Learn the flavor differences between the three milk types.
Cow’s milk cheeses: This category includes about 300 cheeses made in the United States. Cow’s milk cheeses range in flavor from mild and milky (such as mozzarella, fontina, and Monterey Jack) to strong and pungent (such as Limburger, Gruyère, and Gorgonzola). The textures of these cheeses run from soft to hard, depending on the cheese and its age. Parmesan is a popular example of a hard, aged cow’s milk cheese.
Goat’s milk cheeses: These tangy, acidic cheeses can taste a little bit strong, depending on how they are made and how long they are aged. Young goat cheeses are refreshing and earthy, while aged goat cheeses range from buttery and nutty to strong and pungent.
Sheep’s milk cheeses: Sheep’s milk has the highest butterfat content of all three milks, so cheesemakers get more cheese from sheep’s milk than they would from the same amount of goat’s or cow’s milk. Sheep’s milk also has more protein and calcium than cow’s milk. Younger sheep’s milk cheeses sometimes have a gamy character, while the aged ones, such as Pecorino Romano and Manchego, take on a rich, buttery quality.
Taste cheeses made from different milks side by side to familiarize yourself with the subtle flavor differences. For example, try three blue cheeses: Roquefort (sheep’s milk), Stilton (cow’s milk), and Classic Blue Log (a goat’s milk cheese from Westfield Farm in Hubbardston, MA).