Cheese Characteristics and Uses, page 5


Neufchatel - Originated in Normandy France. It is a very soft, spreadable cheese similar to cream cheese. It differs from true cream cheese because it is made from whole milk and not cream. Neufchatel can be molded into many shapes and is traditionally molded in a heart shape. However, in North America it is more commonly found in a brick form (and is found next to the regular cream cheese in the supermarket).

Use instead of cream cheese in almost any recipe. It is also very good on toasted bagels, with or without lox and raw onion.

Panela - The most popular fresh cheeses in Mexico, this cheese is mild, white, and crumbly. Like Queso Blanco, it will not run when heated. It will get soft and creamy but will not lose its shape.

Used in Mexico for many cooked dishes and is commonly crumbled over salads, tacos, chili and burritos.

Parmesan - Hard Italian cheese, with sharp, piquant flavor. A grating cheese.

Used in all types of cooking, especially Italian dishes.

Parmigiano-Reggiano - There are parmesan cheeses made all over the world but there is only one Parmigiano-Reggiano. Although more expensive, this granular textured cheese whose processing method hasn't changed in the last 700 years is usually aged for 2 years. If labeled stravecchio - 3 years or stravecchiones - 4 years. Two reasons why Parmigiano-Reggiano has better taste and consistency; (1) the flavor of the milk which comes from cows whose diets are strictly controlled, and (2) the strict production codes that have kept the cheese making the same for centuries. Only fresh milk, rennet, and salt are allowed in the dairy. However, in 1984 the laws changed to allow the entire years production be branded Parmigiano-Reggiano. Prior to 1984, only the cheese produced between April and November could be labeled such.

Pasteurized Process Cheese - This popular style of cheese encompasses cheeses like white and yellow American and many smoked varieties. Natural cheeses like Cheddar and Swiss are ground or shredded together, and heated in excess of 150 degrees F. through the introduction of very hot steam. Concentrated milk fat and an emulsifying agent are added, along with a preservative and sometimes a natural coloring agent. While hot, it is poured into a mold and allowed to cool. The end result is a smooth, consistent, uniform piece of cheese which has better keeping qualities and does not continue to sharpen like non-pasteurized cheeses.

Pasteurized Process Cheese Food - The difference between pasteurized process cheese and pasteurized process cheese food is that skim milk is added along with other flavorful ingredients like jalapenos, garlic, onion, caraway, or various other spices. Pasteurized Process Cheese Food is lower in fat than regular American Cheese and most natural cheeses.

Pasteurized Process Cheese Spread - A dairy product similar to pasteurized cheese food but higher in moisture to allow it's easy spreadability. These cheese spreads come in many varieties and flavors and are also lower in fat than regular natural cheese.

Pecorino (peh-koh-REE-noh) - From the word pecora which means ewe in Italian, cheeses made from sheep's milk in Italy are called pecorino. Although the majority of pecorino is made in southern Italy, especially Sardinia, the best known pecorino is Pecorino Romano. Genuine Romano is only produced in the province of Rome from November to June. Locatelli is genuine pecorino cheese. Pecorino is straw colored, 36% fat, semi-hard, granular with a smooth rind coated in oil. It comes in a cylindrical shape about 12 inches in diameter, 16 inches tall and although a little sharper than Parmesan, it is often substituted when used in cooking. It has an intensely strong sheepy quality to it. It is to southern Italy what Parmigiano-Reggiano is to the north. Look for the sheep's head logo with Pecorino Romano embossed on the rind to make sure you are getting the real stuff.

Grated on pasta dishes.

Pepper Jack - A Monterey jack cheese which has had jalapeno peppers blended in. It has a mild creamy texture, yet the peppers add a delicious spicy flavor.

Can be eaten as a snack or it can be a marvelous addition to any recipe.

Port du Salut (por du sa lu') - Semi-soft, smooth and buttery. Mellow to robust flavor between Cheddar and Limburger.

Dessert cheese; delicious with fresh fruit. Great with apple pie. Good on a snack tray.

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