October 04, 2022

Nyman: Say cheese

Looking for the perfect food for entertaining friends or family during the holidays? Cheese is always a crowd-pleaser. No food is as luxurious or as versatile as cheese. It is both elegant and casual, from serving on a simple sandwich to baking into a phyllo crust. Cheese is delicious cubed, shredded, grated, or creamed. It is a finger food, a dip, and a sauce. Cheese is the number two source of calcium in our diet and provides a high quality protein. If you want to make the perfect cheese board that everyone will enjoy, here are a few tips to get you started.

Choosing Cheese

All cheese is made from milk, but different manufacturing and aging processes are used to produce the variety of cheeses that are available today. Cheese is made by coagulating or curdling milk, stirring and heating the curd, draining off the whey, collecting and pressing the curd, and in some cases, ripening. Cheese can be made from whole, 2% reduced-fat, 1% low-fat, or fat free (skim) milk. It takes about 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of whole milk cheese, which is why cheese is a nutrient-dense food.

Categories of Cheese

All cheese can be classified into eight categories:

  • Blue Veined – these cheeses feature blue/grey veins and have a strong flavor; examples: Roquefort and Gorgonzola.
  • Hard – they are easily grated and excellent choices for cooking; examples: Parmesan and Asiago.
  • Semi Hard – these cheeses have a firm texture and a wide variety of flavors; examples: Cheddar and Gouda.
  • Pasta Filata – these cheeses are stretchy, mild, and buttery; examples: Mozzarella and Provolone.
  • Processed – this is a blend of fresh and aged natural cheese, emulsifiers, and salt; examples: American cheese and processed cheese spread.
  • Fresh Soft – these cheeses are high in moisture and made by adding lactic acid cultures; examples: Cottage cheese and cream cheese.
  • Semi-Soft – these cheeses are mild, rich, and creamy; examples: Muenster and Havarti.
  • Soft-Ripened – these cheeses have a bloomy, edible rind that ripens the cheese from the outside in; examples: Brie and Camembert.

Serving Cheese

Many varieties of cheese benefit from being served at room temperature. This brings out their unique aromas, shows off their true texture, and enhances their flavor. When plating a cheese, let its character dictate how it is served. A firm cheese such as Havarti can be cut into neat wedges with a large portion kept intact to give guests a sense of the whole cheese. Break cheeses such as Gouda, Parmesan, and Cheddar into bite-size morsels. Allow the cheese to break along its natural lines for a rustic feel. Soft-ripened cheeses are beautiful served whole, inviting guests to cut a piece according to their appetite. Serving cheese on a large plate or cheese board in the middle of a table allows accessibility from all sides, surely a good idea as everyone digs in!

For more information on dairy’s health benefits or to request a “Pleasing Pairing with Cheese” brochure, visit www.stldairycouncil.org or email mnyman@stldairycouncil.org. For delicious and nutritious recipes, check us out on Facebook and Instagram at STLDairyCouncil.

Swiss and Cheddar Fondue

This cheesy fondue pairs well with a variety of dippers! Serve this hearty fondue as an appetizer or a main dish.

Servings: 10


3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups low-fat milk

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (I usually use mild or medium)

2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

Dippers for fondue (ham, pea pods, crackers, crusty bread, carrot chips)


Melt the butter over low heat and then add the cornstarch, stirring until well combined.

Mix the salt in well and then add the milk. Stir continually over medium-low heat until boiling. Continue to stir and boil the mixture for one minute. Add Worcestershire sauce.

Turn the heat down and add the cheddar and Swiss cheese.

Mix just until the cheese melts and transfer into large serving dish or fondue pot and serve with your favorite dippers.

Monica Nyman

Monica Nyman

Monica Nyman is a senior educator and registered dietitian with St Louis District Dairy Council. For more information on the health benefits of dairy, visit www.stldairycouncil.org.