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Fresh Cheese in German Supermarkets-Explained
There are many varieties of cheeses available in German Supermarkets. The cheese section is filled with so many products that it can sometimes confuse the consumer. Understanding these products is the best way to make the right decision about which product to buy.
Cheese can be fresh or aged. Fresh cheese has a higher water content and is usually spreadable. It has a shorter shelf life. Aged cheese is allowed to ‘ripen’ for many weeks ( even years) to develop more flavour. These have low water content and longer shelf life.
In this article, I will cover the most common types of cheeses that come under the category of fresh cheeses.
So, let us start.
Before moving on to the information about different supermarket products, it is essential to understand three basic things about cheeses.
3 Basic things to know about cheese and cheese making:
- What is cheese?
- What is rennet?
- What is ‘coagulation of milk’?
Let’s start by answering these questions:
1. What is cheese?
Cheese is a dairy product which is made by coagulating milk.
2. What is meant by ‘coagulation of milk’?
Coagulation means changing liquid milk into a solid form. It can be done by either resting the milk in a warm place for a long time or by adding acids or enzymes (read rennet) or sometimes both.
3. What is rennet?
Rennet is an enzyme produced in the stomachs of ruminant animals (animals with different stomach chambers like cows, goats, sheep etc.). The rennet used for cheese making is extracted from the stomach lining of unweaned calves. These enzymes, produced in the calf’s stomach, help coagulate the mothers’ milk in their stomachs, retaining it longer, hence extracting more nutrients.
The calves are slaughtered, and rennet is extracted. This rennet, when extracted, does the same job as it does in the animal’s stomach. It can be used for coagulating milk, which is the key process in making any type of cheese – aged or fresh.
However, rennet can also be obtained from plants like nettles, artichokes etc., or mould, yeast and fungi.
To summarise: We understand that cheese is a dairy product, which is made by coagulating milk. Coagulation is done by using acids or rennet.
Now, let us understand what fresh cheeses are.
What are Fresh Cheeses?
As the name says, fresh cheese is consumed fresh, and unlike aged cheeses, it is not matured or ripened. It is soft and spreadable and can be used as a spread on different types of bread. However, these cheeses are used in many other recipes, including desserts and cakes, and sometimes served with fresh fruits. This cheese, as mentioned earlier, has a higher water content and hence has a shorter shelf life and must always be kept in the fridge.
Let us now look at the various products under the category of fresh cheeses available in German Supermarkets.
Fresh Cheese in German Supermarkets:
Please note that all the pictures used in this article are only for reference purposes. These are not product recommendations.
Frischkäse translates to cream cheese. It is made by coagulating milk with acid or acid+rennet. The milk coagulates, and the solid and liquid parts get separated. The coagulated part (the fat) is then separated from the liquid portion ( the whey). This fat is then enriched with fresh cream. Different variants are then produced. Variations can be based on their fat content/ herbs/spices/nuts mixed/organic, or even the country of origin. It is most commonly used as a dairy spread for bread.
- Mascarpone Cheese:
This cheese comes from Italy and is produced using acids to curdle/coagulate cream. Since this is made from cream ( instead of milk), the fat content is high. To make mascarpone cheese, the cream is heated. Then acid is added to it. The curdled cream is then run through a cloth with tiny pores ( like a muslin cloth) and left to cool. The fat collected in the cloth is removed. This is mascarpone cheese. This cheese is commonly used in Tiramisu, Pizzas and pasta.
This is a crumbly Italian cheese. The fat content in ricotta depends on whether it is made from sheep or cow’s milk (cow’s milk is leaner).To make ricotta, milk is heated, and acid or rennet is added. This causes coagulation. The coagulated fat and whey are separated. The whey is then combined with milk and reheated. It curdles, and the cheese starts floating on top. This cheese is called ricotta. Ricotta is commonly used in Lasagna, stuffing in ravioli, cheesecakes, pizzas, pasta etc.
- Körnigerfrishkase /Hüttenkäse:
This is called cottage cheese in English. This is made from skimmed milk and is, therefore, low in fat and high in protein. To make cottage cheese, skimmed milk is curdled by using acid. The whey is separated, and the curdled milk is cut to a fine grain, reheated, and mixed with cream and salt. Fat content varies according to the amount of cream added to the curdled milk. Both low-fat and high-fat varieties are available. It can be spread on bread or can be combined with salads.
This cheese also comes from Italy. To make mozzarella, pasteurised milk is curdled, and whey is separated. The curdled milk is then kneaded and stretched in hot water, which changes its structure and consistency. The dough thus formed is aged only for a few days; hence, mozzarella comes under the category of fresh cheeses. It is commonly used in Pizza, Mac n Cheese, Lasagna etc.
Quark is, in essence, hung curd. This product comes from Austria and Bavaria (in Germany). To make quark, milk is mildly heated and converted to curd by adding acid. The curd is then ‘hung’, i.e. the curd is placed in a lined cloth, and the whey is allowed to drain out slowly. The fat collected in the cloth is quark. Quark is commonly used as a spread on bread, german cheesecake etc.
This product is also said to have originated in Austria and Bavaria. The production method is very similar to quark, and the taste is also very close to quark, just that Schichtkäse is easier to cut through and crumble. It is used in cheesecake, Strudel, puff pastry, etc.
This translates to double cream cheese. It has a high fat content as it is made from full-fat milk. However, this contains lesser fat than mascarpone ( because mascarpone is made from cream instead of milk). Double cream cheese is perfect for baking or for preparing dips or sauces.
Here are some additional notes:
- In Germany, cheeses are usually made with cows’ milk. But in the market, cheeses made from goat’s milk are also available. These are mentioned clearly as Frischkäse aus Ziegenmilch.
- Animal rennet is usually labelled as Rennet/Animal Rennet/Bovine Rennet (das Lab in German). Rennet obtained from plants is called Vegetable Rennet ( pflanzliches Lab in German), and rennet obtained from mould, fungi or yeast is called Microbial Rennet ( mikrobielles Lab in German). If you are looking for cheese suitable for vegetarians, look for mikrobielles Lab or pflanzliches Lab on the label. Some labels also have ‘ für Vegetarier geeignet’ written, meaning that the product is suitable for vegetarians.
- The common ingredients that you find on fresh cheese containers/packaging are:
–Milch (milk): It is the main ingredient in cheese making. Usage explained above
–Salz/Speisesalz (salt): For taste
–Lab ( meaning animal rennet): Usage explained above
–Säuerungsmittel (acidifiers), e.g. Citronensäure (citric acid): Helps with preserving the cheese and slowing the formation of bacteria/mould etc.
–Mikrobielles Lab (mould/fungi/yeast-based rennet): Usage explained above
–Käsereimilch: This means milk used for cheese production. This milk may or may not be pasteurized. If raw milk is used, it will be mentioned in the packaging. If it is not mentioned, it means that the milk is at least heat treated. To this milk, whey or buttermilk can be added. Cow’s milk can be replaced in whole or partly by sheep’s or goat’s milk.
–Molkenerzeugnisse(whey products): Use explained above
–Kräuter(herbs) eg Petersilie (Parsley),Thymian (Thyme) Majoran(Marjoram), Zwiebel(onion), Knoblauch(garlic),Pfeffer (pepper) etc , Gewürze(spices): Used to create different flavoured cheeses.
–Verdickungsmittel (Thickening agents) eg,johannisbrotkernmehl( locust bean gum); Carrageen (carrageenan), Guarkernmehl (guar gum): Added to ensure that the cheese retains its consistent taste, concentration and texture. Note that all the mentioned thickening agents are vegetarian.
–Aroma: To add a certain aroma to the cheese
–Milchsäurekulturen (lactic acid cultures): Added to fasten the acidification of milk.
–Sahne (cream): Added if the recipe demands
–Stickstoff zum aufschlagen (Nitrogen for whipping): Nitrogen gas is used to whip the cream and convert the texture from grainy to smooth. Also, whipping incorporates air so less can be packed in a standard-sized container, hence increasing the profits for the manufacturer. ( For Example, look for brands like Almette. The tub ( called Becher in German) in which this cheese is sold looks like a standard-sized tub. But the quantity of cheese in it is 150 gm as against others( which don’t use Nitrogen for whipping), which contain about 175-200gm. The prices are similar. Usually, customers miss reading the net weight of products and may be misled by the tub size to think that both products are similarly priced. It is best to read the per kg cost, which is written on the labels put by supermarkets on the refrigerator shelf, to know the correct price.
To understand other products in German Supermarkets, click here.
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