Crumble cheese is of a semi-firm consistency, being soft, dense, and hard all at the same time. It can break into tiny pieces when squeezed but does not soften at room temperature. The most well-known varieties of crumble cheese include cheddar, Asiago, feta, and certain kinds of blue cheeses like Gorgonzola.
Though all cheese is made using the same four basic ingredients—milk, culture, enzymes, and salt—there's an astounding variety of cheeses out there that capture our imagination. Whether it's creamy or crumbly, sweet, salty, or even sour, this humble dairy product is delicious by itself and contributes to creating mouth-watering dishes worldwide.
In the U.S., the most popular cheeses include cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan, feta, American cheese, and various blue cheeses. Believe us when we say, Americans are crazy about cheese!
One of the primary characteristics that distinguish these delicious cheeses is texture, ranging from soft and creamy to hard and crumbly.
Read on to learn more about crumbled cheese, what sets it apart from other types, and how some of your favorite crumble cheeses taste.
Why Does Crumble Cheese Crumble?
Crumble cheese can be described as semi-firm; it's moist, firm, and dense. Although it can break into pieces when squeezed, it maintains its texture at room temperature.
In warmer climates, crumble cheese might even make a sound, but it will maintain its crumbly texture due to the low moisture content.
Applying sufficient pressure can cause the cheese to break and fall apart, particularly along its fault lines. Although crumble cheese is softer compared to other cheeses, it won't spread easily.
To distinguish between the different kinds of cheese on the market, you can classify them according to several factors:
- Type of Milk: Different kinds of milk are used to make various cheeses. Popular options include goat milk, cow milk, mixed milk, buffalo milk, and double cream.
- Aging Method: Cheese is either sold fresh or aged for a certain period using mold and bacteria in a temperature-controlled environment. As it ages, the moisture evaporates, creating a denser, richer-flavored cheese.
- Flavor Profile: Cheeses are often classified according to their flavor and level of sharpness. Descriptors include moderate, medium, strong, and intense, as well as nutty, intense, soft, and earthy.
- Texture: The texture can range from soft to semi-soft or semi-hard to hard, primarily determined by the moisture content in the cheese. This can be affected by several factors, such as the pressure applied to the curd and the aging duration.
What Kinds of Cheese Crumble?
The most well-known types of crumbly cheeses are:
Let's explore a few of these in greater detail:
Feta cheese is a fresh cheese that originated in Greece but is now also made in the U.S. It's typically made from goat or sheep milk, although cow's milk is increasingly common.
Aged for three months and preserved in brine, feta has a crumbly texture and a tangy, rich, slightly salty flavor. As it ages, it becomes firmer and may develop sharper flavors.
The type of milk used greatly influences its texture and taste. Goat's milk gives it a firmer texture and milder flavor, while sheep's milk makes it creamier and richer.
Its rich flavor may take some getting used to, as many people find it unappealing the first time they try it. In terms of aroma, fresh feta cheese smells slightly acidic. If it starts to smell bad, it's time to discard it as it has gone bad.
Feta is best enjoyed crumbled over pasta, salads, baked chicken, sandwiches, and dips, or baked on its own with olive oil, vegetables, and herbs.
While you can buy pre-crumbled feta, it's often more cost-effective and of higher quality to buy it in blocks. To crumble a whole block of feta, slice the cheese, run it under cold water, and then use a fork or your fingers to break it into small pieces for your favorite dishes.
To prevent spoilage, place the crumbled cheese in a plastic bag and crush it with your hands.
Asiago cheese originates from Asiago, Italy, but is also produced in the U.S. Made from cow's milk, it comes in both fresh and aged versions, ranging from semi-firm to hard depending on its aging time.
Fresh Asiago, also known as Asiago Pressato, is made from whole cow's milk and aged for about a month. This results in a more supple and smooth cheese with a milder taste compared to its aged counterparts.
It's firmer than sponge cakes and has tiny, uneven holes throughout. Its aroma is intense, but not too overpowering, and its flavor is mild and slightly sweet, becoming sharper as it ages.
Asiago cheese crumbles easily due to its low moisture content and aged texture. To crumble it, use a cheese grater or your hands to break it into pieces. You can also use a fork or a cheese crumbler to crumble it more finely.
A popular ingredient in pasta dishes, casseroles, and sauces, it pairs well with nuts, fruits, and crusty bread.
Originating from England, cheddar cheese is one of the most popular cheeses worldwide, and it's widely available in the U.S. It's often made with cow's milk but can also be made from goat's milk.
Cheddar can range from mild to sharp, based on its aging process. While young cheddar is soft and easy to crumble, aged cheddar becomes more crumbly as it loses moisture over time.
Its texture can vary from smooth to crumbly, depending on its age. Generally, the older the cheddar, the more crumbly it becomes. It can be easily crumbled using a fork or your fingers.
Ideal for snacking, cheddar pairs well with crackers, fruits, and crusty bread. It can also be used to enhance the flavors of various dishes, such as grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and quiches.
In summary, crumble cheese is a versatile and flavorful ingredient that you can incorporate into many dishes, from simple to complex. Depending on the kind of cheese, you can create a delicious masterpiece that will take your cooking to the next level.
For the best experience, always choose high-quality cheese, and don't hesitate to experiment with different combinations. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned cheese lover, crumbled cheese is sure to satisfy your culinary cravings.
Originating from the northern regions of Italy, Gorgonzola is one of the oldest blue cheeses, made primarily from cow's milk. Its characteristic blue-green marbling is the result of the Penicillium Roqueforti fungus.
The cheese-making process begins with mixing whole pasteurized milk with enzymes, cultures, salt, and rennet, which promptly causes the milk to curdle. The curds are then broken into smaller pieces, and the whey is drained. Afterward, these curds are molded and turned several times before resting overnight. Following this, the cheese is salted.
The salted cheese wheels are stored in a temperature-controlled environment for a few days and are punctured with thin skewers to allow oxygen to circulate within the cheese. This step is crucial for developing Gorgonzola's signature blue veins.
Gorgonzola can either be smooth or crumbly, and its flavor profile ranges from buttery to sharp, depending on its aging period. The "Dolce" or "Sweet" Gorgonzola is aged for two months, resulting in a creamy, spreadable texture with a sweet, buttery flavor and subtle aroma. On the other hand, "Picante" Gorgonzola is aged for three months or more and has a crumbly texture with a spicy, distinctive flavor and scent.
Gorgonzola is commonly found on cheese platters and can be crumbled over pasta, risotto, or salads. It also makes an excellent topping for pizzas or can be melted into a sauce. The creamy version is best enjoyed spread on crackers or crostini.
Cotija cheese hails from Mexico and is made from aged cow's milk. Popular in various Mexican states, Cotija is often used in dishes like tacos, soups, and salads.
Depending on how long it's aged—ranging from 100 days to 12 months—Cotija varies in texture, making it ideal for grating or crumbling over hot or cold dishes, as it won't melt when heated.
There are two types of Cotija cheese: younger Cotija, aged for around 100 days, and older Cotija, aged for longer. Younger Cotija is softer, somewhat resembling feta in flavor, texture, and color but lacking feta's strong tang. Older Cotija is harder, easier to grate, and has a sharper, saltier flavor.
Cotija stands out among crumbly cheeses for its ability to retain its shape and color under extreme temperatures, making it a versatile topping for salads, meatballs, hamburgers, or as a standalone dish.
What's the best way to crumble cheese?
Crumbling cheese can get messy if not done correctly. While using your fingers or a fork is a common method, it often results in a difficult clean-up.
A cleaner approach is to cut the cheese into small pieces, place them in a plastic bag, and then use your hands to crumble them. This minimizes clean-up and also allows for convenient storage of the crumbled cheese for future use.
Can you freeze crumbled cheese?
Yes, both store-bought and homemade crumbled cheese can be frozen. The best way to freeze crumbled cheese is to spread the crumbles on a baking tray, freeze them, and then transfer them to a freezer-safe container.
How should you store cheese in the refrigerator?
The ideal way to store leftover cheese varies depending on the type. Hard, aged cheeses like Gouda or Parmigiano-Reggiano should be wrapped in paper first and then in plastic wrap before being stored in the vegetable drawer of the fridge.
Blue cheeses like Gorgonzola and Roquefort, as well as semi-hard and hard cheeses like cheddar, are best kept wrapped in plastic wrap.
Soft, sour cheeses like Camembert and goat cheese should be stored in resealable plastic containers, while fresh water-based cheeses like Mozzarella and Feta should be kept in their original packaging, with the water changed every couple of days.