What Makes a Cheese a Hard Cheese?

What Makes a Cheese a Hard Cheese?

Have you ever given a good long hard thought into what makes some cheeses soft and others hard? In this article we are going to take a deep dive into hard cheeses and review what makes a cheese a hard cheese and look further into some of the different types of hard cheeses that are most popular.

Hard vs. Soft Cheese – What is the Difference?

We love cheese! With so many different options and varieties, everyone is sure to find at least one type and flavor that they can get into. While some people tend to avoid hard or soft cheese due to their texture, that is what draws other people to them. So, what makes a cheese hard or soft?

While probably obvious, the main difference between hard and soft cheeses is the consistency, which is determined by the moisture content of the cheese. The higher the moisture content, the softer the cheese will be. Hard cheeses tend to be more crumbly than their softer counterparts. What makes them that way and makes a cheese a hard cheese? Let’s get to it.

What Makes a Cheese a Hard Cheese?

As we said above, a hard cheese, is, well, hard. To be classified as a hard cheese, the moisture content needs to be lower than 50%. Removing the moisture is achieved by allowing the cheese to age. Hard cheeses can be aged anywhere from a week to a few months, or even years (some for decades).

The curds for hard cheeses are processed in a variety of ways to expel even more moisture. That includes cutting a large mass of curd into smaller ones, which causes liquid whey to leak out; heating the curd, which makes the cheese contract and expel its whey; pressing the curd into wheels or blocks; or salting the curd with salt crystals or a brine, which uses osmotic pressure to draw moisture out of the cheese (serious eats).

Hard cheeses typically have a strong taste and aroma, and are crumbly due to their dryness.

What are Some Popular Types of Hard Cheese?

When it comes to hard cheese, they are not hard to find (see what we did there?). Hard cheeses, combined with soft cheeses, and other varieties, can help you make a charcuterie board with a lot of variety. What are some of the most popular types of hard cheese?

  • Aged Cheddar: Let’s start with the obvious, aged cheddar is considered a hard cheese. While some cheddar can be soft or semi-soft, cheddar that is aged is typically hard and crumbly with a distinct taste profile. If you see cave aged, English, or just simply aged cheddar, it is likely to be a hard cheese.
  • Parmesan Reggiano: Parmesan has a hard, pale-golden rind and sharp flavor. Although it is made in Argentina, Australia, and the United States, Italy’s Parmigiano Reggiano is typically aged longer, for at least two years, and has a complex flavor and granular texture. No matter where it’s from, Parmesan is often served freshly grated due to its hard texture.
  • Gruyère: Gruyere cheese gets its name from Gruyères, Switzerland, where the cheese was first made. It is typically made using cow’s milk that has been cured and aged for six to twelve months. It has holes similar to Swiss; however, they are much smaller. These holes are produced during the fermentation process as gas bubbles are created within the cheese. This cheese has a salty, earthy, and nutty flavor and is typically a rather firm cheese.
  • Asiago: Depending on the length of aging, Asiago can be considered semi-firm to hard. This cheese is similar in taste to Parmesan, and has a subtle nutty aroma and a rich piquant taste. Older and more aged Asiago cheese loses more moisture, making it harder and causing the sweetness to become less pronounced. This makes its flavor is more savory, sharp, and tangy.

While there are many other hard cheeses, we will stop there, because our mouths are watering. When it comes to what makes a cheese a hard cheese, it basically comes down to age and moisture content. Hard cheeses, typically have a stronger taste than soft cheeses; however, a cheese’s taste profile depends on the person eating it.

At Fire Star Pickles & Sausages we have a variety of cheese options for you to choose from. From soft to hard, to smoky and spicy, we are sure to have what you need. Our large flavor variety ensures that whatever your taste buds are craving, we can supply it, right to your door. Browse our store today.