What is hard cheese?
Hard cheese has distinctive robust, concentrated flavours. It also keeps very well due to its lack of moisture. The longer hard cheese is aged, the more flavour and character it develops.
To make hard cheese, the curd is cut very finely and then cooked at temperatures as high as 55°C. This maximises the amount of moisture (whey) removed before the curd is placed in hoops, soaked in brine, turned regularly and left to mature for six to 36 months.
Aged hard cooked cheese can become slightly gritty with tiny white crystals appearing over time. These are calcium lactate crystals, which have a zingy flavour and are often a sign of a well matured cheese.
Hard cheese comes in various styles.
Types of hard cheese
In Australia, pecorino is usually made from cow's milk and produced in wheels weighing a minimum of 5kg. It takes up to six months to mature with the flavour becoming more robust with age, and lipase enzymes are added to provide a piquant flavour. The rind is sometimes coated with oil, with the cheese having a golden interior that is grainy and slightly crumbly. Pecorino tastes characteristically sharp and slightly sweet and salty. It should be hard, granular in texture and have no visible cracks, and stored in the refrigerator. It can be stored unopened or well covered for long periods of time due to its low moisture content.
Parmigiano Reggiano is the original parmesan. It is made only in the legally identified area of registered dairy farms for Parmigiano Reggiano. The cheese is stored for a minimum of 18 months prior to grading. In Australia, cheesemakers have adopted the process in making this renowned Italian cheese to produce Australian parmesan. Produced in large wheels and well aged, it has a shiny, oiled rind which reveals a dry, grainy and often crunchy texture. It tastes slightly sweet and slightly fruity. It should be stored covered and refrigerated.
Originating from Sicily, this milk is made with reduced milk fat and evenly dispersed peppercorns. This adds to and complements the already existent piquant flavour. It should be hard, granular in texture and have no cracks. Pepato can be wrapped in foil or calico, and stored for up to 12 months.
Created as early as the first century BC, Romano is a popular cheese made with cow's milk, usually in a 5kg wheel. Romano is a hard, grainy cheese with a patterned, hard rind. It has a strong flavour when fully matured, but it is not sharp. Different lipase enzymes are used to give the cheese different flavours compared to pecorino. Select Romano that is hard and has a granular texture, with no cracks or splits. It can be stored in foil or calico, for up to 12 months.