The World Encyclopedia of Cheese by Juliet Harbutt – Book Review


Cheese, like wine, beer or even chocolate are niche crafts driven by passion where the complexity in diversity of flavours are created. Where is it from, how is it made and what are the ingredients are some of the questions that bring about its own unique story that will lead you to an endless reading. The book, ‘The World Encyclopedia of Cheese‘ by Juliet Harbutt, accompanied with recipes by Roz Denny gives an insight about the culinary world of cheese around the world.

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Book Description

One food; so many subtleties of taste and texture – cheese has been made for centuries and has been a vital ingredient in the diet of people all over the world. We can discover classic cheeses as we travel or, increasingly, sample them in specialist shops or supermarkets at home. With the revival of interest in traditional methods of cheese making and the nurturing of rare breeds of cattle, there are now an even greater number of varieties to discover and appreciate.

Choosing the right cheese for the right culinary use can be difficult decision – the first part of The World of Encyclopedia of Cheese provides all-important information on what to look for when buying cheese; how to select the ideal cheese for cooking or eating; how to serve it and how to store it. There is also an invaluable section on creating the perfect cheeseboard, and expert advice on which wines to serve with which types of cheese.

This is followed by a comprehensive survey of the world’s classic and modern cheeses, covering the major producers, such as France, Italy, England, Denmark, the USA, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the smaller output from countries such as Belgium, Greece, Germany and India. Essential details on each cheese describe its taste, appearance and texture; whether it is pasteurized, unpasteurized or vegetarian; and what it is best used for, be it grilling, baking, grating, sauces or salads.

Putting this information to excellent use, the second half of the book contains a superb selection of 100 cheese recipes for every occasion, covering soups, and snacks; salads and vegetable dishes; main meal cheese dishes; pastries, pizzas and pasta; and desserts and bakes.

With over 525 wonderful photographs, expert information, a comprehensive guide to the world’s cheeses and 100 glorious recipes, The World Encyclopedia of Cheese will help you to explore subtlety, diversity and versatility of this magic food.

Book Review

It’s a book with volumes of information about cheese in which some details may interest you – did you know that different animals yield different milk’s flavour and taste?

Before we go into that, let’s have a look at what the book offers.

The content’s structure is marshaled into three main sections – (1) ‘introduction’: it’s a coverage that answers questions on what is cheese, how it’s made, what are the types of cheese available in the market, the art of cheese tasting, how to pair wine with cheese and how to create a perfect cheeseboard for your dining pleasure, (2) The variety of ‘cheeses around the world’: it tells stories of cheeses of at least 26 places around the world from Europe, America, Middle East to Asia Pacific and (3) ‘the recipes’: it’s a collection of a variety of recipes where you learn about the application aspect cheeses.

The understanding provided is profoundly captivating for readers who are new to the world of cheese. The book’s approach is systematic and easy to follow; in particularly in section (2) of the book where it gives a general background story of cheeses of a region, followed by detailizing each type of cheese found in a region in a fixed format – an image of a cheese, its origin, its category, its source of ingredient, a description of its external attributes and its culinary usage.

Picking up from the earlier question; yes, the book does provide interesting facts like the one about different animals yield different milk flavour and taste, for example “cow’s milk is slightly sweet, mild and subtle in flavour. There are more than 50 different breeds of cows whose milk is suitable for cheese making. Water buffalo’s milk (Italian use it to make mozzarella) is ivory white, earthy and slightly nutty. Sheep’s milk is also mild but has undertones of roast lamb and lanolin. It is slightly sweeter than cow’s milk. Goat’s milk is mild with a slightly aromatic background and if mishandled badly, it is bitter, nasty and has ‘billy goat’ flavour (a smell you are unlikely to forget) to the milk“.

Another of equally important factor in the choice of quality milk for cheese making is knowing what the animals eat – the quality of the pasture for grazing, the soil where grasses absorb minerals and the geology (rainfall, humidity and temperature) of an area will also affect the flavour of the milk and may even govern the type of cheese that can be made.

Overall, it’s not an encyclopedia with merely walls of text that may bore some readers, the book’s compilation of vibrant colourful photo images have added value to the book and eased the comprehension of the subject matter. It’s a book worth digging into if you wish to learn more about the diversity of colours, body, texture and flavours of cheeses around the world.

Click here to know more about the book.


Juliet Harbutt and Roz Denny. The World Encyclopedia of Cheese (Leicestershire: Anness Publishing Ltd, 2011), 6.

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