Provolone is a cheese made from cow’s milk. This cheese began in southern Italy, in Campania near Vesuvius, so it got its name from the Neapolitan words that mean the shape of a sphere or globe.
From the middle of the 19th century, provolone began to be produced in northern Italy, in the Po river valley.
Provolone is mostly produced in Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, and Veneto, and the unofficial center of provolone production is the city of Cremona.
There are two types of provolone cheese: Provolone Dolce and Provolone Piccante.
Provolone Dolce is a semi-soft type of provolone cheese aged two to three months. This type of provolone cheese is made using calf’s rennet.
Provolone Dolce can range from yellow to white, is smooth, and has a sweet taste. Provolone Dolce is a perfect ingredient for Italian Cuisine and is suited for pizza, sliced in toasted sandwiches, melted over meat dishes, and in many easy recipes.
Provolone Piccante is a semi-hard cheese aged for at least four months to a year or more.
This type of provolone cheese is made using lamb’s or goat’s rennet. Provolone Piccante has a denser structure and a sharper and spicier taste.
This type of provolone cheese is commonly used as a table cheese and sandwich cheese. However, it is excellent grated over pasta and pizza.
According to the production method, provolone belongs to pasta filata cheeses. It is obtained by kneading and stretching the curd while it is hot, and then it is formed, most often, into the shape of a pear.
Before the protective plastic crust or wax layer is applied to the provolone, the cheese is bathed in brine.
Italy is the only country that can produce provolone. Provolone Valpadana and Provolone del Monaco have received a protected designation of origin from the European Union.
Combining the influences of the south and the north of Italy, the producers developed a velvety and rich taste in Provolone Valpadana cheese from the fresh milk of Friesian cows from the Po Valley.
Provolone Valpadana cheese requires knowledge as well as skill. Natural whey and rennet are first added to fresh milk to form curd.
Then, the characteristic flavors and aromas of the Val Padano region in Valpadano provolone are obtained using local ingredients.
The curd is first left to rest and then cut and separated twice. Later, the excess whey is squeezed out of the curd, and what follows looks more like a performance by skilled jugglers than ordinary cheese production.
Next, skilled workers weave and shape the uncured cheese into tightly woven rods.
This process is necessary to eliminate the remaining air bubbles from the cheese to obtain a uniform texture.
The cheese is then salted and cooled. Finally, the completely cooled cheese is hung up to rest and mature.
In addition to Provolone Dolce and Provolone Piccante, Provolone Valpadana cheese is produced in two other types: Affumicato and Piccante Stagionato.
Provolone Valpadana Affumicato is one of the most popular smoked cheeses because it highlights special combinations of flavors and aromas.
Provolone Valpadana Piccante Stagionato is obtained by subjecting the largest cheeses to long seasoning, lasting over a year.
Provolone del Monaco, which translates to “Monaco provolone,” is produced in Naples.
Urban legend says peasants who brought their cheeses to the port of Naples wrapped themselves in cloaks to protect themselves from the cold and dampness.
Those cloaks resembled monks’ robes, so they started calling the peasants monks, and their provolone cheese was called “Monk’s Provolone.”
The shape of the head of provolone del monaco cheese resembles an elongated melon. The cheese ranges from two and a half kilograms to eight kilograms.
The rind of this cheese is smooth and thin. It is divided by longitudinal grooves that divide the cheese into six parts.
The color of the bark is yellowish.
Provolone del Monaco aged for six months.
The cheese is light yellow in color and elastic. The taste is slightly spicy and sweet.
Provolone del Monaco contains at least 40% fat.
In Uruguay, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina, a similar cheese is produced under provoleta.
This cheese is produced in discs no more than six inches in diameter and up to three-quarters of an inch thick. It is usually eaten seasoned with herbs and grilled meat.
Suggestions for substituting provolone cheese
Provolone belongs to the semi-hard cheeses.
These cheeses have a perfect balance of dryness and moisture, which ensures a firm but, at the same time, slightly elastic structure.
It is common for these cheeses to have a dense structure, which is obtained by compressing the curds into a solid and squeezing the remaining whey.
Semi-hard cheeses are aged from one to six months, depending on the type.
Certain types of these cheeses are coated with wax to avoid the need for salt water.
Emmentaler, edamer, gruyere, fontina, gouda, manchego, comte and mozzarella can be used as an alternative to provolone.
Fontina cheese is similar to provolone. Both of these cheeses melt easily and have a mild taste.
Fontina is a type of Italian cheese produced in Valle d’Aosta in the 12th century.
It was first mentioned in manuscripts from the Gran-San-Bernardo monastery in the 17th century.
Considering the long production tradition, this cheese’s very name is somewhat mysterious and can be interpreted differently.
Fontina is prepared from fresh unpasteurized full-fat Alpine cow’s milk. Valdostan cows are a special type of red color.
The rich pastures at the foot of the Alps in the Aosta Valley provide the characteristic aroma of Fontina cheese.
Additional aromas and nuances of fontina are obtained after ripening in local caves where the temperature is constant.
The cheese in these caves absorbs naturally filtered moisture.
Fontina is made by boiling fresh milk in large copper cauldrons. Milk coagulation is stimulated by adding enzymes and calf rennet.
When the curd has set, it is separated and strained through cheesecloth, then placed in molds to obtain the characteristic shape of a wheel.
The reels are deposited in the caves after being brined for two months.
The cheese matures in Valle d’Aosta’s humid caves for three months. Then, while it ripens, the workers turn it every other day, brush it, and salt it.
Fontina has compact skin that is brownish or sometimes resembles the color of gold. The inner part is yellowish and dotted with holes.
The taste is mild and very similar to the taste of butter.
Provolone’s equivalent is mozzarella. This cheese is mild in flavor, like young provolone.
Mozzarella is an unsalted semi-soft cheese and melts much more easily than provolone.
Due to this characteristic, mozzarella is mainly used for creamy pasta sauces and pizza, but it is also an excellent substitute for provolone in sandwiches, salads, or warm dishes.
Low-Moisture mozzarella cheese you can slice and serve on a meat and cheese board as a substitute for provolone, and it can also be grated and served as an alternative in many dishes.
Mozzarella is an Italian cheese from Campania traditionally made from buffalo milk. Still, the market also offers types of this cheese made from cow’s milk.
Mozzarella is white, and often this color is described as porcelain white.
This description is probably mostly influenced by the smooth surface of this cheese because mozzarella does not have a crust.
Mozzarella made from buffalo milk has a more pleasant taste and porous structure, making it softer than that obtained from cow’s milk.
Mozzarella has the recognizable shape of small balls.
Before molding, the mozzarella is cooked at 90°C with constant stirring until it becomes an elastic mixture.
According to written sources from the 12th century, there is a mention of a kind of buffalo milk cheese that the monks from the monastery of San Lorenzo in Capua served once a year for the Council of the Clergy.
It’s hard to guess how many similarities cheese has with modern mozzarella.
The name mozzarella for buffalo milk cheese was first mentioned in 1570 in the cookbook of the papal chef Scarpio.
Three types of mozzarella can be found on the market:
Mozzarella di bufala della Campania
Mozzarella fior di latte
Mozzarella made from soy milk
Mozzarella di bufala della Campania is a cheese made from buffalo milk, which gives it an elastic structure composed of threads.
This cheese contains proteins, vitamins, potassium, and mineral salts.
Mozzarella fior di latte is a soft cheese made from cow’s milk. This cheese comes from Agerola, on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
Mozzarella fior di latte contains more moisture than Mozzarella di bufala della Campania, which gives it a softer texture.
Edammer is a mild semi-hard cheese from cow’s milk in the northern Netherlands. It is named after the port of Edam.
It is round and has red smooth wax skin.
Edammer is a great alternative to provolone and can be used in all recipes as a substitute.
Edammer is suited for pizza, sliced in toasted sandwiches, used as a table cheese, and melted over meat dishes.
The original Edammer was initially produced on farms in the Netherlands from unpasteurized fresh milk, but since the 19th century, it has been produced from pasteurized milk.
A mark of origin does not protect Edammer. So it can be found in stores as a product from many countries, for example from Spain or the countries of North and South America.
Edammer, not produced in the Netherlands, often does not have the distinctive round shape that is the distinguishing feature of this cheese but can also be found in an elongated rectangular shape.
In the Netherlands, edammer is made by adding animal rennet to pasteurized cow’s milk, which initiates coagulation. When the curd has set, it is cut and separated to strain the whey.
Drainage of excess whey is important to eliminate bitterness and possible traces of acidity, and this procedure ensures an ideal structure and concentration of flavors, which makes them more pronounced.
The completely drained curd is then placed in molds and shaped into balls.
The size of the mold determines the weight of the edammer, which ranges from nine hundred grams to a kilogram and eight hundred grams. Brine prevents the unwanted growth of bacteria.
The edammer is aged on wooden shelves for at least one month before being covered with wax.
If edammer is intended for export and sale outside the Netherlands, it is covered with red wax.
In the Netherlands, edammer is sold with a yellow rind, and some fully matured edammer cheeses left to mature for up to a year are coated with a black waxy rind.
Edammer is not a particularly fatty cheese and contains 40% fat.
One hundred grams of edammer contains three hundred and fifty-seven calories, 27.8 grams of fat, 1.43 grams of carbohydrates, 24.99 grams of proteins, eighty-nine milligrams of cholesterol, nine hundred and sixty-five milligrams of sodium and such an amount of calcium that represents seventy-three percent of the daily required dose of this mineral.
Gouda, like provolone, is a popular type of semi-hard cow’s milk cheese. Both kinds of cheese melt very well, which is one of the main features recommended for wide use in the kitchen.
There are few differences in the taste of these two famous kinds of cheese, so gouda is an excellent substitute for provolone.
Gouda is a Dutch cheese that originated in the town of the same name in southern Holland near Rotterdam.
The first written information about Gouda cheese is from 1884, making it the world’s oldest type of cheese.
Gouda is a full-fat cheese with a lower percentage of salt produced from cow’s milk.
As is the case with all cheeses that contain in their aromas the specifics of the region in which they were created, so Gouda cheese reflects the characteristics of the Dutch pastures with its irresistible taste.
More than twenty types of grass grow in the Netherlands, and the most widespread is English ryegrass, rich in minerals.
Fresh gouda is soft, elastic with small holes, and belongs to the group of semi-hard cheeses, but as the cheese matures, its color, texture, and taste change. Ripe gouda cheeses have a dark yellow and sometimes even orange color.
Fully ripened gouda cheeses belong to the group of hard cheeses, and it is characteristic for them to crumble easily due to loss of elasticity.
Salt crystals form in the cheese at this stage, similar to parmesan cheese. Ripe gouda cheeses are excellent for grating.
In addition to the milky flavors and aromas, the taste of young gouda also contains fresh fruit aromas, while older gouda cheeses have the taste of stone fruits.
In the Netherlands, Gouda is still made by hand in the traditional way from unpasteurized cow’s milk, but only on farms.
Most gouda production takes place in modern dairies that are robotic.
Round gouda molds can be of different sizes. The cheese is aged for weeks to several years.
Gruyere is a Swiss cheese produced for centuries in the canton of Friborg using the same technology as unpasteurized cow’s milk.
The gruyere is similar to the Emmentaler but differs in size and number of holes. Gruyere has smaller holes and fewer of them.
In addition, this cheese has a characteristic casing with slight bumps.
Depending on the ripening time of the cheese, there are five types of gruyere: Sweet gruyere, semi-salty gruyere, salty gruyere, reserve gruyere, and old gruyere.
Sweet gruyere is a soft cheese that matures for five months.
Semi-salty gruyere matures from seven to eight months.
Salty gruyere matures from nine to ten months.
The reserve gruyere matures for twelve months
The old gruyere matures for fifteen months.
The production of gruyere differs from how similar cheeses are made because the milk is not heated before curdling.
Instead, the process begins by pouring unpasteurized cow’s milk into large copper vats to which natural culture and rennet are added to promote coagulation.
Next, the curd is cut, separated, and left to drain, after which it is poured into molds and kept under pressure for twenty hours. Afterward, the heater rings are removed from the mold and put in brine.
During the first three months, while the cheeses ripen, the condition of each wheel is monitored daily. After that, they are moved to more humid cellars.
The fan coils are brushed and rotated to prevent unwanted bacterial growth.
The rolls acquire the aroma of Grier cheese only after five months.
Comte is a French cheese produced in the Rhone and Lorraine valley in the Jura region, and this cheese is also allowed in Burgundy.
Comte is produced from unpasteurized cow’s milk, also known as gruyere de comte.
Almost twelve kilograms of cow’s milk is needed to produce one kilogram of comte.
Comte production has remained the same for centuries. Milk from two milkings is used: evening milking and morning milking.
First, the fermentation starter is added when cow’s milk is placed in a large copper vessel and heated to 33°C.
After solidification, the mass is torn into smaller parts that are slowly heated up to 54°C, and later, when this process is finished, everything is transferred into molds.
When the excess whey is squeezed out of the comte rings, coarse sea salt from Gueranda and a yeast solution are applied to the crust.
The cheese is aged in moist and cold alpine caves. This cheese’s unique taste and aroma are formed thanks to the naturally filtered moisture that comte absorbs during ripening.
Comte matures from four months to a year in dark caves in the Alps.
Comte is sold in reels with a diameter of forty to seventy centimeters between nine and fifteen centimeters high, and can weigh from thirty to sixty kilograms.
Manchego is a semi-hard Spanish cheese made in La Mancha from sheep’s milk. A distinctive feature of this cheese is its rind with a herringbone pattern. This bark is inedible.
Manchego is made by pouring cold, fresh milk into heated cauldrons to which natural culture and rennet are added.
The mixture is cooked with constant stirring until the curd becomes solid, after which it is cut and separated to squeeze out the excess whey.
Finally, drained curd is placed in molds and pressed.
Special molds made of plaited grass are used for artisanal cheeses, and plastic molds are used for industrially produced cheeses.
Before it ripens, the manchego is soaked in brine and coated with olive oil.
Manchego ages from two weeks to a year, and as this cheese ages, its texture becomes grainier.
Emmentaler is a Swiss cow’s milk cheese produced in the canton of Bern in the valley of Emme.
Emmentaler is also produced under other names in France, Ireland, Austria, Germany, Finland, and Denmark. Only one produced in Switzerland has the label Emmentaler Switzerland and is registered as a food brand.
Emmentaler is a yellow, medium-hard cheese with characteristic large round holes.
This specificity occurs during ripening because carbon dioxide is created in one of the three bacteria used to make it.
The ripening of this cheese takes four months, and during that time, it is stored in the cold rooms of the winery.
Due to the slow fermentation process, Emmentaler is considered one of the most difficult cheeses.
The holes in Emmentaler vary from the size of a cherry to the size of a walnut and are not a measure of the quality of the cheese, but it has been observed that cheeses with larger and deeper holes have a milder taste.
According to the length of maturation, there are several types of Emmentaler: Classic, reserve, and premier gru.
Classic matures for four months.
The reserve matures for eight months.
Premier gru matures for fourteen months.
The taste of the classic Emmentaler is sweet and varies from mild to nutty.
Reserva Emmentaler already has a slightly stronger taste, and older Prime Gru Emmentaler cheeses even take on a spicy taste over time.
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