The Top Ten Things I Learned in Cheese School

As a follow-up to my post last week about my jaunt to the San Francisco Cheese School, I present to you my notes. Since you probably can’t read what I scribbled (and dribbled) all over my actual notes, I’ve summarized my key findings below. Happy cheese eating!

1. Fresh bright cheeses go with fresh bright wines. For example, a sauvignon blanc would go well with an herbed goats milk cheese like Fleur Verte.

2. At the other end of the spectrum… a “bigger” wine like cabernet sauvignon goes well with more complex cheeses that are aged and nutty in flavor, such as a stilton.

3. “Raw milk cheese” simply means that the milk was not pasteurized before the cheese making process began, which in turn means that the cheese making process began within two hours of when the milk was collected from the animal.

4. The hardness of the cheese is correlated with how long the cheese is aged. Hard cheeses like parmigiano-reggiano are aged 18-24 months. A semi-soft cheese such as ossau araty (Basque sheep’s milk cheese) is aged 30-60 days. Semi-soft cheeses must be made with pasteurized milk in the US because raw milk contains live microflora that (according to the USDA) can cause illness.

5. In a soft, aged cheese like Tomme Crayeuse, the center of the round is less aged than the outer portion. So it will have a different texture and flavor… it’s softer and more tart.

6. There is no lactose in cheese aged over 60 days. Goat, sheep and water buffalo cheeses are the easiest to digest for people who have lactose or dairy intolerance.

7. Butterfat content has to do with the creaminess of the cheese. Swiss has 45% bf, double crème cheese (brie) are about 65% bf, and triple crème cheeses (like Brillat-Savarin) are 75% bf. To put all of this into perspective… butter is at least 85% butterfat.

8. How long before guests arrive should you take your cheeses out of the fridge? Hard cheese can sit out for up to an hour, semi-hard cheeses can sit out for about 20 minutes. Soft and fresh cheeses should come out of the fridge just as guests are arriving.

9. Some of my favorite pairings… aged balsamic on parmigiano-reggiano… Tomme Crayeuse with dried figs and port… Colston Bassett Stilton with honey and port… Epoisses with Riesling.

10. Honey is incredible on all cheeses. You can’t go wrong.

Cheese School Notes

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6 Responses to The Top Ten Things I Learned in Cheese School

  1. Your page of notes looks like something I would do! Thanks for the tips.

  2. Sophie says:

    Waw! thanks for those really interesting tips!
    I see that you learned a lot too! ;) !

  3. Trish says:

    Thanks for the tips. My favs are either really hard or full of cream (why does that sound perverted)..triple creme yumm.

  4. Erika K says:

    I adore cheese, and will probably have to read the other post about ridiculous fun or something? And I will have to try some honey on my favorite parmagiano cheese (probably my very very favorite). I think I could eat a hunk of that every single day of my life and not be disappointed!

    I am curious what you said about cheese aged over 60 days – you said it has no lactose. So…what “happens” to the lactose after that time. Does it just disintegrate or evaporate? My husband sometimes has issues with dairy (and gluten) and I’m glad to find a little info on what could help him out.

    So cheddar is another favorite and frequently used cheese in our house – is that ever aged over 60 days, thus eliminating the lactose? Sorry if these sound like weird questions – just fascinated with your *cheese school* thing. Would love to go myself!


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    • miri says:

      Hi Erika. I don’t know the explanation for what happens to the lactose, but that’s a great question! I will ask my cheese friends at my local market next time I’m there. If you find the answer sooner, please share!

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