Graph of cheese varieties

Visual Classification of Cheese

This radial dendrogram shows the classification of cheese groups by their characteristics and production process. The ring color represents the milk source. For more information, hover over the cheese or the process.
Cow Sheep Cow, goat, sheep, buffalo Cow, goat Cow, goat, sheep
Cow, buffalo Cow, goat, sheep, camel Goat, sheep Cow, sheep

Legend


This is a radial Dendrogram visualizing the different groups of cheeses originating in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. This graph is based on a graph of cheese varieties found on Fundamentals of Cheese Science by Patrick F. Fox, Timothy P. Guinee, Timothy M. Cogan, Paul L. H. McSweeney. The advantages of their classification is that it includes processes, and types of cheese. As an added bonus this graph includes the animal where the milk comes from. This is represented with a colored ring around each cheese variety.

When you hover over each cheese, you will find detailed information about the source, type, rind, aroma, taste, and country of origin. These descriptions should be enough to give you an idea of the result of the process, and decide the cheese you would like to try next time you are in the dairy section. The blue circles in the middle describe the main process used in making each cheese variety.

There are other ways to classify cheese, for example they can be categorized as natural versus process cheeses, unripened versus ripened and soft, versus hard. Many cheeses are named for their place of origin, such as Cheddar cheese, which originated in Cheddar, England Hilmarcheese

I am not a connoisseur of cheese but it was particularly encouraging to find I had tried at least one cheese in most of the groups. It also made a lot of sense to find that cottage and cream cheese had a similar appearance and flavor and went through the same basic process. Also that surface ripened cheeses had a similar look and coloring. Furthermore, it was not surprising that Roquefort was produced from internal mold, or that Brie and Camembert had surface mold that gave it a soft white exterior and light color.

Made by Luz K. Molina with D3.js.

Information

Cheese is the result of coagulating or curdling milk, stirring and heating the curd, draining off the whey (the watery part of milk), collecting, and pressing the curd, and in some cases ripening.

Cheese creation is both a science and an art. Cheesemakers rely as much on measurements of pH levels and inoculations of specific molds as they do their own senses of sight, touch, and smell. There are six important steps in cheesemaking according to the The Spruce Eats:

  • Acidification: First step in which a starter culture is added to milk that will change lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid. This changes the acidity level of the milk and begins the process of turning milk from a liquid into a solid.
  • Coagulation: is the process of denaturing the milk proteins to form a gel network, this is done by transforming the liquid into a semisolid. When making cheese, an enzyme called rennet is added either as a liquid or paste to further encourage the milk to solidify. Bacterial cultures are added to the milk before coagulation and after pasteurization and determine the flavor and texture of the final cheese product.
  • Curds and Whey: After the curds are formed, they’re pressed and drained before different elements are introduced, depending on the type of cheese being made. The liquid that is leftover after the curds are drained is called whey. The custard-like mass is cut into curds that are heated until the ideal firmness is achieved. Large curds cooked at lower temperatures retain more moisture, have less protein bonding, and result in soft cheeses, like ricotta. The opposite is true for small curds, which are cooked at higher temperatures and yield hard cheeses, like Parmesan Food Source Information.
  • Salting: Salt may be stirred in with the curds during knitting, applied to the surface during curing, or dissolved in brine in which the curds soak. Salt is added for flavor. It also acts as a preservative so the cheese does not spoil during the long months or years it spends aging and it helps to form a natural rind on the cheese.
  • Shaping: In this stage the cheese is given form by placing it in a basket or mold.
  • Ripening or curing: This stage is key to the development of a cheese’s characteristic flavor, texture, and aroma. The proper humidity, temperature, and oxygen levels must be maintained for the cheese to age as desired. Curing temperatures range from 35-50°F and humidity levels range from 80-95%. The curing process can take weeks, months, or years depending on the type of cheese. Some cheeses, such as provolone, are aged by the action of bacteria uniformly spread throughout the interior of the body of cheese; these are referred to as interior-ripened cheeses. Some cheeses are aged by a bacteria, mold, or yeast that is applied to the surface of the cheese mass; these cheeses are called surface-ripened Food Source Information.

Resources and Inspiration


The code used for this graph was modified from Cluster Dendrogram. The cheeses were drawn using Krita. The information on each individual cheese variety came from Wikipedia and from Cheese.com.

This visualization was created after viewing the graph on Popular Science called "Meet the hard-working microbes that make your favorite cheeses". I was quite intrigued with the different microbes displayed. I have a degree in biology and I found it quite interesting and reminiscent of microbiology classes. So that infographic actually made me think on the science behind the process. I definitely spent some time looking at it. But it was hard to group each variety with a specific organism. I decided I wanted a more detailed graph. One that gave me more information on each cheese. I found that the source of milk is of major interest, but does not seem to be that important when it comes to classifying cheese. Besides, most of the varieties use just cow milk. The main characteristic used to catalogue cheese, are the physical characteristics. But after looking at a few catalogues, they don't seem to make much sense. Fundamentals of cheese provided the most comprehensive organization. There is a physical component, a microbiological component, and the process to produce the cheese.

I excuse myself for not including Colombian trademarks such as Queso Campesino and Queso Costeño. I also wanted to include delicacies like Halloumi but the screen has a limited space, and I wanted to focus in the most common cheese varieties.

This was not an easy graph to complete. I had constant cravings of Roquefort, Cheddar, and Camembert. Reminiscences of Emmental and Gruyere. Good thing we make quesadillas at home at least once a week. Is there anything better than CHEESE?

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