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Cheeses made from cow's milk are familiar products in any grocery store dairy section. Yet far from flavorless, industrial products, cow’s milk cheeses provide a wealth of flavor and variety for the selective palate. While some cheeses made from cow's milk may seem commonplace or ordinary, artisan and varietal versions allow a world of tasting options for any cheese lover.
Cheddar cheese is one of the most easily found varieties of cheeses made from cow's milk in the world. This tangy yellow or orange cheese is believed to have a long history, with some experts speculating that production began around the 12th century in a small English town called Cheddar. Cheddar is a versatile cheese that can be eaten young or matured for several years, altering the taste from mild to quite sharp with time. No longer produced solely in England, cheddar-style cheese is made in many countries, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
One of the most famous cheeses made from cow's milk is a New World invention: Monterey Jack. This semi-soft cheese boasts a mild tang and is often used in cold or grilled sandwiches. The origins of Monterey Jack are murky, with several prominent Californians laying claim to its invention. Regardless of the truth behind its creation, cheese lovers are blessed with the result: a smooth, creamy and delicious cheese, easy to blend with other flavors. Popular varieties include pepper jack, which contains pieces of jalapeños and other hot peppers, and Colby-Jack, which blends traditional Jack cheese with mild Wisconsin Colby.
Cotija cheese is a Mexican specialty that is gaining in popularity in the United States. Dry and crumbly, Cotija is noted for its ability to soften, rather than melt, when heated. For this reason, it is more typically uses as a garnishing cheese for salads and soups rather than in more traditional Mexican dishes such as quesadillas. Cotija is quite salty in flavor, and is often compared to feta for both texture and taste.
If you enjoy strong flavors, cheeses made from cow’s milk will never disappoint. Many varieties of blue cheese are made primarily from cow’s milk, including Gorgonzola, Shropshire blue, and Danablu or Danish blue cheese. Overall, blue cheeses gain incredible flavor both from enzymes introduced during the aging process and long maturation periods. Pair blue cheeses made from cow’s milk with wine, port and grapes for delicious cheese tastings or hearty picnic fare.
The world of cheese is a constant adventure for any food lover, offering new flavors and twists on classic recipes sometimes hundreds of years old. Although it is easy to get wrapped up in the new fads and flavors, cheeses made from cow's milk should not be overlooked. Even if you are delighted by the latest moose-milk flavored cheese, don’t forget the pleasures of a simple grilled cheddar cheese sandwich, or the delightful bite of an aged blue cheese with wine.