Looking for a primer on cheese.
January 29, 2012 9:21 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a primer on cheese.

The book How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman has fantastic guides to each category of ingredients (e.g. spices, herbs, vegetables, fruits, meats, grains, seafood, oils, etc).

For example, the section on vegetables gives a short list of which essential vegetables you should always have on hand, and then for each vegetable talks about how to buy it, store it, prepare it, what dishes to use it in, and what you can substitute for it.

Unfortunately, there is no equivalent section for cheese. Where can I find such a primer on cheese?
posted by lunchbox to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins has served me well. It should be pretty cheap in paperback.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 9:32 PM on January 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

posted by rhizome at 11:13 PM on January 29, 2012

Chow cheese tips
posted by leigh1 at 4:09 AM on January 30, 2012

As a budding cheese nerd, I found Jenkins' cheese primer to be helpful... but primarily for the basics, and it was definitely not as much fun as actually going to a good cheese shop (or specialty store with a good cheese selection) and talking to people there. Maybe I've just had good luck, but almost everybody I've run into in such places has been knowledgeable and really enthusiastic about talking cheese and offering samples, especially with artisanal and local stuff that you wouldn't be able to read about otherwise.

I also enjoy leafing through Culture when I can find it, and the website seems like it might be helpful as well if you don't mind non-book sources of information.
posted by daikaisho at 4:14 AM on January 30, 2012

The bibliography for Ricki Carroll's "Home Cheese Making" includes Paula Lambert's "The Cheese Lover's Cookbook and Guide: Over 150 Recipes with Instructions on How to Buy, Store, and Serve All Your Favorite Cheeses". Table of contents here.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:21 AM on January 30, 2012

This is more helpful for science-y background info than for pairing tips and the like, but On Food and Cooking's chapter about dairy products is seriously mindblowing. It begins with a section on the evolution of mammals, for christ's sake! And the cheese section alone has the following subheadings:

The Evolution of Cheese
The Ingredients Of Cheese
Making Cheese
The Sources of Cheese Diversity
Choosing, Storing, and Serving Cheese
Cooking With Cheese
Process and Low-fat Cheeses
Cheese and Health
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:39 AM on January 30, 2012

I'm currently reading the Harold McGee mentioned above and although it has some general information on cheeses it doesn't really go into detail about particular cheeses very much. ie whats the difference between say a Comte and and a L'Etivaz.

The Larousse Gastronomique has a moderate amount of information on cheeses in general and also many well known European cheeses have their own entry of varying detail:

for Example under T, Taleggio: A DOP Italian Cow's Milk cheese (48% Fat Content) pressed, uncooked and white or creamy yellow, it has a soft texture and a washed thin pink rind. The fruity taste us accompanied by a pronounced smell. Originally from Tallegio (a provence of Bergamo) it is know made througout Lombardy and is sold as slabs 20 cm square by 5 cm think in silver paper. It is best between June and November.

There are longer sections for things like Cheddar, Gruyere etc.
posted by mary8nne at 7:05 AM on January 30, 2012

The "Murray's Cheese Handbook" is actually a pretty good guide to individual, known cheeses, if you're looking for more info on types and flavors.
posted by amanda at 7:26 AM on January 30, 2012

I think Jenkins' Cheese Primer is out of date. I say this as someone who was a cheesemonger when it was released. You might not think that a cheese guide would go out of date - I mean, many cheeses are decades or centuries old - but there's been tremendous growth just in American artisan cheese scene since 1996, and there are tons of things that have changed in terms of the increasing availability of cheeses from Europe.

I'd suggest instead Max McCalman's Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a MaƮtre Fromager. It covers history, cheesemaking, milks, categories, appreciation, choosing, storage, assembling plates, pairings, and then 100+ pages of cheeses of the world, including a lot of beautiful (and useful) photographs along the way. He has two previous books which are also excellent, but this one is, I think, has the best set of general information, especially for someone just getting their feet wet.
posted by jocelmeow at 3:43 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

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