Cheddar cheese first got its name from Cheddar, a small, English village where it was originally produced. Cheddar is readily available in supermarkets and specialty cheese shops around the world. When processed for a shorter amount of time, cheddar has a milder taste when compared to cheese that has been processed and aged over a longer period, such as six months, a year or longer.
Named after a village in Switzerland, gruyere is a semi-hard cheese made from cow's milk. A slice of gruyere will be yellow to white in appearance with small tiny holes sporadically placed throughout, though the holes are not as dense as a Swiss cheese. Exhibiting earthy and nutty flavors, this cheese is often paired with cheddar cheese in recipes for macaroni and cheese. The mild notes of gruyere counterbalance the sharpness of the cheddar when they are melted together.
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Also made from cow's milk, Monterey Jack is a semi-hard cheese. The lineage of Monterey Jack dates to the farmers' cheeses that supposedly fed Caesar's army. Later in history, the cheese was brought to the coast of California with the Franciscans from Spain as they colonized the west. One version of the story has the cheese named after David Jacks. Supposedly, after conning his way into ownership of the Monterey Peninsula, he then invested in dairy. With a surplus of milk, he began to make the cheese the Franciscans were making and it became to be known as "Jack's Cheese" or "Monterey Jack." White in appearance and exhibiting a mild taste, some cheese manufacturers mix the two cheeses together in a blend. The sharpness of the cheddar is counterbalanced by the mild nature of Monterey Jack.
Made from skim cow's milk, Parmesan cheese is a dry, hard, Italian cheese. Aged for 12 to 16 months, Parmesan cheese is known for a rich, biting flavor. White in appearance, Parmesan is often used in topping pasta dishes with red or white sauces. Parmesan pairs well with cheddar in dishes, such as macaroni and cheese, or when making cheese grits. If paired with mild cheddar, the intensity of the Parmesan will shine through. If paired with sharp or extra-sharp cheddar, you will have a pairing of two bold, rich cheeses in the dish.
Smoked gouda is a cheese made from cow's milk. A semi-hard cheese, which originated in Holland, smoked gouda is placed in ovens after it has been pressed, then smoked over hickory chips. This infuses the cheese with a creamy, smoky flavor. The smoking process causes the cheese to yellow and the rind to become a deep brown. Pairing smoked Gouda with cheddar is popular in dishes, such as macaroni and cheese, where the smokiness of the gouda can interact and complement the creamy, sharp texture of cheddar.