Summer Cheese Done Right, Please!

Cheese is a great way to spice up your summer while soothing your palate.

Posted:
 
cheese
Getty Images

It may seem counterintuitive, but cheese is the perfect summer food.

This information goes against the grain because of the way Americans typically employ cheese in our cuisine. All too often we relegate it to a supporting role. We slap it on burgers, put it on pizza, melt it over corn chips and of course, grate it into pasta in several delicious ways.

The cheeses we most often do this with are hard cheeses like cheddar, gruyere and parmesan. What's worse, most of theses cheeses are industrially produced. Thus, cheese has acquired a reputation for being a high fat food, and even a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic in America.

Brothers and sisters, there's a better way!

Hand-crafted cheeses are full of broader, richer flavors than their industrially-made counterparts. Softer cheeses actually have less fat than their harder counterparts. And lastly, summer is the very best time for eating these cheeses, and they deserve to be the leading character in a meal, not a peripheral one.

First of all we need to get away from industrial cheeses that are sold at supermarkets from familiar brand names like Kraft and Boar's Head. These are cheeses that have one dimension to their flavor.

Hand crafted cheeses, which are typically sold at large retailers like Whole Foods and Dean Deluca or small boutiques like the Cowgirl Creamery shops have a breadth of flavor that can sometimes transport you back to the rolling hills and blue skies of the land where it was made. They cost more, but they are well worth it.

Yes, a few sentences ago, I did say that soft cheeses tend to be lower in fat than hard cheeses. What makes soft cheeses so soft is a higher percentage of moisture—water, if you will—in their total volume. Last time I checked, water has no fat, no cholesterol and no calories. So if you take two cheeses, the one that has a higher percentage of moisture will usually be the lower of the two in fat.

This might seem entirely logical, but cheesemakers and marketers obscure this fact with the use of relatively meaningless percentages. Pierre Robert, for instance, is a luxuriously soft and creamy cheese and its label proudly boasts that it has 75 percent butterfat. A cheese like that couldn't be lower in fat than one with 45 percent could it?

Well, as Mark Twain once said, there are "lies, damned lies and statistics." These percentages are not stated against common denominators. They are ratios of butterfat to dry matter. How much dry matter is in each cheese? Only your cheesemaker knows for sure. Seventy-five percent of six is a lot lower than 45 percent of 17; and that is what's going on when cheese fat is stated in percentages. Just remember one simple rule: the softer the cheese, the more it is comprised of moisture and therefore the lower it is in fat.

Comments
The Root encourages respectful debate and dialogue in our commenting community. To improve the commenting experience for all our readers we will be experimenting with some new formats over the next few weeks. During this transition period the comments section will be unavailable to users.

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your continued support of The Root.

While we are experimenting, please feel free to leave feedback below about your past experiences commenting at The Root.