We’re working on a more extensive list, but this is a start.

Period Cheeses

This list includes cheeses that were known during the Middle Ages & Renaissance, along with some 17th century varieties and a few modern cheeses that are acceptable period substitutes.

  • Appenzeller, (Switzerland). Noted as being one of Switzerland’s oldest cheeses, it dates back to Charlemagne.
  • Beaufort (AOC), (France, Savoie). Mentioned in Roman times.
  • Bellelay, (Switzerland). This cheese is now known as Tete-de-
  • – It was renamed during the French Revolution, was originally named after a monastery in the Jura mountains.
  • Brie
  • Brie de Meaux (AOC), (France, Ile-de-France).Mentioned as early as 774 when it was served to Charlemagne.
  • Cantal (AOC), (France, Auvergne). This is one of the oldest of the French cheeses, dating back to the 12th century.
  • Castlemagno, (Italy). This cheese was mentioned in 1277 as a unit of exchange.
  • Cheshire, (Great Britain).  54 BC – the method for making it was brought to England by the Romans
  • Comte, (Switzerland).  1267 AD
  • Cottage Cheese, very common, early to late period.
  • Emmental, (Switzerland). This cheese can be traced back to 1293, but was first mentioned by name in 1542, when it was given to the people of Langethal whose lives had been devastated by fire.
  • Farmer’s – similar in both taste & texture to Medieval cheese.
  • Farmers Cheese, very common. It’s just unprocessed curds that have been salted and put by.
  • Glouscester – first recorded use is in 1697.
  • Grana – first recorded use is in 1200.(Italy). (parmesan and romano are of this family)
  • Gorgonzola, (Italy) – first recorded use is in 879.
  • Gouda – first recorded use is in 1697. (Holland). An ancient cheese, its history dates from the sixth century, when it was made on small farms around the village of Gouda. It has been exported since the 13th Century.
  • Gruyére, (Switzerland, Fribourg). n 1115 a quantity of Gruyere was recorded as the tithe paid by local farmers to the monks of Rougement Abbey.
  • Feta, (Greece). 1184 AD
  • Fontina, (Italy). 13th cent.(haven’t verified this one)
  • Fribourgeois, (Switzerland). According to local documents, it was served to the wife of Duke Sigismund of Austria in 1448.
  • Mariolles (AOC), (France, Flanders). Made as early as the 10th Century at the Abbaye de Mariolles.
  • Mozzarella (at least as pasta fillata, don’t know how old the name is….) From Wikipedia, “Mozzarella, derived from the Neapolitan dialect spoken in Campania, is the diminutive form of mozza (“cut”), or mozzare (“to cut off”) derived from the method of working. The term is first mentioned in 1570, cited in a cookbook by Bartolomeo Scappi, reading “milk cream, fresh butter, ricotta cheese, fresh mozzarella and milk”. An earlier reference is also often cited as describing mozzarella. Historian Monsignor Alicandri, in “Chiesa Metropolitana di Capua,” states that in the 12th century the Monastery of Saint Lorenzo, in Capua, offered pilgrims a piece of bread with mozza or provatura. These are locations rather than products and mozza is taken by some to be mozzarella.”
  • Münster, (Germany). In the Middle Ages the cheese was made by the monks at Munster Abbey in modern day Alsace. When Alsace became part of Germany, the name of the cheese gained an umlaut, it became Münster, after the Wesphalian town. Ownership of Alsace switched from Germany to France several times after that, but the cheese continued to be made on both sides of the border.
  • Parmesan, (Italy). 1200-1300 CE (as a description) – first recorded use is in 1579. (Decameron 14th cent) (1475, Platina)
  • Port-Salut
  • Quark, (Germany). Simply means “curd” in German, and the cheese is said to date from the Iron Age, when nomadic tribes discovered the means of fermenting the milk without the use of Rennet.
  • Reblochon
  • Rewen, Rowen, Ruayn – Autumn cheese, made after the cattle had fed on the second growth. This was apparently a semi-soft cheese, but not as soft as a ripe modern Brie: one period recipe says to grate it. It appears to be the same cheese that in France today is called fromage de gaing. See: Tart de Bry
  • Ricotta – for Platina’s recipe for ricotta cheese, see: Recocta. known throughout period
  • Romano, (Italy). 1200-1300 AD
  • Roquefort, (France). 1070 AD – first recorded use is in 1070, but is under debate!
  • Saint-Marcellin, (France). Served to royalty as early as 1461. In those days it would probably have been made with goat’s milk.
  • Sapsago, (Italy).  16th cent.
  • Sbrinz, (Switzerland). Is thought to be the cheese referred to by Pliny the Elder as Caseus Helveticus in his writings of the 1st Century AD.
  • Slipcoat cheese, (Great Britain).
  • Spermyse – soft or cream cheese flavored with herbs.
  • Wensleydale, (Great Britain). 1150 AD
  • Yogurt, known throughout period


  • Edam, 18th cent.
  • Gloucester, 1697 AD
  • Port-Salut, 1865 AD

Listed as both period and not…. more research needed….

  • Camembert, developed in 1791 by Marie Fontaine. The cheese Napoleon ate was not what we know as Camembert. So what was the original?
  • Cheddar, because of the cheddaring process, which was created during the Industrial Revolution, is late 18th century. There is a cheese that was known in period that was called Cheddar, but it was an *entirely* different cheese from what we know today, but Cheddar was first recorded  in 1500.
  • Stilton, 1750 CE Pretty sure blue existed, but….

Go to Gode Cookery for *lots* of good information like this!  http://www.godecookery.com/how2cook/howto02.htm  

Also Stephan’s Florilegium has some info, part of this was added from Lady Eibhlin nic’Raghailligh, mundanely known as Kathleen Madsen.  Feel free to email with questions

or comments. kathleenmadsen@gmail.com

Wikipedia has a number of good article about the various cheeses, as well, just search by the cheese name.

Cheese: A Global History (Edible Series) by Andrew Dalby (Author), Reaktion Books (July 1, 2012) ASIN: B008GTZ1OW

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Page Created and published 2/7/17 (C)M. Bartlett
Last Update 9/23/21