Cheese, Glossary of - CheeseWorld on the Move

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Reproduced from "The Pocket Guide to Wine and Cheese" with the gracious permission   of
Ms Barbara Ensrud.

Ms Ensrud writes about wine for several national publications, and has been a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal since 1984.  

For 12 years, she was the syndicated weekly wine columnist for the New York Daily News. Her wine and food articles have appeared in Vogue, Smart Money, Harper's Bazaar, The Wine Spectator,  Food & Wine, House & Garden, House Beautiful and The Journal   of Gastronomy.


Acid, acidity: a description of a pleasant tang; it Can be a defect if too pronounced

Affine: from the French affiner, meaning "to finish, or refine WASHED RIND cheeses, for example, may he affine au marc de Bourgogne-the rind has been washed with MARC during CURING.

Ammoniated: a term describing cheeses that smell or taste of ammonia. a condition that afflicts the rinds of overripe cheeses, primarily, those with bloomy rinds such as Brie, Camembert, CHEVRES. A hint of ammonia is not necessarily objectionable.

Annatto: a yellow-orange dye extracted from the seeds of a South American plant and used to colour such cheeses as Cheddar, Mimolette, Double Gloucester, Edam, and many others.

Aroma: the smell or odour of cheese, which can vary from very faint to over-poweringly STRONG. Aroma is an excellent guide to personal preference in cheeses, though sometimes the smell is stronger than the taste on the palate, as with French Munster.   Pont l'Eveque, Liederkranz, where the odour is mainly in the rind.

Assertive: term referring to pronounced taste or aroma.


Barnyardy: a term used to describe aromas or flavours associated with a stable or barnyard. The description is not necessarily negative, but it can refer  to an excessively  goaty, EARTHY, or even dirty character.

Beestings: a term for colostrum, the first milk a Cow gives after calving. Very high in protein, its only known use is in Spain for a strong, SEMI FIRM cheese known as Armada.

Bleu: the French term for "blue."

Bloomy rind: the white fleecy rind that develops on certain surface ripened cheeses like Brie, Camembert, double or triple creams, and some CHEVRERS. It is formed by spraying the surface of the cheese with spores of Penicillium candidum mould (see PENICILLIUM)   while it is curing.

Blue vein: cheeses that develop bluish or greenish veins of mould throughout their interior. Veining generally gives cheese an ASERTIVE and PIQUANT flavour.

Body: the "feel" of a cheese, on the palate or to touch; may be firm, SUPPLE,SPRINGY, elastic, chewy, GRAINY, etc,

Brine: a salt-and-water solution in which some cheeses are wished or dipped during curing. (See "WASHED RIND.")

Brushed: To keep the rinds moist, WASHED RIND cheeses are "brushed" during curing with various liquids, such as brine, beer, or brandy


Casein: the principal protein in milk that solidifies it into cheese through, the action Of RENNET.

Chalky: a positive term, referring either to whitest of white colour or smooth. fine-grained texture, primarily for CHEVRES. Not a reference to taste.

Cheddaring: the, process used in making Cheddar, whereby the CURDS are cut, or milled, and repeatedly turned to knit the fibres together.

Chevres: the French term for GOAT cheeses.

Close: a term describing a smooth, dense texture with no holes; cheeses with more OPEN texture may have large or small holes.

Cold pack: cheeses ground or mixed together into a soft, spreadable paste without heating or cooking. Port Wine Cheddar is an example

Cooked: part of the cheese-making process during which the cheese is heated to help solidify the CURD. Most cheeses are heated somewhat, but Cheddar or Swiss types are heated to fairly high temperatures.

Creams, Double or Triple: a classification of cheese.

Creamy: a term describing texture or taste. Creamy texture is soft and even runny in some cases; creamy flavours are rich and associated with cream enriched cheeses such as double or triple CREAMS. Creamy may also describe a cream-coloured appearance   of the PASTE.

Crumbly: a descriptive term for texture that may he positive or not, depending on whether it is typical of the cheese. Blues may be somewhat crumbly, but if they are too much so, they are dried out.

Cryovac: vacuum-plastic wrapping commonly used for cheese portions sold in supermarkets. large factory-made cheeses are sometimes cryovacked also. This method of packaging has the advantage of protecting the cheese from oxidation or spoilage, but it can   result in GUMMY rinds and mushy texture, particularly with blue cheeses.

Curd: the solid white mass that coagulates when milk is treated with RENNET or other acid producing enzymes, leaving the WHEY.

Curing: the process of ripening that natural cheeses undergo to achieve peak flavour; often used interchangeably with aging or ripening.


Dry matter: all the components of cheese excluding moisture (water). They include proteins, milk fat, milk sugars and minerals.


Earthy: a term describing hearty, RUSTIC flavours and. certain cheeses with ASSERTIVE flavour or aroma, particularly MONASTERY types but also SHEEP or GOAT  cheeses.  It is not negative unless excessive.

Eyes: the holes found in some cheeses, especially Swiss or Gruyeres. Eyes are formed by gases that are released during the CURING Process.


Fat content: The fat content of a cheese is measured only in the DRY MATTER, because moisture content varies as the cheese gets older. Fat content for most  cheeses  is 45% to 50% of the DRY MATTER; a few have only 10% or less, double CREAMS have 60%, triple CREAMS have 75%.

Ferme, or Fermier: the French term for farm-produced cheeses,

Fresh: a classification of cheese.

Formaggio: Italian word for cheese.

Fromage: French word for cheese.

Fruity: a descriptive term for the sweet and appealing fragrance or flavour of certain cheeses, common to some of the MONASTERY types or SEMI FIRM mountain cheeses.


Gamy: a descriptive term for STRONG cheeses with penetrating aromas.

Gassy: a descriptive term for defective cheeses that have gassy or fermented odours.

Goat: a classification of cheese.

Grainy: a term used for describing gritty texture, desirable in certain hard grating cheeses though not to the point of mealiness, Unless it is typicalof the cheese, graininess is an undesirable trait.

Grana: Italian term for hard. grating cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padino, Sapsago, etc.

Gummy; a negative term used to describe an overly plastic texture. As well as overripe rinds that have become sticky or gooey. Gumminess is undesirable in any context.


Hard: a classification of cheese.

High: a descriptive term sometimes applied to strong smelling cheeses that have reached full ripeness or are just over the edge.


Interior: the part of the cheese inside the rind or crust; also called PASTE.


Kaas: the Dutch word for cheese.

Klise: the Cernian word for cheese.


Lactic: a generally positive description applied to cheeses with a clean, wholesome milky flavour.

Lait cru: French term For raw milk.

Laiterie or laitier: French words for dairy or dairyman; appears on French cheeses made in creamery or factory. (See "Ferme")


Marc: white brandy, or eau de vie made from grape pomace; sometimes used as the solution for curing WASHED RIND cheeses.

Matieres grasses: the French term for DRY MATTER.

Mild: a descriptive term for cheeses that have bland or unassuming flavour; also a term for young Cheddars that are aged briefly.

Mould: a condition created by the spores of various fungi during ripening that also contributes to individual character Surface moulds ripen from the rind Inward; internal moulds (such as those used for blue cheeses) riper from the interior outwards.    A mouldy character can be clean and attractive or unpleasantly ammoniated. Mould also refers to the fungus itself.

Monastery: a classification of cheese.

Mushroomy: a descriptive term commonly applied to some soft ripened cheeses that have developed the pleasant aroma of mushrooms


Natural rind: rinds that develop naturally, on the cheese's exterior during ripening, without the aid of ripening agents or washing. Most SEMIFIRM hard cheeses  have  natural rinds that may be thin like Cheddar or tough and thick like Parmesan, PecorinoRomano, Swiss Emmentaler and others.

Nutty: a term used to describe the flavours reminiscent of nuts, often hazelnuts or walnuts.


Oily: a term used to describe the texture of some SEMI FIRM or hard cheeses can also apply to aroma and flavour.

Open: open textured cheeses are those that have holes. They, may, be small or large. densely patterned, or randomly scattered and irregular in shape (see "Close").

Ost: the Scandinavian term for cheese


Paraffin: the wax coating applied to the rinds of some cheeses, intended to protect them during export and add to their lifespan. The coating may be clear,  black,  yellow or red.

Pasta filata: Italian term for cheeses whose curds are dipped in hot whey then kneaded or stretched to an elastic consistency.

Pasteurised: a term describing milk that has been heat treated to destroy bacteria Most factory made cheeses are made from pasteurised milk to ensure greater control over quality and more uniform consistency. Processed cheeses may also be pasteurised   to check further ripening.

Paste: a term for the interior of a cheese, most commonly used with SOFT  RIPENED varieties that are SEMI SOFT to runny.

Penicillium: principal species, of fungi used to develop moulds on certain cheeses during ripening Penicillium candidum is used to develop many SOFT RIPENED cheeses, such as Brie, Penicillium glaucum or roqueforti is used for blue cheeses.

Persille: French word meaning "parsleyed" applied to delicately veined blues where the MOULD resembles sprigs of parsley.

Pickled: a term sometimes used for cheeses cured in BRINE such as Feta.

Piquant: a term used to describe an appealing sharpness or exhilarating accent of flavour or aroma.

Processed: a classification of cheese.

Pronounced: a descriptive term for forceful aroma or flavour.

Pungent: strong, sharp, penetrating aroma or flavour.


Queso: Spanish word for cheese.


Rancid: a term referring to stale, fetid. or otherwise tainted character.

Rennet: a substance, found in the mucous membranes of calves' stomachs that contain rennin, an acid producing enzyme that aids in coagulating milk. or separating the curds from the whey.

Rind: a cheese's outer surface which varies considerably in texture, thickness And colour. Some cheeses are rind-less, some have natural rinds, others possess rinds that are produced by MOULD.

Ripe: a specific term referring to cheeses that have arrived at peak flavour through aging, The optimum period of aging varies widely with the type of cheese.

Robust: descriptive term for earthy. Full flavoured cheeses.

Rubbery: Generally a pejorative term for cheese that are overly chewy or elastic in texture.

Rustic: generally ascribed to country or mountain cheeses that have hearty or earthy flavours and assertive or BARNYARDY aromas.


Salty: most cheeses have some degree of saltiness; those lacking in salt are said to be dull or flat. Pronounced saltiness is characteristic of some cheeses.  but over-saltiness  is a defect.

Semi-firm: a classification of cheese.

Semi-soft: a classification of cheese.

Sharp: a term applied to fully developed flavour in aged cheeses like Cheddar, provolone and certain blues. If a cheese is too sharp, however, it bias become bitter or biting.

Sheep: a classification of cheese

Soft-ripened: a cheese classification.

Sour: a mild, sourish tang can be attractive in young cheeses like Stracchino, but this term usually refers to excessive ACIDITY which is very unpleasant.

Spicy: a descriptive term for cheeses with peppery, or herby character it has a different meaning than spiced, which refers to cheeses flavoured with herbs or spices like caraway, cumin, pepper, chives, etc

Springy: a descriptive term for resilient texture that "springs back" when you gently press it. Ripe or nearly ripe SOFT RIPENED should be springy.

Starter: the culture of milk bacteria used to increase lactic acid and to begin the process of flavour development Starters are carefully selected or cultured by, conscientious cheese producers; they are wry important in determining the cheese's character.

Strong: a descriptive term for cheeses with PRONOUNCED or penetrating flavour and aroma.

Supple: a term used to describe the resilient or pliable texture usually characteristic of SEMI SOFT cheeses. it implies just the right degree of elasticity-the cheese is bendable but not rubbery.

Surface-ripened: a term referring to cheeses that ripen, from the outside in, as a result of the application of MOULD, yeast, or bacteria to the surface. Bloomy rind and WASHED RIND cheeses are surface ripened.


Tangy: a generally, positive descriptive term that refers to a pleasing acidity, or tartness, a thrust of flavour common to CHEVRES and certain blues.

Texture: the "fabric" or 'feel' of cheese which may be smooth or GRAINY, OPEN, or CLOSE, CREAMY, flaky, dense, CRUMBLY, etc according to the variety.

Turophile: the Greek term for one who loves cheese.


Washed rind: a term used to refer to SURFACE RIPENED cheeses such as Port I'Eveque, Chaumes, Rollot whose rinds are washed Or BRUSHED with brine, beer. brandy  or other  solutions during the curing process The washing promotes the growth of a reddish orange bacterial "Smear," which contributes to aroma and flavour.

Weeping: a term that describes holes or eyes that are shiny with butterfat Weeping is a sign of maturity in Swiss, type cheeses such as Emmentaler, Gruyere, jarlsberg, and others.

Whey: the watery yellowish liquid that is separated from the coagulated CURDS as the first Step in cheese making, Some cheeses, such as Ricotta or Gjetost, are made from the whey.

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