crescenza Stracchino is great spread on toast with some honey drizzled on top.

Wine Pairings

Since this cheese is pretty simple cheese, it is best to pair it with clean, fresh, young fruity white wines such as Vinho Verde or Pinot Grigio.

 

Best wine pairing White Wine: Vinho Verde or Pinot Grigio
Pair with It is s usually served beside a selection of jams and honey or on toast with some honey drizzled on top or with prosciutto, fresh fruit, cold cuts and also as a filling for some kinds of bread.
Type Fresh soft, artisan
Texture Buttery, creamy and spreadable
Rind Rindless
Colour White
Flavour Creamy, mild, sweet
Source of milk Cow’s or water buffalo’s milk
Family Italian Cheese
Country of origin Italy

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Mascarpone

Cheeses listed in this Mild quadrant pair well with light white wines and champagnes.”

Mascarpone is a fresh milky-white spreadable Italian cream cheese from the Lombardy region which is made from cream coagulated with either citric or tartaric acid.

It is coagulated by curdling milk cream with the addition of certain acidic substances such as lemon juice, vinegar or citric acid. It is recognized as a Prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale (traditional regional food product).

This fresh cheese product does not keep for very long so it is best to purchase it right before use. Whether you buy Mascarpone or make it at home, it needs to be consumed within a few days or it can go bad.

Characteristics & Tasting Notes

The texture of Mascarpone ranges from smooth, creamy to buttery, depending on how it is processed during cheesemaking. The concise portrayal of Mascarpone really is just thickened cream that is on its way to becoming butter. Making the cheese is so simple that many people easily make their own Mascarpone at home.

Serving Suggestions & Food Pairings

It is a thick, double or triple cream, soft cheese with a very high fat content ranging from 60% to 75%. The resulting rich butterfat content makes the cheese an essential ingredient in Italian recipes.

Similar to a cream cheese, this rich, creamy cheese can be used in desserts as well as savoury dishes. Mascarpone is used in various Lombardy dishes, and is considered a specialty in the region. It is used in both sweet and savoury dishes. It is added to enhance the flavour of the dish without overwhelming the original taste. The cheese tastes best with anchovies, mustard and spices, or mixed with cocoa or coffee.

It is one of the main ingredients in the modern Italian dessert known as tiramisu, a layered dish with lady fingers, espresso, brandy, mascarpone and cocoa powder. It is sometimes used instead of, or along with, butter or Parmesan cheese to thicken and enrich risotto. Mascarpone is also used in cheesecake recipes. Another possible use of Mascarpone is to thicken puddings and dessert creams. It is also popular as a standalone dessert served with fruit or syrup.

Substitutes/Similar cheeses

If you’re looking for a mascarpone substitute and you need an alternative, replace with one of these options:

  • Blend together until smooth: 450g/16 ounces full fat cream cheese + 1/4 cup whipping cream + 1/3 cup full fat sour cream
  • Or – Blend 230g/8 ounces softened cream cheese with 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • Or – Blend 230g/8 ounces softened full fat cream cheese with 1/4 cup softened butter and 1/4 cup cream
  • Or – Blend 230g/8 ounces softened full fat cream cheese with 1/4 cup heavy cream and 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
  • Or – Blend 230g/8 ounces softened cream cheese with 1/8 cup whipping cream and 1/8 cup sour cream.
  • Or Heat 950ml/1 quart of light cream to 82C/180F Add 1/4 teaspoon tartaric acid* and stir for about 10-15 minutes. The cream should thicken with small flecks of curd. Using a DOUBLE layer of FINE cheesecloth in a strainer, pour off the whey and let it drain for about an hour.  Put the strainer in a bowl and place it in the refrigerator to drain overnight (or 12 hours). In the morning, scoop out the cheese and put into an airtight container.

* Tartaric Acid is available from any cheesemaking supply company and most wine making companies. Since at home winemaking is much more common, look for a local winemaking supply store. Many wine and liquor stores carry wine making supplies and may have tartaric acid.

 

Best wine pairing White Wine: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc
Sparkling Wine: Champagne
Pair with Fresh raspberries, blackberries and ripe strawberries. Scoop this soft cheese with thin baguette slices or Raincoast crisps
Type Fresh soft, processed
Texture Buttery, creamy, smooth and spreadable
Rind Rindless
Colour White
Flavour Buttery, creamy, mild, milky
Aroma Fresh
Source of milk Cow’s milk
Country of origin Italy

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Note: I get really excited about cheese and wine, so it’s difficult for me to be brief when there is so much wonderful information to share!

Also check:

***In Development, please keep checking.


Reference: Content and images based on information from: https://www.wikipedia.org/ https://cheese.com https://www.cookipedia.co.uk
https://culturecheesemag.com https://www.gourmetsleuth.com https://winefolly.com/ https://www.tasteatlas.com https://www.wine.com/ https://winemonger.com https://www.terroir-france.com/


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