Hard cheese takes longer

What exactly is hard cheese? Find out everything about this popular type of cheese!

What is hard cheese?

The hard cheese group is defined by a water content of 56% or less of the non-fatty matter. The cheese turns hard as a result and is therefore made of a firm to very firm cheese that is usually distinguished by a very rich flavour. By contrast, soft cheese has a water content of more than 67% of the non-fatty matter. With most hard cheese the fat content is roughly 45% fat in dry matter. Parmesan on the other hand is an exception with a fat content of 32% in dry matter. Hard cheese normally matures over several weeks. There are many types though that even mature up to three years. Emmental has to mature for at least two months. The longer it matures, the richer the flavour.

How hard cheese is made

The dairy makes hard cheese from pasteurised cow’s milk. This cheese is made exclusively in Germany in accordance with the cheese regulation (KäseV) in the “full-fat” stage (at least 45% fat in dry matter). A special enzyme is used to be able to make cheese. The rennet ensures that the milk thickens. When the milk thickens, all the milk’s ingredients are preserved to start with. The thickened milk, called coagulum or curd, then settles. After some time, the curd reaches just the right firmness.

Once it has reached the ideal firmness, the whey can be separated from the mass. The whey is expelled as soon as the cheese harp cuts up the mass for the cheese into small pieces. The smaller the cheese harp cuts the cheese curd the firmer the cheese will be later. Hard cheese curds can be similar in size to a grain of wheat. With soft cheese, the pieces of curd are much bigger and more like a walnut. Some of the whey can be sucked off before filling the curd. The majority of the whey is only drained though when the curd or whey mixture is filled into the mould. Hard cheese is soaked in brine before maturing. The brine preserves the cheese and ensures that a rind forms. The cheese then matures for months.

How is hard cheese best eaten?

Hard cheese is extremely popular in slices or wafer-thin slices on sandwiches. But also grated to refine dishes. With its strong flavour it is a permanent fixture on a cheese platter and is also ideal for refining salads. This cheese is also being used more and more in cooking. It is ideal on top of oven-baked vegetable or pasta dishes. The hard cheese melts quicker if grated. It is also being used more and more in sauces though, a home-made cheese sauce can refine meat dishes. Naturally, it can also be used as a filling for classic cordon bleu or as an oven-baked topping on steaks. Soups can be thickened up using hard cheese, which also gives it a rich flavour. However, the soup should not be too hot. Hard cheese is also excellent as finger food, the classic “cheese cubes and grapes” is really quick to make. However, the cheese can also be cut into squares or triangles to pep up one or two starter buffets.

Typical hard cheese

Emmental is probably the most well-known and popular hard cheese. But Parmesan, Appenzeller, Grana Padano and Cheddar are also well-known types of hard cheese. There is also an extra hard cheese in Switzerland, which takes even longer to mature. As this cheese has a low water content, it has a longer shelf life than other types of cheeses if stored correctly. By the way, you should always let hard cheese acclimatise before eating it: take the cheese out of the fridge about half an hour beforehand to let its flavour develop.