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Being the opposite to its fresh version, Aged Cheese undergoes a special process of ripening that takes from a couple of weeks to several years. The large variety of Aged Cheeses includes longest-aged sorts with Gruyere Cheese, aged White Cheddar, Gouda, Manchego, different types of Parmesan among them, as well as many others with shorter aging period.
As the cheese ages, it becomes harder. So, the obvious question is: what is hard cheese then? Usually the ripening period of hard cheeses is years instead of weeks or months. They are packed into molds under more pressure and contain less moisture than softer sorts. Hard ones are firm enough to grate. It has dry grainy texture and intense flavor. From an aged cheese list you can get an idea of its hardness, looking at the aging period referred to the certain type.
However, what is aged cheese? It is characterized not only by its maturation time, but also by the conditions of the environment it is cured in, like a cave or a cellar. Cave aged cheeses can be considered the very first and the most original and traditional types of cheese. Hundreds of years ago, when there was no refrigeration, humid and cool caves were ideal places to stop the product drying out during its ripening period. Today it ripens in man-made caves with temperature and humidity control. Most cave-aged producers place their cheese farms close to the caves, so that the buyers know for sure where to buy Gruyere Cheese or Farmhouse Cheddar, or other traditionally cave aged cheeses.
Although each type of cheese has its appointed average curing period, the history of cheese knows many unique cases of cheese “over-aging” but still being edible. 40-year-old Cheddar found recently in an old manufacturer in Oconto, Wisconsin, is thought to be the oldest aged Cheddar Cheese ever.
The oldest aged cheese in the world sat for more that 3,600 years. It was discovered by German researchers on a mummy buried in a sand dune in China’s Taklamakan Desert.
Various types of aged cheese differ in their textures, colors, flavors and tastes, which in turn depend on the conditions it is cured in. The humidity of the storing surroundings influences the texture. Color, flavor and taste are determined by the type of bacteria used. For example, a full, earthy flavor of aged Brick Cheese, with the touch of nuttiness, is developed by two special kinds of bacteria. As it matures, it becomes more pungent and tangy.
Sophisticated make processes and efficient technologies to produce best Aged Cheese are clear testaments of nutritional ingenuity. The history of confirms the natural uniqueness and significant place of this dairy product in people’s diet within many centuries.
If you are going to buy aged cheese and want to be sure of its real age and quality, you should remember about the difference between aged cheese and old cheese. The latter will look over-dried, discolored and fatigued, usually it has a cracked rind.