Fresh Cheeses

Fresh Cheeses

Most fresh cheese is made by curdling milk with an enzyme, and then draining off the whey. The curds that remain are molded into cheese.


Fresh cheeses tend to be bland, so they're often used as vehicles for other flavorings. Some, like cream cheese, are used to make dips or cheesecakes. Others, like ricotta cheese, are used as fillings for dumplings, pasta, crepes, or pastries. Still others, like cottage cheese, can be a meal all by themselves once they're perked up with herbs, fruit, or other flavorings.


Fresh cheeses have a higher moisture content and are usually lower in fat and sodium than other cheeses. Most are highly perishable, so check the expiration date when you buy them and keep them tightly wrapped or covered in the refrigerator. Moist fresh cheeses like cottage cheese and ricotta should be eaten within a week of purchase; firmer cheeses like cream cheese and farmer's cheese can usually be stored for about two weeks.


Don't eat fresh cheese if mold appears on it.


Most fresh cheeses are made with cow's milk. Cheeses made with sheep's milk have more butterfat, which make them richer and creamier. Cheeses made with goat's milk tend to have a tangy, earthy, and sometimes barnyard flavor.


Varieties:

Alouette
This is one of several spreadable cheeses that combine cream cheese with various flavorings, like herbs, garlic, pesto, and sun-dried tomatoes. You can set them out with crackers for guests, but your gourmet friends probably won't indulge.
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Boursin
Boursin
This creamy cheese from France is usually flavored with herbs, garlic or coarse ground pepper. It's mild and delicate, and goes well with fresh bread and dry white wine. Boursin is considered better than some other flavored spreadable cheeses, like Alouette or Rondelé, but none of these cheeses are well regarded by gourmets. Store Boursin in the refrigerator but bring it to room temperature before serving. Eat it within a few days of purchase.
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buttermilk cheese
buttermilk cheese
You won't find this tangy, creamy cheese in supermarkets, but it's easy to make at home. To make your own: Line a colander with several folds of cheesecloth or a kitchen towel. Pour buttermilk into the cloth, then put the colander into a larger container and let it drain overnight in the refrigerator until it's reduced to a cheeselike consistency.
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Caprini
This is an excellent Italian fresh cheese that's hard to find in the U.S.
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cottage cheese, smierkase
cottage cheese
This simple, mild cheese was traditionally produced in Europe's "cottages" from the milk left over from butter making. It's versatile, easy to digest, and a good source of protein. It's sold with either large or small curds, and with fruit or chives sometimes added. Use it within a few days after purchasing and discard if mold appears. It's best served chilled.
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cream cheese, queso crema, white cheese
cream cheese
An American favorite, cream cheese is a terrific spread for bagels and nut breads and a key ingredient in cheesecake and other desserts. It comes in low-fat and nonfat versions; these work well as spreads but compromise the flavor and texture of cheesecakes. Cream cheese made without stabilizers is also disappointing in cheesecakes, though it makes for a more acidic and flavorful spread. Store in the refrigerator. Unopened foil-wrapped commercial cream cheese is good for about a month after the "Best when used by" date on the carton. Once opened, you should use it within 10 days. Throw it out if mold appears.
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farmer cheese, baker's cheese, farm cheese, farmer's cheese, hoop cheese
farmer cheese
This mildly acidic fresh cheese is made by pressing much of the moisture out of cottage cheese. Some varieties resemble a very dry, crumbly cottage cheese, while others have can be sliced. It's primarily used for cooking.
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fresh Hispanic cheese, fresh Hispanic-style cheese, fresh Mexican cheese
fresh Hispanic cheese
Hispanic cooks like their cheese bland and salty, the better to complement their spicy sauces. They also want cheese to hold its shape when heated. Monterey jack, the standard substitute for Hispanic cheeses, tends to ooze out of chiles rellenos and enchiladas when baked. Authentic recipes call for panela or queso blanco, which soften but don't melt when heated. Hispanic fresh cheeses often keep better than other fresh cheeses--some can be stored for months in the refrigerator. Varieties: Best for topping casseroles or bean dishes: queso fresco. Best for fried cheese recipes: queso para freir, queso blanco, queso panela. Best for filling casserole dishes like enchiladas: queso panela, queso blanco. Best for salads: queso panela. Best for tacos and burritos: queso panela. Best for refried beans: queso panela.
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fromage blanc
fromage blanc
This usually has the consistency of thick yogurt. It's expensive and hard to find, but very tasty and relatively low in fat. It makes a great topping for desserts.
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fromage frais
fromage frais
This is the French term for "fresh cheese." This category includes fromage blanc, Petit-Suisse, and chevre frais.
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gervais
Use within a few days after purchasing. For best flavor, serve at room temperature.
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goat cheese (fresh), chevre frais, chèvre frais, fromage de chèvre frais
goat cheese (fresh)
Don't confuse this mild fresh cheese with aged goat cheese, which is less common and more flavorful. Fresh goat cheese is like fromage blanc, only made with goat's milk. There are several varieties, including Montrachet and cabecou, which is soaked in brandy. Goat cheese is usually vacuum-packed, though many connoisseurs seek out the more perishable but tastier paper-wrapped cheeses at specialty shops.
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mascarpone, Italian cream cheese, mascherpone
mascarpone
A key ingredient in tiramisu and zabaglione, mascarpone is velvety soft, slightly acidic, and expensive. Although Italian in origin, the name is said to come from the Spanish mas que bueno, "better than good." It's usually sold in tubs. Use it soon after you purchase it since it's highly perishable.
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Mizithra cheese (soft), myzithra
Mizithra cheese (soft)
Don't confuse this with aged Mizithra, which is a hard grating cheese. This can be made from sheep’s milk, goat’s milk or both.
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Neufchatel, Neufchâtel
Neufchatel
Neufchâtel is very similar in taste and appearance to cream cheese, but it's made from milk instead of cream so it contains less fat and more moisture. Cheesecakes made with it cook more quickly and are more prone to cracking. Use it within a few days after purchasing, and throw it out if mold appears. For best results, serve chilled.
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paneer cheese, Indian curd cheese, panir cheese
paneer cheese
Indians like to serve this bland fresh cheese with spinach or peas. Use within a few days.
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Petit-Suisse, Petit Suisse
Petit-Suisse
You can buy small six-packs of this rich fresh cheese all over France, but they're hard to find in the U.S. Gervais is a popular brand.
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quark, curd-cheese, quarg, quark-curd, topfen
quark
This versatile fresh cheese resembles soft cream cheese. Germans (who call is quark) and Austrians (who call it topfen) use it to make everything from cheesecake to gravy.
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queso blanco
This popular Hispanic fresh cheese is often added to casserole or bean dishes, since it holds its shape well when when heated. It's a good cheese for frying or grilling, though queso para freir is a better choice if you can find it. It is usually made with cow’s milk or a combination of cow and goat’s milk.
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queso fresco, queso de metate
queso fresco
Mexican cooks like to crumble this mild grainy cheese onto soups, salads, casseroles, and bean dishes. It softens but doesn't melt when heated. It is usually made with cow’s milk or a combination of cow and goat’s milk.
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queso panela, panela, queso de canasta
queso panela
This popular Mexican cheese is mild and crumbly, and it doesn't lose its shape when heated. It's often mixed into bean dishes or casserole fillings or crumbled over salads and tacos. It can be fried, though queso para freir or queso blanco hold their shapes better. Queso panela is sometimes served with tropical fruit as a snack or appetizer.
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queso para freir
This fresh Hispanic cheese is salty and crumbly. It's terrific for making the Caribbean specialty queso frito (fried cheese) since it holds its shape when when heated.
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Requeson cheese
This fresh Hispanic cheese resembles ricotta cheese, and is used to make dips and desserts.
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ricotta cheese
ricotta cheese
This Italian fresh cheese is made from the watery whey that's drained off in the production of mozzarella, provolone, and other cheeses. Ricotta cheese is sweeter and smoother than cottage cheese, and it's much richer in calcium. You can eat it straight from the tub with fresh fruit, but it's more commonly used as an ingredient in pasta dishes and desserts. Italian ricotta cheeses are made exclusively with whey, while American versions add milk as a stretcher. Low-fat versions are available, and they work quite well in cheesecakes. Use the cheese within a few days after purchasing, and throw it out if mold appears or if it tastes too acidic.
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robiola Piemonte, Langhe Robio, Robiola delle Langhe, Robiola di Murazzano
robiola Piemonte
This creamy fresh cheese from the Piedmond region of Italy is often used for cooking, and it's great on pizza. It's also served as an antipasto along with olive oil and/or fresh herbs. Piedmont robiolas include Langhe Robiola = Robiola delle Langhe, Robiola di Roccaverano, Robiola di Murazzano, and Robiolina di Bosconero. These cheeses are hard to find in the U.S. Don't confuse this with robiola Lombardia, a soft cheese. It is made from mixture of cow, sheep and goat’s milk.
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Rondelé, Rondele
Rondelé
This flavored cream cheese is an inexpensive domestic version of Boursin.
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whey cheeses
whey cheeses
Most cheese is made from curdled milk that has been drained of the watery whey. Not wanting to waste the nutrient-rich whey, our ancestors discovered that they could extract more cheese from it by cooking it until the remaining proteins coagulated. Examples of modern-day whey cheeses include ricotta, Gjetost, Manouri, Mizithra, and Requeson.
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yogurt cheese, chaka, labanah, labne, labneh, lebna
yogurt cheese
This is a soft, tangy, and nutritious cream cheese substitute.
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