9 essential cheeses from Trader Joe’s

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When I need an amazing wedge of cheese to bring to my book club that’s as much a discussion point as the book—or one to enjoy at home with a crusty baguette or my favorite Trader Joe’s cracker—Trader Joe’s never lets me down.

The store’s nod toward artisan-quality foods at affordable price points extends to its cheese department where a mix of private labels and brands you know are stocked in the refrigerated case. Many of these are from family-owned creameries with decades of experience, a nice detour from huge dairy brands.

Whether you want a hard, aged cheese; a soft spreadable one; or a package of grated cheese to fold in a quesadilla or into the fondue pot, your options are vast and span the globe.

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1. Mobay cheese

Crafted by Carr Valley Cheese (a fourth-generation, family-owned creamery in LaValle, Wis.) Master Cheesemaker Sid Cook, this cheese’s slightly sweet and nutty flavor profile is a result of a layer each of goat’s milk and sheep’s milk—with a vein of grape-vine ash in the middle. As Cook says, it’s his twist on France’s Morbier. Among Mobay’s most recent acclaims is Silver at the 2018 World Cheese Awards and received raves from Bon Appetit.

Cost: $6.99 (7 ounces)

Image Credit: Trader Joe’s.

2. Crumbled blue cheese

While we don’t know who produces this cheese, we do know that it’s made in the US from raw cow’s milk, aged 60 days and rates a top pick. Those who normally find blue cheese too tangy won’t with this one. It’s creamy and salty but doesn’t overpower. I’ve even made grilled-cheese sandwiches with it (just be sure to press the crumbles into the bread so they don’t slip out and into the pan!).

Another option to consider is a locally made blue cheese. In California look for the award-winning creamy and tangy Point Reyes Farmstead Original Blue which is 5.99 for 6 ounces. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, you might find Carr Valley Glacier Wildfire Blue. If you like a little heat with a creamy cheese, this is exactly that: Peperoncino peppers are woven into a wedge of mild cow’s-milk blue cheese. This is a great example of a “recipe cheese.”

Cost: $3.99 (8 ounces)

Image Credit: Kristine Hansen / CheeseProfessor.

3. Whole milk fresh mozzarella

I stopped topping pizzas with sliced or grated mozzarella when I learned about ciliegine. Smaller than the more common bocconcini, or Trader Joe’s ovalini, these U.S-made tiny balls of mozzarella (each the size of a cherry tomato) come in a brine and melt adequately, but don’t suffocate the crust and sauce. Rubbing the balls in a paper towel will remove some of the excess moisture if you are planning on cooking or baking with them.

 Cost: $3.79 (8 ounces)

Image Credit: BelGioioso / Instacart.com.

4. Unexpected cheddar cheese

Trader Joe’s has a truly staggering number of Cheddar cheeses from literally all over the world. On a recent visit we found about a dozen options hailing from England, Ireland, New Zealand, California, Oregon, Wisconsin and Vermont.

While not much is known about Unexpected Cheddar, the label doesn’t lie when it says this cheese “tastes like an aged premium Cheddar with hints of Parmesan.” If you’ve ever tasted Italian Parmesan and a four-year-aged Wisconsin Cheddar on the same cheese plate, this is exactly it. Available in a block or shredded, if you wander the Trader Joe’s aisles you’ll also find this cheese featured in products like Unexpected Cheddar Broccoli Soup.

Cost: $3.99 (7 ounces)

Image Credit: Amy Sherman / CheeseProfessor.com.

5. Le Delice de Bourgogne

A classic soft ripened triple crème cheese, it’s imported from France like similar cheeses Brillat Savarin and Explorateur. The key is to allow it to come to room temperature at least a half hour before enjoying it. Both the texture and flavor will be at their best, and the cheese will ooze lusciously onto crackers, crudites or a baguette.

Cost: $5.49 (5 ounces)

Image Credit: Amy Sherman / CheeseProfessor.com.

6. Chevre goat cheese with fine herbs

Trader Joe’s can be credited with having popularized fresh goat cheese. It’s a great cheese to have on hand for spreading on bread or crackers, including in a quiche recipe, topping a pizza, or serving with roasted beets. In fact, due to all the diced fine herbs folded in, no additional seasonings are needed.

Cost: $2.99 (5 ounces)

Image Credit: Kristine Hansen / CheeseProfessor.

7. Israeli feta

Everybody’s had Feta from Greece. But Israel? Not as often. While not PDO Feta, this salty, sheep’s-milk cheese in brine (look for the bright blue tub) is made by a fourth-generation cheesemaker in Israel and holds its shape really well. If it’s summer, toss it in a watermelon and tomato salad or, during the cooler months, add it to a grain bowl or grill with squash. Its flavor profile lingers on the palate, which you don’t find with all Feta. If you prefer Greek PDO Feta, Trader Joe’s offers a fine one as well, that’s made with a combination of sheep and goat’s milk.

Cost: $7.49 (8.8 ounces)

Image Credit: Amy Sherman / CheeseProfessor.com.

8. Toscano with black pepper

What I like about the Toscano with Black Pepper cheese is you get aroma and flavor, thanks to the black pepper’s pungency. This is a case where the cheese can stand up to nearly anything else on the cheese board, including tart fruit preserves, seasoned nuts or even spicy German mustards. Incorporate this U.S.-made cheese—along with another hard, aged Italian style cheese soaked in Syrah (Creamy Toscano Cheese Soaked in Syrah)—into Trader Joe’s recipe for Toscano Cheese Board. Our guess is that this is a private label version of Sartori Black Pepper BellaVitano.

Cost: $9.99 per pound

Image Credit: Kristine Hansen / CheeseProfessor.

9. Local cheese

Are there local cheeses produced in your region? If so, you might be pleasantly surprised to find them in the cheese section. In California, you’ll find great prices on legendary Brie style cheeses like Marin French Petite Breakfast and Laura Chenel soft ripened creamy brie. In Wisconsin you might find the previously mentioned Carr Valley Glacier Wildfire Blue.

This article originally appeared on Cheeseprofessor.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

Image Credit: CheeseProfessor.com.

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