Buying Cheese When You Have No Idea What to Choose

Sometimes it feels like cheeses are diabolically named just to confuse you.

  • There are foreign words.
    “Would you like some Chällerhocker?”
  • Then there are the non-descriptive names.
    “Um, what exactly does a Midnight Moon taste like?”
  • And what about those downright strange-sounding terms?
    “Do I really want to try a ‘bandaged’ cheddar??”
  • Sometimes a name is just a number.
    “What is Le 1608?”

This whirlwind of words, funny symbols, and numbers can be enough to make your head spin. And it’s certainly not very helpful when you’re trying to find a new cheese to buy.

That’s why we’ve got some helpful pointers on how to find a new fave.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed

When looking for something new, try not to get overwhelmed. It’s cheese after all, chances are you’re going to enjoy whatever you buy.

The best place to start is asking your friendly neighbourhood cheesemonger for help. A good cheesemonger will be familiar with the tastes, textures, and other unique characteristics of all the cheeses they offer.

There’s no need to feel intimidated—a good monger will speak in everyday terms, without resorting to indecipherable industry jargon and hoity-toity descriptions. With a few simple questions they’ll narrow down a dizzying range of cheeses to a few good bets.

If you’re shopping online, use the search engine as your cheesemonger. Enter the characteristics you like best in a cheese—think “soft” or “stinky” or “sharp”.

Get a Taste

Once you’re down to a few options, ask if you can have a taste. Sampling is one of the joys of shopping at a great cheese shop.

Samples straight out of the display cooler will give you a good idea about the character of the cheese. But keep in mind the chill will dull the flavours a little bit. When you get that cheese to room temperature, it will open up and be even more flavourful!

What Other Cheeses Do You Like?

Don’t be shy about telling the cheesemonger about other cheeses you enjoy. No matter what it is—mild cheddar or garlic cream cheese or that sharp stuff in the red tub your grandad used to share with you—it will be a great jumping off point.  

Good Taste

Flavour is one of the first characteristics that comes to mind when you’re looking for a cheese. Try to identify the flavours you like and, just as importantly, the ones you don’t like.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t feel you have to impress anyone with the “right” technical flavour descriptors. That’s a game best left to cheese snobs and who’s got time for that?

Just use the words that make sense to you, such as “nutty,” “barnyard-ish,” “sour,” or “salty as movie theatre popcorn.”

How Does It Feel?

Cheese is about more than just flavour. Texture is a huge part of why many of us love cheese.

And it’s very personal. For example, some people are only interested in runny cheeses. Some folks crave the crystalline textures of aged cheeses. So be sure to take your textural preferences into consideration.

Matching Game

Look to the foods and drinks you plan to enjoy with your cheese. The more specific you can be, the better.

For example, it’s hard to help a customer find a cheese that “goes well with wine.” There are just too many types of wine! But if you tell your cheesemonger you need a selection of cheeses that will go well with a light-bodied white and roast chicken with celeriac puree, finding a great pairing shouldn’t be a problem.

Finally, be sure to ask lots of questions. Cheesemongers love to talk about cheese and you'll find out lots of interesting facts that may just help you decide what'll satisfy your cravings!

1 comment

  • Evelyn Fisher

    I should have mentioned this before. I am on a low-sodium diet and knowing the percentage of sodium in a cheese is essential for me. Anything over 8% is a no no. Could you put the nutritional information by a cheese. It could be helpful to many people, not just me.

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