From France to Italy, let’s travel the world in 8 cheeses
Published on 29 Apr 2019
When you travel the world, you’re able to experience different cultures on every level. From admiring towering skyscrapers to exploring ancient ruins, we can truly get under the skin of a culture in its full history when travelling. This doesn’t just apply to monolithic statues and modernistic experiences, though. Even the simplest of foods we eat vary and change depending on our location.
Cheese is different all around the world and with so many different production techniques, flavours and uses, it’s a really exciting thing to experience on your travels. Last year, we travelled the world in 8 wines, and now we’re going to travel it in 8 cheeses. So from Mexico to Japan, we’ll find some of the best cheese to sample around the globe:
Halloumi is a cheese from Cyrpus traditionally made from sheep and goat’s milk and now commonly also made with cow’s milk. It’s got a strong, notable flavour thanks to this mixture and is an incredibly salty cheese. As well as its flavour, its texture is what gives it its character, with a high melting point it’s often grilled before being served.
Christina from Afrodite’s Kitchen told us, “What most draws me into Cypriot cuisine is the incredible variety of flavours in everyday eating. Locally grown vegetables under the Mediterranean sun make even the simplest salad taste like an experience. Bakeries on every corner mean that you’re always only moments away from some of the best-tasting locally-made bread, pastries and sweets.
“Halloumi is an incredibly tasty, locally produced cheese enjoyed in Cyprus. It is traditionally made with sheep’s and goat’s milk. Visiting Cyprus means one has the opportunity to experience some of the best halloumi made in the world. The local sheep and goat milk used in the production of halloumi gives it a special taste rarely found outside of Cyprus. From warm, freshly-made halloumi in the small villages to aged halloumi, there are many different watts to enjoy it.”
Eat Halloumi with: “I would recommend trying warm, freshly made Halloumi,” said Christina. “Fresh Halloumi is soft, salty and almost creamy in texture and a touch of mint is often used to season it at the end. I would also recommend ordering grilled Halloumi in any Cypriot restaurant, it is fantastic as part of a mezze. Some restaurants even serve it with a bit of honey and sesame seeds - and that is an unforgettable flavour combination!”
A rich blue cheese with an iconic look, Roquefort originates in the south of France and is one of the world’s best-known blue cheeses. The blue mould in the cheese was originally found in the soil of local caves and transferred to the cheese farm by local farmers.
Meg from Everyday French Chef told us why she loves French cuisine, “I fell in love with French cuisine because it’s the real thing - creative cooking using the best ingredients, based on a rich culinary heritage rooted in the land.
“Roquefort cheese, which is made from sheep’s milk, emerged from that heritage. To bear the Roquefort label, the cheese must be aged in the Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, a designated area in Southwest France that covers only 150 acres. No one visiting France should pass up a chance to try Roquefort. It is distinct from other blue cheeses in that it is both tangy and rich - maybe this is why it is known in France as the king of cheese.”
Eat Roquefort with: “Roquefort marries well with sweet white wines like Sauternes or Monbazillac,” Meg told us. “It can be enjoyed with fruit alongside, for example, pear slices, grapes or fresh figs. It can be crumbled over a salad, served warm on country bread or tasted in small cubes as an aperitif. It makes a super souffle and an unforgettable omelette. Or just try it on its own. Fabulous!”
Paneer is a lightly flavoured cheese that is incredibly popular in India. Like queso fresco, it’s a simple cheese to make which goes a long way towards its popularity. India is a country that has a lot of vegetarian and vegan food in its cuisine and paneer is often a staple ingredient of meat-free dishes. Paneer has a light flavour which is highly influenced by what it’s served with, and its creamy consistency brings a unique texture to dishes.
Eat paneer with: Try Paneer in a curry as a meat replacement with a creamy twist.
Mozzarella is a very popular cheese all over the world thanks to its low melting point and light, creamy flavour - it’s a favourite on pizzas and salads alike! Traditionally, it’s made from buffalo’s milk in Southern Italy, although you can now buy mozzarella all over the world, it truly is something that must be tried at home. The freshness of flavour in this cheese makes it light, fluffy and subtle.
Paola from The Tiny Italian told us why she loves Italian cuisine so much, “My love for Italian cuisine is mainly drawn from my Italian heritage. My father is from Puglia, the south-eastern region of Italy. I have spent every single summer out there enjoying the warm weather, visiting family and, of course, sampling the amazing food which is freshly cooked every day with local ingredients. Lots of veggies, pasta and fresh seafood. I was also lucky to grow up helping run the family Italian delicatessen, which meant I was brought up surrounded by the best in Italian food. Pasta, charcuterie, cheeses, sausages, olive oil, wine and a whole lot of Italian yumminess. You name it, we used to sell it.
“Mozzarella is probably Italy’s most popular cheese outside of the country. It’s originally from the south of Italy and made with either buffalo or cow’s milk. A white, soft, milky ball of fresh cheese that is enjoyed best a few hours after it’s been made. So, if you’re in the south of Italy and close to somewhere that produces it, then here is your moment to eat mozzarella at its very best.”
Eat mozzarella with: “My favourite way to eat mozzarella is a simple one, but so delicious,” explained Paola. “A simple Caprese salad. Rough chunks of mozzarella served with sliced juicy tomatoes with a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil leaves and seasoned with salt. Then you can mop up the olive oil and the milk juices with some crusty bread. Absolute heaven!”
Probably the most obscure cheese type on the list, if you can find Sakura cheese whilst in Japan, it’s well worth a try. Flavoured using cherry blossoms and topped with a cherry bloom, this cheese has a similar consistency and flavour to camembert, but with a light, floral undertone. It’s completely unique to the area and is certainly a great thing to say you’ve tried it.
Eat Sakura cheese with: Eat it by itself so you can taste the fragrant intricacies of flavour.
From Mexico, queso fresco is a light, crumbly cheese that is especially perfect for the hot summer months. Meaning ‘fresh cheese’ in Mexican, queso fresco is often regarded as one of the easiest cheeses in the world to make. Its simplistic production means that the flavour is bright and fresh, which makes it perfect for adding to heavily-spiced dishes or sprinkling over salads.
Eat queso fresco with: Top tacos with queso fresco to add flavour and texture or sprinkle over corn on the cob with lime and butter, known as elote.
If you were to imagine a slice of cheese, you’d likely imagine something similar to Jarlsberg. Famous for its iconic holey texture and full of a mild but nutty flavour, Jarlsberg is one of Norway’s most popular products. Thanks to the fact it has a low melting point, Jarlsberg is commonly used in fondues or melted in dishes.
We chatted to David from Life in Norway, “Traditional Norwegian cuisine harks back to the days when Norway was primarily a fishing and farming country without such fancy modern technology as refrigeration. For this reason, salt-dried or air-dried cod was a staple of the diet and remains so to this day. Fish caught and dried in the Lofoten Islands in the far north of Norway is eaten throughout the country and exported all over the world. It’s especially popular in Portugal and Italy.
“Jarlsberg is one of the few Norwegian brands that has become world famous. The firm, buttery texture and mild, nutty flavour mean Jarlsberg can be eaten at any time of day, as part of a meal, in cooking or just as a snack. You’ll almost certainly find Jarlsberg on a hotel breakfast buffet. Typically, it’s served as a large square block and you’ll need to use the great Norwegian invention - the cheese slicer - to carve off your own slither. Simply pop it on a piece of bread or a crispbread and enjoy it along with a black filter coffee. The perfect start to the day!”
Eat Jarslberg with: David recommends, “Grate some Jarlsberg in your omelette and let some of the bits stick to the pan and caramelise. That’s yum!”
Although generally associated with Canada, cheese curds actually originate in Wisconsin, America. A by-product of the cheese production process, cheese curds are usually made from cheddar cheese but are popular thanks to their unique texture. Their rubbery consistency gives them a distinctive squeak, so they are known informally as squeaky cheese.
Eat cheese curds with: Eat fresh from a cheese factory or atop poutine in Canada.