Learn something new every day
More Info... by email
Cheese wheels are usually circular blocks of cured cheese that are available for purchase either by slice or by bulk. Cured cheese is basically heated and curdled milk stored in a dark and cool location. The product is packed together during creation so that individuals may more easily handle and move it, and therefore mobility is one consideration when choosing a cheese wheel. Taste preferences will also guide a purchasing decision, as cheese wheels are available in a number of cheese flavors. The best cheese wheels will also have necessary safety precautions and have relevant information like location stamped somewhere on the cheese.
Sellers offer cheese wheels in a wide range of sizes, from small handheld varieties to large human-sized offerings that require pushing by one or more individuals. Selection will of course depend on individual needs. An amateur cook looking for easily sliced chunks of cheese for home use would likely opt for a smaller size, whereas restaurant owners might need a bulkier purchase. Individuals should also consider storage capacity when taking ownership of a larger cheese wheel.
Since cheese will cure up until the moment it is first sliced and opened, cheese wheels available for sale should have some degree of protection. In general, the safest cheese wheels contain a wax outer covering called a cheese wheel rind. Although cloths or similar protective coatings might be used, wax can best combat harmful bacterial effects. Pasteurization processes — in which foods are heated for a period of time and then cooled — also help curtail harmful bacteria growth.
Nearly any type of cheese is available in cheese wheel form. The types can range from popular and inexpensive forms like Swiss and Cheddar to more refined forms like Caciocavello and Pule. This information is typically stamped somewhere on the cheese itself. Location and date of creation can impact flavors, so clear display of this information is also important.
Perhaps the best way to choose a cheese wheel is to taste the product. Different varieties of cheeses have a spectrum of textures, from very soft to hard and almost brick-like. Spices, herbs, and acids can also influence the flavor of some cheeses, as can the use of sheep or goat milk in place of cow milk. Selection may therefore vary based on individual tastes and preferences. Many cheese wheels are available for purchase in cheese shops or other specialty outlets, and many of these locations will often offer free taste tests where a potential buyer can sample products before purchase.
@Soulfox -- The sample won't taste exactly the same as the cheese it represents for the reasons you have stated. That is quite true.
However, the differences will be very subtle. Ideally, the sample will be from a wheel that was put up at the same time as the ones it represents so the taste should be very, very close. It might not be exactly, but I really doubt most people would even notice.
If, however, someone has a "trained" pallet and can taste those subtle differences, the sample may not be a great representation of the cheese it represents. But how many people like that are there in the world?
Be wary of those cheeses left around for tasting. They will not taste exactly like the wheel of cheese you want to buy as they are cut from a different wheel (of course!) so the ones for sale can continue to age and cure.
You might be surprised at how much difference there will be from the cheese wheel you buy and a sample that has been left out for long enough to harden, have its flavor altered and just become different from the cheese it is supposed to represent.
One of our editors will review your suggestion and make changes if warranted. Note that depending on the number of suggestions we receive, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Thank you for helping to improve wiseGEEK!