All About Cheese

a block of swiss cheese with grapes and walnuts

Cheese please! From cheddar, to mozzarella, to Havarti, to Swiss, there is a cheese for every taste and occasion. Here are some tips for buying, storing and enjoying cheese.

How cheese is made 

There are four main steps in making cheese:

  • Curdling: An enzyme is added to milk to help separate the liquid part of milk (whey) from the solids (curds).
  • Draining: The liquid whey is drained away.
  • Pressing: The curds are pressed to get rid of more whey and moisture.
  • Ripening: Cheeses are kept at a certain temperatures and humidity levels to age them, which give each cheese its unique taste.

Types of cheese 





Fresh cheese

Not ripened. Tends to be lower in fat and salt.

Light milky taste

Cottage cheese, Ricotta, Mascarpone, Paneer, Quark, Queso fresco

Soft cheese

Ripened. Most have a soft rind.

Mild and creamy

Brie, Camembert, Feta

Semi-soft cheese


Varies from mild to sharp

Bocconcini, Mozzarella, Havarti, Monterey Jack, Oka, Provolone Gruyere, Jarlsberg

Firm cheese


Varies from mild to sharp

Swiss, Cheddar, Raclette, Gouda, Brick

Hard cheese

Ripened for several months. These cheeses last a long time.

Sharp tasting

Parmesan, Romano, Asiago

Veined or blue cheese

Range from soft to semi-soft. Ripened for a few months and have a blue mould that is safe to eat.

Slightly salty, can be sharp the more ripened it is

Gorgonzola, Bleu, Bénédictin, Roquefort

Nutrition and cheese

Cheese is an excellent source of calcium and a source of protein and vitamin B12. One Food Guide serving of:

  • Hard cheese is 50 grams (1.5 oz.), roughly the size of two thumbs.
  • Shredded cheese is 1/3 cup.
  • Fresh cheese like cottage cheese or quark is 1 cup.

Tip: If you are looking for lower fat cheese, look for ones with less than 20% milk fat (M.F.) on the label.

Lactose intolerant? Good news. Mozzarella and ripened cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, parmesan and Brie have very little lactose.  

Buying local cheese

Ontario produces fresh, soft, semi-soft and firm cheeses. Look for the Foodland Ontario logo or ask your store manager to find out if the cheese you buy is produced locally. When you buy local food, you support farmers so they can keep producing high quality, affordable food we can all enjoy.

The best way to buy cheese

  • Buy store brand cheese in larger blocks. These tend to be less expensive than big name brands.
  • Buy cheese when it goes on sale. Be sure to check the expiry date first.

Tips for storing cheese

  • For most cheeses, plastic wrap protects it from moisture, odours and mould. Wrap your cheese tightly so it doesn’t dry out.
  • Store your cheeses in the lower shelf of your refrigerator, away from foods with strong odours.
  • Store feta and bocconcini in its brine in the fridge.

Freezing cheese

  • Most firm or hard cheese can be frozen. Divide it into smaller portions first. Wrap the cheese tightly in plastic wrap or aluminium foil and place it in an airtight freezer bag. You can also shred cheese before you freeze it so you can add to pizzas, quesadillas, omelettes, soups and pasta.
  • Do not freeze fresh and soft cheese.
  • Cheese that has been frozen tends to crumble when you slice it. That’s why is best to use in cooking or baking.

Mouldy cheese

  • Soft or fresh cheeses that show signs of mould should be thrown out.
  • For semi-soft, firm, or hard cheese that have started to mould, cut off all the mouldy parts and wrap the rest in a new piece of plastic wrap.
  • Cheese should be thrown out if the rind is dry and yellowed and smells bad.

Tips for using cheese

  • If you like regular fat cheese, choose small amounts of your favourite kind to add flavor to your meals and snacks.
  • Making a cheese tray? Bring out the full flavor of the cheese by taking them out of the fridge 45-60 minutes before serving.

5 things to do with cheese

  • Create cheese and fruit kabobs.
  • Serve cheese as a dessert with fresh fruit and nuts.
  • Pair cheese with cut vegetables for a quick snack.
  • Add semi-soft cheeses to sandwiches and pasta dishes.
  • Grate firm and hard cheeses onto omelettes, crustless quiches, pizza and soups.

Other types of cheese 

  • Cream cheese is a spreadable cheese with little calcium, protein or vitamin B12. It can have a high fat content, so use it in small amounts.
  • Processed cheese is made from a blend of similar cheeses, which have been heated and melted together. It is usually higher in salt. Some examples would be sliced cheese singles and cheese spreads. 
  • Non-dairy cheese: Soy-based and rice-based cheeses are also available. They are typically lactose-free, and lower in protein and fat.

More recipes to try with cheese 

Tuna grilled cheese
Cheesy chicken crunchie quesadilla
Mini pizza sandwiches
Spinach and mushroom lasagna
Breakfast burrito
Broccoli Quinoa Cheddar Bake

Last Update – February 27, 2019

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