Cheese Expert Returns to Guess Which Cheese Is More Expensive | Price Points

In this episode of 'Price Points', Epicurious brings back cheese expert and noted author Liz Thorpe to guess which one of two cheeses is more expensive. Liz breaks down brie cheese, cheddar cheese, gouda cheese, mozzarella cheese, and washed rind cheese. For each round of cheeses, Liz looks at, smells, and taste tests before guessing which cheese costs more. Once the prices are revealed, Thorpe explains why a specific cheese making process costs more and how to make the different cheeses.

Released on 7/24/2018

Credits

Starring: Liz Thorpe

Transcript

00:00
I'm Liz Thorpe and I'm a cheese expert, and I'm back.
00:07
I could just eat the entire thing.
00:16
Okay, so maybe these are brie.
00:17
Certainly, they look like brie.
00:19
What I can say definitively is that
00:21
in the world of cheese,
00:22
we would call these bloomy rinded cheeses.
00:25
Brie is a bloomy rind, camembert is a bloomy rind,
00:28
any cheese with this white soft edible skin or rind
00:32
is a bloomy rind.
00:33
When you make the rind on a brie style,
00:35
you introduce mold to the cheese,
00:38
and that white mold traditionally is
00:41
added to the milk during the cheese making process.
00:44
Those mold spores that are present in the milk
00:46
come into contact with oxygen
00:48
and start to grow or bloom on the outside of the cheese.
00:51
And it takes about two to three weeks,
00:54
turning, patting, flipping of the cheese
00:56
to kind of take that bloomy mold
00:59
and get it to form a cohesive skin.
01:01
The other way of doing it is
01:03
take a wheel of cheese and you spray mold on the outside,
01:07
and you immediately get an insta-rind.
01:12
It's generally thicker, it's chewier,
01:14
it tends to have a taste that's a little bit bitter.
01:16
If one of these cheeses were bright white
01:19
with no brown at all, I would immediately guess that
01:22
that one was made the faster, cheaper way.
01:25
They're both white with some brown mottling,
01:28
so I'm not entirely sure.
01:30
Let's cut them open.
01:31
Brie styles are very sticky,
01:33
so I want a knife that's got holes
01:35
or a really skinny blade.
01:37
You don't want to rip a piece of the cheese off
01:40
because it's sticking to your knife.
01:42
So this first one is definitely firmer.
01:47
It is nice and sticky though.
01:50
The first one has got a little bit of a mushroomy smell,
01:54
that's really typical for a brie style.
01:56
Let's see what's going on over here.
01:57
The second cheese is creamier,
02:00
a little bit moister, it's harder to get out, it's sticky.
02:04
Okay, well this one is definitely different.
02:08
Classic traditional French aroma profile,
02:12
which is very intense mushroomy notes
02:15
and cooked cruciferous vegetables,
02:18
cabbage or cauliflower or broccoli,
02:20
it's got like a farty smell to it frankly.
02:23
That's really typical for traditional French bries.
02:25
That is starting to make me think
02:28
we have something going on over here
02:30
that is a little bit more unique.
02:32
I want to taste them too.
02:36
Brie styles run the flavor gamut
02:39
on the mild end, butter, cream, milk,
02:41
and then on the extreme end,
02:43
more of those cauliflower, broccoli notes.
02:49
This first one is milder, buttery,
02:52
it's like mushroom butter.
02:53
It's got flavor to it, it's not bland.
02:58
The second one is like broccoli cheddar soup,
03:00
so that is to me like
03:02
classic French traditional flavor profile.
03:05
This is really pretty hard actually.
03:07
I'm gonna guess that this one is more expensive
03:10
based almost entirely on its flavor and aroma.
03:13
Let's find out.
03:18
Haha okay, it's satisfying when I'm right.
03:20
This one is $8 more a pound, which is not insignificant.
03:24
I will say that when you find a bloomy rind
03:27
that has this very
03:29
intense mushroom and broccoli aromas and flavors,
03:32
definitely it will be a more traditional maker,
03:34
generally a smaller cheese maker.
03:36
Look for that thinner, browner mottled rind
03:39
versus that thick, white chewy rind.
03:42
The cheapest bries are milder,
03:44
they have a thicker rind.
03:45
It's more about buttery, melty cheese
03:49
than it is about the great nuance of complexity and flavor.
04:00
I feel very, very confident
04:02
that I'm looking at two cheddars.
04:04
I'm also very confident that there's significant differences
04:07
in the way that they are aged,
04:09
which is gonna have a huge impact on their final price.
04:11
Let me tell you what I see.
04:12
On my right, I have a block of cheese.
04:15
It's hard, so I know that it's aged.
04:19
It doesn't have a lot of water in it,
04:20
it's not soft and creamy.
04:22
On my left, I have a big triangle
04:24
that came from a bigger piece of cheese,
04:26
and it too is hard and aged.
04:28
Aged cheeses are going to be more expensive
04:31
than younger cheeses.
04:33
What I see in the cheese on my right is that
04:35
it doesn't have any rind.
04:37
To age it for a period of time but to have no rind on it
04:40
means that it was made and aged in a really specific way.
04:43
The cheese is actually put into a plastic bag essentially,
04:47
the air is sucked out, and then it is put into
04:49
a cold environment and matured for two months or five months
04:54
or in the case of this one here,
04:56
I'm guessing nine or 10 months.
04:57
The cheese on the left has something that is really cool.
05:01
It looks like a brown rind, but actually,
05:06
it's cloth, it's actually got two layers of cloth on it.
05:11
This is a cheese that was made and it was wrapped in cloth
05:14
and then it was aged.
05:15
And that's really where
05:16
the major price difference is gonna come from, I think.
05:19
Cheddars can be made in one of two ways.
05:21
The traditional, sort of American style cheddar
05:24
that most of us grow up with was mild, medium, or sharp,
05:27
and it came in a block.
05:28
A cloth bound cheddar is a cheese that's been made,
05:31
wrapped in cloth, and then matured
05:33
for generally nine to 12 months.
05:36
You take these big wheels of cheese
05:38
and you put them in a temperature and humidity controlled
05:40
aging environment.
05:42
Over the course of weeks and months,
05:44
those cheeses grow different molds
05:46
on the outside of the cloth.
05:48
They're turned, they're brushed, flipped,
05:51
and all of that work is done manually.
05:53
It is a very time-consuming and labor-intensive process.
05:57
That's why I'm guessing
05:58
cloth bound is going to be our pricier cheese.
06:00
Okay, let's cut into these.
06:02
When I'm working with harder cheeses,
06:03
I generally choose a knife that has
06:05
a bigger, wider, stronger blade.
06:08
So I like the hatchet because I can kinda just dig into it.
06:11
So right off the bat,
06:12
it's really dense and really hard to cut into,
06:15
and it's got a really intensely perfumed smell.
06:19
It's like toasted nuts.
06:21
This is a really delicious cheese.
06:25
It's like toasted nuts and a bit like brown butter.
06:29
I can tell it's been aged.
06:30
Cheese B, it's kinda hard to dig a piece out,
06:33
but also dense, also firm.
06:36
The rind is this cloth layer.
06:39
The cloth is permeable, the air can get through it,
06:42
and over time what happens is
06:44
the smells of the cheese are very much developed by
06:50
the aging environment.
06:51
It smells kind of like wet wood.
06:54
This was something that was aged on wood boards.
06:56
It smells like being in a root cellar.
06:58
I love how it smells.
07:01
Earthier, it's more like potato skin or celery root.
07:05
At the end of the day, it's just a ton more labor-intensive
07:08
to make a cloth bound cheese.
07:10
That's it, B is my guess.
07:11
B is definitely more expensive.
07:14
Let's see if I'm right.
07:18
Hey, hey, that was a gimme.
07:21
I really want to stress
07:22
that block cheddar is not bad cheddar.
07:24
There are fantastic block cheddars, this is one of them.
07:27
You should also know that you're probably gonna love
07:29
the complexity of a cloth bound cheddar.
07:32
At the end of the day, they cost more money
07:34
because they are developed over many, many months
07:37
in an open air aging environment.
07:39
Rindless cheeses,
07:41
a rindless cheese compared to a rinded cheese
07:44
is always going to be cheaper.
07:46
It's not about which one's better.
07:48
It's just about what is it really cost
07:51
to make a piece of cheese,
07:53
and in this case, it's more work and so it's more dollars.
08:01
What do we have here?
08:02
They both have wax on the outside.
08:05
Their rind is wax.
08:07
A is, it's a little bit springy,
08:10
so it's firm in texture but it's not rock hard either.
08:15
And it's smooth and buttery yellow.
08:17
I don't really see any air bubbles or any crystals.
08:21
B, on the other hand, I would call this rock hard.
08:25
It's very dry.
08:27
You can see it's kinda flaky,
08:28
and most importantly, for me, thinking about age,
08:31
it's got these little white amino acid crystals.
08:34
You don't see those in cheese
08:35
before nine or 10 months minimum.
08:37
This is definitely older.
08:39
That wax rind, that is characteristic of Gouda.
08:43
Gouda or How-da is traditionally a Dutch cheese
08:46
but now is made in the United States as well.
08:48
And it's a really tricky cheese because there are young ones
08:53
and there are aged ones and they are radically different
08:56
in flavor and in texture and in use.
08:59
I think that's what we're looking at here.
09:01
I'd like to cut them and taste them.
09:03
Okay, so let's start with A.
09:07
Yeah, see, this is an awesome knife for cheese B,
09:10
but A is so creamy, it sorta sticks to the knife blade.
09:15
A is really, really creamy, even though it's firm,
09:18
and it smells like cultured butter.
09:20
If you've ever smelled that,
09:21
it's like rich, fatty, buttery but a little bit tangy.
09:27
And again, it's like eating a pad of cold butter.
09:31
I would love to melt this over any kind of vegetable.
09:33
Now I want to go on to taste B.
09:35
I like this knife because I can actually kinda
09:37
gouge the cheese.
09:39
You get this beautiful little nugget,
09:40
which is such a great illustration
09:43
of what's going on here with age.
09:45
There's almost no moisture left in this cheese.
09:47
It's very dense, very hard,
09:49
and it has this amazing smell, it smells like butterscotch.
09:53
And the taste
09:57
is like a savory version of a butterscotch candy.
10:00
What's really interesting when you taste this cheese
10:03
is that while it's really hard,
10:05
when you chew it, it's got a creaminess and a roundness
10:08
to the texture.
10:09
Something else about that butterscotchy flavor profile,
10:12
that's a very, very typical flavor profile
10:14
for aged Goudas that are made out of cow's milk.
10:17
But you can actually make Goudas out of sheep milk
10:19
or goat milk as well.
10:21
I believe that B is gonna be more expensive
10:23
because it is considerably more aged than A,
10:27
so let's see if I'm right.
10:31
Yes, see, it's more than twice as expensive.
10:34
You're paying for time, you're paying for flavor,
10:36
development, intensity, and complexity.
10:39
Prepare to spend a little bit more,
10:40
but be rewarded for your dollars.
10:49
This is a good one.
10:50
Here's what I see right off the bat.
10:52
These are both mozzarellas.
10:53
These are rindless cheeses.
10:55
That's gonna be true of any mozzarella.
10:57
Mozzarella is not extremely aged.
10:59
It's always a younger cheese.
11:00
This is the fresher mozzarella because it's wet.
11:03
It's squishy and it's got little droplets on the board
11:07
and all over the cheese,
11:08
whereas this one is firmer, it's drier.
11:11
This could be cow's milk or it could be buffalo milk.
11:15
A lot of fresh mozzarellas are actually made from
11:18
water buffalo milk,
11:19
which is higher in fat, higher in protein,
11:21
a lot harder to find, and a lot more expensive.
11:24
First I need to figure that out,
11:25
and I can't do that until I taste.
11:27
I'm gonna use this knife
11:29
because it's got a thin, skinny blade,
11:31
which is always a good thing when you're cutting a softer,
11:33
wetter, creamier cheese.
11:35
There's less surface area for the cheese to stick to,
11:38
so I'll get a clean cut instead of
11:40
ripping my whole piece of cheese apart.
11:42
Just goes right through.
11:43
This is a really great thing to see.
11:46
Mozzarella is what's called a pasta filata cheese.
11:49
It means pulled curd.
11:50
It is actually pulled and stretched
11:53
as part of the cheese making process.
11:54
You can see right here, a mozzarella typically has
11:57
the texture of like a poached chicken breast.
12:00
It shreds a little bit.
12:02
And you want that stretchy elastic but still creamy texture.
12:07
Those would all be characteristic of fresh
12:10
or higher moisture mozzarella.
12:12
So what I'm wondering here is, is this cow milk
12:15
or is this buffalo milk?
12:16
Buffalo milk has a very distinctive grassy aroma and flavor.
12:21
It's like getting a whiff of a newly mown lawn.
12:24
And when you taste it,
12:27
that grassiness carries through into the flavor,
12:30
so this tastes like sweet, fresh milk.
12:33
It's cow's milk, and it's gonna be cheaper.
12:36
Over here,
12:37
looking at the inside, the texture of this one
12:41
doesn't have that shreddy appearance,
12:44
but that's not surprising because this one's got a lot less
12:47
moisture in it.
12:48
Doesn't really smell like very much,
12:53
and well, kindly I will say it's mild in flavor.
12:57
It's salty, that's basically it.
13:00
This is really made for cooking.
13:02
It's made for melting.
13:03
I have made my decision,
13:04
but my reasoning may not be what you think it's gonna be.
13:08
I believe that this mozzarella is less expensive
13:11
not because it's not fresh.
13:14
I think that this is actually cheaper
13:16
because most block mozzarella
13:18
is made from partially skimmed milk
13:21
and you're actually buying a cheese that's made with
13:23
more water and less solids.
13:25
That's a lot cheaper to make.
13:27
So my bet is this one's cheaper
13:29
and this one is partially skimmed.
13:31
Let's find out.
13:35
Yeah, see, look.
13:36
It's two and a half times as expensive.
13:38
To sum up, here's what you need to know.
13:40
Mozzarella is going to be cheaper
13:43
if it's made of partially skimmed milk
13:45
and more expensive if it's made of whole milk.
13:47
If it's made of buffalo milk,
13:49
it's gonna be the most expensive.
13:50
Just because fresh mozzarella comes packed in water
13:53
or sold in a different part of the store,
13:56
if both of them are made with whole milk,
13:58
they're actually going to be very comparably priced.
14:00
What you really need to ask yourself is
14:02
do you want something that's creamier, milder, sweeter,
14:06
that would be the fresh, water-packed style,
14:09
or do you want something that's drier, saltier,
14:12
and is gonna give you that super even
14:14
gooey brown on top melt
14:16
if you're making pizza or flatbread or whatever.
14:20
It really has to do with the raw material that's going in,
14:23
and in this case, skim milk versus whole milk
14:26
is what's driving the price difference.
14:32
Everyone always asks what my favorite cheese is,
14:35
and while I don't have a single favorite,
14:36
I have a favorite style
14:38
and it's here on the table in front of me.
14:40
My favorite cheeses are what are called
14:42
the washed rind cheeses,
14:44
and that's a technical term for a cheese that's been washed
14:47
in saltwater after it's made.
14:49
When you wash the rind of a cheese,
14:52
you help to cultivate a very specific kind of bacteria,
14:55
which is called B. linens,
14:57
makes the rind of the cheese orange.
15:00
And it gives it kind of a sticky, tacky texture.
15:04
It makes a cheese really stinky,
15:06
and it makes a cheese taste really, really delicious.
15:09
So cheese A is definitely a washed rind,
15:12
and I can tell because of that moistness
15:14
and because there's that variation in color.
15:17
Cheese B, on the other hand, while it's orange,
15:19
has this totally uniform color,
15:21
so there's no variation to it
15:23
and it's also bright orange, like a safety cone.
15:27
There's a big difference between those two orange rinds.
15:29
I think to verify that though, I want to cut into them
15:32
and smell and taste.
15:33
Once again, I'm cutting into creamier, softer cheeses
15:37
so I want to make sure that I'm using a small, bladed knife
15:39
so that I don't have a bunch of cheese that sticks to it.
15:42
Actually, with A, I mean,
15:46
it's like pudding.
15:47
Look at this, it's like whoo, stretchy.
15:50
Let's see here.
15:53
Yeah.
15:54
Sometimes, cheese smells really bad,
15:56
and that's a good thing.
15:57
With this style of cheese,
15:59
you can expect really strong aromas.
16:02
You should know that when you bring the bag home.
16:05
But they're gonna smell kinda like diapers,
16:07
kinda like socks.
16:09
Believe it or not, that actually is edible.
16:11
It's what makes the cheese taste amazing
16:14
if you're someone who likes salty flavors
16:16
and kind of meaty, bacony flavors.
16:20
This, I could just eat the entire thing.
16:24
That to me is like meat butter.
16:25
It's just awesome.
16:28
I don't know what B is, but I'm feeling
16:32
like it's gonna be a lot milder.
16:35
And it doesn't really smell like anything at all.
16:37
It smells a little bit like milk.
16:41
This is sort of like tangy butter.
16:43
It reminds me of the flavor of Havarti
16:45
or a young Gouda maybe,
16:47
but it's got no real saltiness
16:49
and it doesn't have any of the stinky,
16:52
meaty flavor and aroma that I associate with washed rinds.
16:56
This is a straight up case of
16:58
just because a cheese is orange
16:59
doesn't mean it's a washed rind.
17:01
You've got to go for the aroma
17:03
and ideally the flavor as well.
17:06
Knowing all the work that goes into a washed rind,
17:08
the repeated washing,
17:10
and knowing that this is a small cheese,
17:12
which means it's been a lot more work for a littler piece,
17:17
I'm guessing that A is definitely gonna be more expensive,
17:20
and I'm gonna go so far as to say that I think A is gonna be
17:24
a lot more expensive.
17:25
Let's see.
17:29
Wow, okay, yeah, that's really expensive.
17:33
What goes into all those dollars between 44 and 17?
17:37
Really, it's about making, cultivating a rind versus not.
17:42
Cheese B, while it's orange on the outside,
17:46
basically has just had a coloring added to it
17:48
to make it pop in the cheese case.
17:50
The washed rinds are extremely labor-intensive.
17:53
These cheeses are washed in saltwater,
17:55
they're turned and flipped,
17:57
and that process happens multiple times a week
18:00
for six to eight weeks or more sometimes.
18:03
And a small cheese has all that work put into it,
18:05
but at the end of the day,
18:06
it's maybe only eight ounces or 10 ounces.
18:08
So that really, really is a major contributor.
18:11
There are many different washed rinds,
18:12
and they aren't all $44 a pound.
18:15
They're so good, so I really, really encourage you
18:18
to check them out.
18:23
The next time you're shopping for cheese,
18:25
I hope you'll remember that more dollars
18:27
means more time to age that cheese,
18:29
more work to make that cheese,
18:31
and probably more of a living wage
18:32
for the person who made the milk.
18:34
I also don't want you to get sticker shock.
18:36
Cheese is priced by the pound,
18:38
and that's enough for 14 to 16 people.
18:41
You can cut that number in half
18:43
and know that you're gonna have plenty of cheese
18:44
for whoever you need to feed at your next party.