Cheese Connoisseur's Glossary
Category : Hints, Tips and Tricks
Technical Terms and Phrases Used to Discuss Artisanal Cheese

The world of artisanal cheese is complex and varied, and can be difficult to navigate. To help you guide you in your quest for cheese knowledge, we have assembled this glossary. Here, you'll find definitions and explanations for many of the technical terms used on this site and in the cheese world at large. To supplement your endeavor, don't forget to explore our wine and beer pairings, educational classes, and blog entries. With these tools in hand, you'll soon be the ultimate cheese know-it-all!

A description used for cheese with sour flavors.

affinage (AH-fee-nahj)
The craft of maturing and aging cheeses.

The person behind the maturation and aging of cheeses.

The term usually used for bloomy or washed rind cheeses, giving off a strong smell or taste of ammonia.

A vegetable extract deriving from achiote seeds that is used to color a cheese red, yellow, or orange.

A skilled manual craftsperson.

artisanal cheese
Cheese that has been hand-crafted in small batches according to time-honored techniques, recipes, and traditions.
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Microscopic, single cell organisms found everywhere. Bacteria are integral to the production of every type of cheese. They promote complex flavor development, rind growth, and acidification. The large majority of bacteria in cheese are beneficial and non-pathogenic.

bacterial surface
Used to describe the rind of cheeses such as Munster d'Alsace and Epoisses, indicating a heavy growth of bacteria on the surface and unique flavor.

The French word for cheeses that are blue-veined.

bloomy rind
Type of cheese the rind of which has be coated with Penicillium candidum, allowing it to ripen from outside in. Camembert and Brie are examples of bloomy rind cheeses.

Blue mold found in blue cheeses.

The general name for the texture of cheese. Cheese body can be further described alternately as firm, weak, pastry, flaky, close, short.

A mixture comprised of water, salt, and often some type of spirit. Brines are used to "wash" cheeses, inhibiting mold growth and promoting flavor development.

Term used to a describe a cheese that is off-color or possesses dents or other abnormalities.

butterfat content
The amount of fat in cheese.

The liquid remaining after cream is curdled and churned to make butter - similar to whey.

calf rennet
A substance derived from rennin, an enzyme found in the fourth stomach of a milk-fed calf. It is used to coagulate (curdle) milk.

The technical name for milk protein. Casein is broken in half by rennet in the production of cheese, forming curds and whey.

Originally a real cave or cellar. Today, a cave can be a specially calibrated refrigerated cooler used to maintain the precise humidity and temperature levels ideal for aging cheese.

Denotes the sprinkling of cheeses with dark vegetable ash commonly seen on young goats' milk cheeses.

cheese cloth
A cloth, having either a course or fine texture, used to drain cheese curds or line cheese molds.

chevre or chevre (SHEV-reh)
A cheese made from goat's milk

cooked curds
A facet of cheesemaking, when cut curd is heated to expel more whey.

The fatty element of milk.

The solid portion of coagulated or curdled milk.

The stage in cheesemaking when the cheese is left to ripen and lose some of its moisture. Also known as affinage or aging.

When curds and whey are separated, and the whey is allowed to drain off.

dry matter
The part of cheese consisting of solid (versus liquid) matter.

Enhances the coagulation of milk, along with rennet.

The technical name for holes formed in certain cheeses after fermentation, e.g. in Swiss cheeses.

Describes cheese made solely from milk produced on the same farm.

fat content
The amount of fat in dry matter in cheese.

fresh cheese
Cheese that has not been ripened or aged.

hard cheese
Cheese that has been aged, salted, pressed for some time causing it to lose moisture.

lactic acid
The acid produced in milk or curd during cheesemaking, often as a result of the addition of a bacterial starter culture.

Natural sugar found in milk.

lactose intolerance
A physical intolerance and inability to process milk sugars. It should be noted that lactose is consumed by bacteria in the production of cheese and converted to lactic acid. Most cheeses over 60 days old do not contain any lactose, or only contain trace amounts. Milk allergy is often confused with lactose intolerance.

Part of the process of cheesemaking, when the cheese is stored at a certain temperature and humidity for a period of time in order to allow its flavor and texture to develop.

When added artificially to a cheese, mold describes a fungus or fungiform bacteria necessary for the development of the cheese. It manifests either internally or on the surface. Cheese can also develop mold spontaneously or naturally, usually on the rind of a cheese. This mold is usually beneficial or innocuous, but can be harmful as well. Typically, darker-colored molds are beneficial or harmless (blue, gray, brown, dark orange). Avoid consumption of bright yellow, red, or jet black molds.

A step in the cheesemaking process in which curds are poured into wood, metal, cloth, or plastic molds, containing holes to allow for drainage. These molds help determine the final shape of the cheese.

The type of wax used to coat cheeses, providing protection during transport and to discourage surface mold growth.

The interior of a cheese.

The process of heating milk to destroy pathogenic (and beneficial) bacteria, rendering the milk "clean". The typical method employed is HTST or High Teperature, Short Time. Milk is held at a temperature of 161.5 degrees Fahrenheit (or 72 degrees Celsius) for at least 15 seconds.

Penicillium candidum
A mold often added to soft-ripened cheeses that promotes the growth of a white, bloomy rind.

pressed cheeses
Cheeses that have been pressed to further expel whey. Gouda and Parmigiano-Reggiano are popular examples of pressed cheeses.

The process of piercing a cheese with long needles in order to introduce the air necessary for certain types of fermentation, usually blue mold growth.

A plant or animal derived substance that contains the enzyme rennin. Rennet is crucial to the coagulation of milk in the cheesemaking process. Traditionally, rennet was derived from the lining of the fourth stomach of an unweaned ruminant animal (e.g. a calf, kid, or lamb). Today, microbial, plant-derived, and GMO varieties represent the majority of the market.

The step in the cheesemaking process in which rennet is added to coagulate (curdle) the milk.

The outside of a cheese. The rind acts as a barrier between the cheese and the outside environment, while also imparting a flavor of its own.

The process of maturing a cheese. Artisanal Premium Cheese specializes in ripening cheeses to their full flavor potential.

When salt is added during the cheesemaking process to draw out liquid, enhance flavors, and stave off pathogenic bacteria growth. Different types of cheese require salting at different stages of the production process.

skim milk
Milk from which part or all of the fat (cream layer) has been removed.

soft cheese
Unpressed, high moisture cheeses that are aged for relatively short periods. Camembert and Brie are popular examples of soft cheese.

The bacteria added to milk at the very beginning of the cheesemaking process. The starter serves to acidify the milk, speeding along coagulation, and also adds to the complexity of flavor.

Often used to describe the flavor of goat's milk cheese. Tangy flavors are often related to cheeses that are higher in acid.

tomme (TUM)
The French word for a "wheel" of cheese. A tomme can denote any medium-sized wheel or form of cheese

triple creme (CREHM)
Cheese that contains more than 75% fat in dry matter (e.g. Pierre Robert and Brillat Savarin).

uncooked cheese
Cheese produced where the milk is only heated to 36 degrees Celsius and coagulated at a slightly lower temperature. Milk used to produce 'cooked cheeses' is heated to a much higher temperature. Examples of uncooked cheeses are Cantalet and Fromage de Savoie.

unpasteurized cheese
Cheese made from milk that has not been pasteurized. Often called raw milk, cheese made from milk that has not been pasteurized must be aged at least 60 days before it can be sold.

vegetarian rennet
Rennet derived completely from fungal, bacterial, or floral sources rather than from livestock. The cardoon thistle, for example, is often used as a source of vegetarian rennet.

washed-rind cheese
Used to describe a type of cheese that is washed periodically in a brine solution in order to promote rind growth and develop flavor. The rind may be washed in water, brine, cider, beer, spirits, wine, etc. Each type of wash imparts its own unique flavor. Examples of washed-rind cheeses are Epoisses and Munster d'Alsace.

The liquid portion of the milk left when milk is curdled. High in protein and carbohydrates, it is often fed to hogs, or reheated to produce ricotta cheese.