Different cheese-making processes across countries and centuries have yielded cheeses that range from creamy to hard, crumbly to smooth, mild to sharp and salty to sweet. Cheeses enhance any culinary experience. But which is the most popular? You might be surprised by which cheeses rake in the most money per year.
The popularity of pizza --- frozen, delivery and gourmet --- throughout the United States account for mozzarella's top spot on the best-seller list. Mozzarella is, of course, also used in popular Italian-style pastas such as lasagne and baked ziti, and fresh mozzarella is served with tomato and basil in caprese salads.
Since fresh mozzarella has a brief shelf life, mozzarella is frequently processed and sold in this country as a much harder, rubberier cheese than its Italian form.
Cheddar, according to the Grocery Trader, is England's best-selling cheese and is the second-most popular in the United States. The white or yellow, sometimes-sharp cheese originated in the village of Cheddar, in England, and accounts for more than half of the country's nearly £2 billion annual cheese sales.
"Cheddaring" is a process by which cheese curds are treated with salt and drained of whey, then matured in a cool, cavelike environment. American cheese products, such as Easy Cheese, that claim to be "cheddar-flavored" have little in common with cheddar itself.
This cheese, developed in Monterey, California, in the 1880s, has become the most popular American cheese in the United States. It's sometimes combined with Colby cheese to make the orange-and-white marbled Colby Jack, or with hot peppers to make the spicy Pepper Jack, commonly used in Tex-Mex cuisine.
Swiss cheese is an American term referring to a variety of Swiss Emmental cheeses and is best known in this country for its pungent flavour and its holes or indentations, known as eyes. While it's common to find fault with Swiss's particular taste, Swiss is available as a sandwich or omelette cheese on almost any American diner menu.
Cream cheese is a soft, spreadable, mild white cheese commonly used on bagels or English muffins, as well as in cheesecake and as a butter replacement in various baked goods. Cream cheese is also used to make frosting for carrot and red velvet cakes and in the popular American-Chinese crab Rangoon.
Cream cheeses were developed in various parts of England in the 17th and 18th centuries, but the American cream cheese that's a best seller now was first made in 1872 in New York.
Parmesan is an extremely sharp, pungent, hard Italian cheese that, in the United States, is often sold in grated or powdered form. Parmesan is a popular topping for pizza and pasta.
Blue cheese (also known by the French "bleu cheese"), easily recognisable by its white crumbly appearance and telltale blue streaks, is popular as a salad topping and is most commonly purchased in the United States for the manufacture of blue cheese dressing. Salty and pungent, blue cheese has its detractors, but it remains on the best-seller list.
Lasagne, cannoli, calzone, ravioli --- none of these well-loved Italian dishes would be possible without the light, slightly sweet, creamy ricotta. Ricotta is blended with sugar for sweet, rich pastry fillings and with garlic and Parmesan for hearty savoury dishes.
Feta is a crumbly, salty white cheese made from goat's milk. It's popular as a salad topping and in pastries such as spinach pie.
Other popular cheeses include Brie, cottage cheese, havarti, Edam, provolone, Romano, Stilton and Roquefort.