When it comes to ingredients, you don’t really get many things simpler than cheese. Four simple ingredients—milk, cultures, coagulant, and salt—can be used to make literally thousands of different cheeses. Arguably the most important of these ingredients, however, is milk. The type of dairy used in cheese-making can have a profound effect on the texture and taste of the finished product. Pretty much any milk can be used to make cheese but there are four types of milk that are most commonly used: cow, sheep, goat, and buffalo.
Cow milk is the most commonly used dairy in cheese production. The relatively high-fat content (3.25%) and general abundance make it an ideal diary for making cheese.
Thousands of cheeses are made using cow milk. Some examples include cheddar, Muenster, Swiss, Parmesan, Gouda, and Camembert.
Compared with cow milk, sheep milk has an extremely high fat content. Sheets milk is 6.75% fat, which makes it less suitable for drinking but ideal for cheese production. The high fat content means that more cheese can be made from a liter of sheep milk when compared with a liter of cow milk.
Many European cheeses are made from sheep milk. Notable examples include: feta, Roquefort, manchego, Serra da Estrela, pecorino romano, ricotta, and certain blue cheeses.
Goat milk is pretty close to cow milk in terms of overall fat content. Cow milk contains about 3.25% fat while goat milk has 3.5%; however, goat milk contains more fatty acids when compared to regular dairy. This combination of fats and fatty acids is what gives goat milk its characteristic tart flavor. Goat milk is generally easier to digest than cow milk, making chèvre a good, all-natural substitute for those suffering from lactose intolerance.
A number of cheeses are made using goat milk. The most common and popular include Bûcheron, Caprino, Crottin de Chavignol, feta, Garrotxa, Montrachet, and pyramid cheese.
Probably the rarest milk type on this list, water buffalo milk is highly prized and used in a few kinds of cheese. The milk of the water buffalo has an extremely high amount of fat, almost 10%, which makes it ideal for certain semi-soft and soft cheeses. The most famous example of cheese made from this particular type of dairy is Italian buffalo mozzarella. Other examples of buffalo cheeses include paneer, Scamorza, and Braila.