I love all cheese. Goat, cow, sheep: It all tastes delicious. But have you ever wondered what accounts for the difference in taste between the three? The key to the difference in flavor and texture comes from the fact that each animal eats in a unique way.
Contrary to popular belief, goats don’t just eat anything. They seek out the highest and most tender leaves when they graze, stripping bark from trees and going after the tallest, sweetest grasses. For this reason, their milk produces cheeses with a more acidic and bright flavor as well as a characteristic “goatiness” that can be described as barn yard-like or at times quite animalistic. It also has the least amount of fat in it.
Cows graze primarily on ground cover grasses and when they feed they often take up some of the soil in bites. This gives their cheeses an earthier flavor that will vary greatly from one place to another. Cow’s milk cheese made from grazed animals rather than corn fed animals will have a yellow hue rather than a pasty white color. This is from carotene found in the pasture grasses.
Sheep will primarily only eat the tender, sweet top blade grass. If a grazing herd of sheep are left on pasture for an extended period of time, the field will look as if it’s been mowed by a grounds crew. Sheep milk cheese is the highest in fat and that, coupled with their grazing preferences, makes sheep’s milk cheeses rich, buttery and usually less assertive in flavor (unless we are talking about sheep milk blue, but that’s another blog entirely).
Here are some of my favorite cheeses in each category:
Twig Farm Tomme
Pleasant Ridge Reserve
Old Chatham Camembert Bleu des Basque
Catch The Big Cheese on Cooking Channel Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. ET.