Sharp Cheese - Cheese Guide

June 12, 2019 | By Dave Mattingly

Sharp cheese is cheese that has developed a full, mature and concentrated flavor. Sharp Cheese has a distinct bite and a stronger, more complex flavor than milder cheeses. Although there are no USDA rulings in place to allow or prohibit using the phrase "Sharp Cheese" on a label, a cheese is usually called a Sharp Cheese if it has been aged for a minimum of six to nine months, while Extra Sharp Cheeses are cheeses that have been aged for a minimum of twelve to fifteen months.

The sharper the cheese, the more intense the flavor. Also, as a cheese becomes sharp, its texture becomes firmer. In some Extra Sharp Cheeses, the texture becomes crumbly and grainy. As a cheese matures, bacteria produce enzymes that break down fats and proteins producing the rich, almost beefy, sharp flavors. Other factors including the starter culture, salt and moisture in the cheese contribute to a Sharp Cheese flavor that intensifies as the cheese ages. Many cheese makers will say that producing Sharp Cheese is not an exact science, as variations in location, milk source, equipment and other conditions produce a somewhat different sharpness cheese.

Types of Sharp Cheese

Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Sharp Cheddar is a classic Sharp Cheese that never goes out of style. Originating in Somerset, England, Cheddar Cheese is typically a firm, pungent, sharp cheese. Some Cheddars may be aged 2 years (Kerrygold Aged Cheddar), 4 years (Super Sharp Vintage Quebec Cheddar) or even 10 years (Widmers 10 Year Reserve Cheddar). Vintage Sharp Cheddars develop intense flavors, a crumbly texture and a long finish on the palate. Sharp Cheddars pair well with fresh fruits, such as apple and grapes, and impart a rich flavor when shredded and melted into dishes, such as pasta or omelets.

Sharp Blue Cheese
Known for its distinctive strong flavor and aroma, the sharpness in Sharp Blue Cheese is attributable to penicillium roqueforti, or blue mould spores. Sharp Blue Cheese is exceptional when crumbled into salad dressings, soups or salads. Perfect as a table cheese, or when paired with fresh fruit, Blue Cheese is a Sharp Cheese that adds a distinctive bite to your favorite dish.

Extra Aged Gouda
Matured for eighteen months, Beemster Classic Extra Aged Gouda is a rare Dutch cheese specialty. Characterized by its creamy caramel color, and intense sweet flavor, Beemster Classic Extra Aged Gouda is an excellent addition to any course, when paired with fresh fruit, crusty bread, or grated into dishes such as pasta or steamed vegetables.

Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Pecorino Romano and other Parmesan Types
Hard grating cheeses from Italy are types of Sharp Cheese that have a dry texture and grainy protein crystals throughout. While these Sharp Italian Cheese are most often used as a grating cheese over such as dishes as pasta, vegetables, rice or salads, they are also delicious when sliced thinly and served with fresh fruits or fruit spreads.

Sharp Provolone Cheese
Provolone Piccante, meaning Sharp Provolone, is a spicy aged Italian cheese. Similar to Mozzarela, Provolone hails from the Pasta Filata, or stretched curd, family of cheeses. Perfect in sandwiches or antipastos, Provolone Piccante may also be used in cooking or melted or grated onto dishes.

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