Cheese Glossary

Confused by all the cheese terminology? Here are some frequently used words and phrases associated with cheese and cheesemaking. Now you can impress your friends with your newfound cheese knowledge.

This French word describes the process of aging or ripening cheese. Affinage brings cheese to “maturity” and gives cheese the desired texture and flavor. Generally, this process occurs in a cheese cellar or cave.
A vegetable dye made from achiote seeds used to give some cheeses like cheddar their instantly recognizable orange color.
In the cheese world, “artisanal” specifically refers to cheese made with traditional methods, by hand, in small batches.
Close your eyes and picture yourself in the middle of a farm. If you’ve ever spent time on a farm, or even driven by, you’ll recognize the smell. Some cheeses are naturally infused with smells reminiscent of the farm they came from.
Although term is largely self-explanatory, it’s worth knowing that cheeses that can be identified as butter generally have high fat contents, giving them their characteristically smooth and butter-like texture.
A fancy word for cheesemaking, perfect for breaking out at parties while you wax poetic about your last visit to the local cheese shop.
Casein is one of the major proteins found in milk. This protein separates and coagulates during the cheesemaking process forming the beginnings of what we know and love as cheese curds.
These adorable little lumps are the pieces of curdled milk from which most cheeses are made.
Farmstead cheeses are made purely with a farm’s own milk. This generally means more control over the terrior of the cheese and implies a more artisanal approach to cheesemaking.
Simply – fromage is French for cheese. Will you sound fancier by using it? We’ll let you decide.
When fresh cheese curds are born, they need to be pressed and molded into a solid unit of cheese. This process is called hooping.
These are the containers (generally cylinders) that cheese curds are poured into during the hooping process. Each container has drain holes for extra whey to drain out during pressing.
This word describes the interior of the cheese, once you get under the rind. Paste can range in texture from melt-in-your-mouth to hearty and dense.
This friendly variety of blue-green fungus is key in the production of blue cheese and is responsible for blue’s beautiful veins of color.
A key part of the cheesemaking process, rennet is an enzyme that is added to milk during the coagulation process to help separate the solid curds from the liquid whey.
The protective and often tasty layer on the outside of cheese. Cheese rinds range from the inedible, to the delicious.
Cheeses can get ripe just like fruits! A cheese is ripe when it’s been aged to perfection by the cheesemaker’s standards.
Originating from the wine world, this French word refers to all the tiny details and characteristics unique to the area a cheese is made in. Details like the specific species of grass that farm animals grazed on, the season the cheese was made in, and more. These details often vary by region and although they seem minute, can result in cheeses that have delightfully unique flavors and aromas despite having identical cheesemaking methods.
Umami describes the savory flavor that some cheeses and foods have. Some also describe it as “brothy or “meaty.” In the cheese world, parmesan is known for having a distinctly strong umami.
Have you ever wanted to try samples of the same cheese, but aged different lengths of time? That’s what vertical tasting describes—we’d highly recommend it.
A piece of cheese cut from a wheel. Also known to cheese enthusiasts as, “not nearly enough.”
Whey is another protein found in milk. Whey is the liquid from milk that is separated from the curds during cheesemaking. Many cheeses discard this liquid, but some fresh cheeses like ricotta are actually made from whey!

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