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Styles of Cheese: Semi-hard

Fresh Cheeses Soft-ripened Cheeses Semi-hard Cheeses Washed Rind Cheeses
Semi-soft Cheeses Surface-ripened Cheeses Hard (Aged) Cheeses Blue Cheeses

Semi-hard Cheeses

As the name of this category of cheeses implies, these are cheeses that tend to be firmer, sometimes a little crumbly, and usually good melting cheeses. Their flavor characteristics vary, but in general, I find this category of cheeses to have the greatest complexity and balance (if made well). What do I mean? I mean that these cheeses typically have a nice balance of earthiness, a little sweetness, a good but not overwhelming amount of salt, and sometimes buttery and nutty flavors too.

Key Flavor and Aroma Characteristics

Buttery
Caramelized
Chewy
Earthy
Fruity
Gamy
Meaty
Mineral
Nutty
Sharp

Common Semi-hard Cheeses:

Asiago (some)
Baby Swiss
Blue cheese (some)
Cantal
Cheddar (most)
Colby (some)
Crowley (some)
Emmentaler
Fontina (some)
Garrotxa
Gouda (some)
Gruyère
Kasseri
Menonita (Mexican cheese)
Monterey Jack
Ossau-Iraty
Pecorino Toscana
Swiss
Toma
Many specialty sheep, cow, and goat cheeses

What to look for when buying semi-hard cheeses:

Semi-hard cheeses are among the easiest to find in excellent shape because they generally last quite a long time. Their rate of spoilage is slower and their resulting shelf life is longer. When buying these cheeses, you want ones that have smooth, solid textures and don't appear grainy. They should look relatively dry - though not dried out - compared with semi-soft cheeses, which have a somewhat slick and creamy appearance. If the cheese has a rind, make sure it doesn't have lots of cracks, dry spots, or mold on it, and try to buy a piece cut to order rather than one that has already been cut and wrapped.

The aroma of semi-hard cheeses will vary, but rarely is it very strong in a pungent sense. This is because the relative lack of moisture in these cheeses tends to equate to comparatively mild aromas. This does not mean, however, that the cheeses lack character and personality. Quite the contrary. The semi-hard cheese family includes some of the most sublime, memorable intriguing cheeses of all. .