There are many different styles of cheese , each one with a different flavour and texture profile, as well as made in very different ways. In this article, we look at the category of hard cheese; what is a hard cheese, including its characteristics and some examples.
What is Hard Cheese?
Hard cheese is aged for a longer period, between 6 and 36 months. It is known for its lack of moisture, and therefore to have a dry, crumbly texture. Hard cheese has a strong, sharp, intense flavour. A common example of hard cheese is Parmigiano Reggiano (also known as parmesan).
Hard Cheese Texture:
The texture of hard cheese is very dry and firm. It can also be gritty and granular. The texture of hard cheese means it is perfect for crumbling and grating into dishes such as pasta or soups. Best enjoyed in smaller quantities so that the rich intense flavour is not too overpowering.
Hard cheeses often develop white calcium lactate crystallisations, these provide a salt-like texture. The crystallisations develop during the maturation process, therefore a well-matured cheese will have more crystallisations. They are also a sign that good quality milk has been used to produce the cheese.
Hard Cheese Flavour:
The cheese will be less creamy the longer it is aged. Hard cheeses are nutty and fruity in flavour. They have a lingering tang on the finish, therefore they can be strong and intense in flavour. Use hard cheeses in moderation in dishes so as not to overpower any other ingredients.
Alternatively, use hard cheeses on a cheese board with a variety of fruit accompaniments to balance out the flavours.
How are Hard Cheeses Made?
Finely cut curds are cooked at high temperatures of around 55℃, this ensures that as much whey (moisture) is removed as possible. This allows the cheese to dry out, and more moisture can be expelled during the maturation process. Next, it is brined or waxed to create a hard rind once it has finished maturing.
A classic example of hard cheese is Parmigiano Reggiano. You can read more here as well as other similar hard cheeses.