Cheese Vocabulary


Affine

The French word for “to finish or refine”; also used to describe a perfectly ripe cheese.

Aging

The process of curing or ripening cheeses in carefully controlled environments to allow the development of microorganisms that accentuate the basic cheese flavors.

Ammoniated

A term describing cheese that smells of ammonia as a result of being overripe or improperly ripened. A hint of ammonia is not objectionable with white bloomy rinds after they are first unwrapped, as they should be allowed to breathe.

Annatto

A natural vegetable dye used to give many cheese varieties—especially New York and Wisconsin Cheddars and many English cheeses—a yellow-orange hue.

Bleu

The French word for blue.

Bloomy Rind

The white, sometimes mottled rind that grows on soft-ripened cheeses such as Brie and Camembert.

Brebis

The French word for cheese made from sheep’s milk.

Bufala

The fresh Mozzarella cheese made from the milk of water buffalos in Italy.

Butterfat

The ratio of protein and fat that remains in a cheese after all the water is removed. Cheese is essentially made up of water, fat and protein. 50% butterfat means that half of the dry matter is fat, and the other half is protein and minerals. Butterfat percentage is very different from the percentage of fat in a cheese.

Buttermilk

The low-fat liquid that is drained off in making butter.

Cabra

The Spanish word for goat and goat’s milk.

Capra

The Italian word for goat and goat’s milk.

Certified Organic

Consisting of at least 95% organic product ingredients. Cannot include genetically modified foods (GMO). Animals must be fed 100% organically grown feed and given access to outdoor land and pasture. Antibiotics cannot be used.

Cheddaring

The traditional English way of preparing curds in Cheddar making that enhances its texture, stacking the curds to let the whey drain.

Cheese Dip

Very soft cheese infused with a wide variety of flavors.

Cheese Spread

Soft, spreadable, cheese-based products available in a wide variety of flavors.

Crème

A classification of cheese derived from the butterfat content. Double crème cheeses contain at least 60% butterfat: Havarti, Gouda or Brie. Triple Crème cheeses contain at least 70% butterfat: Gournay and St. Andre.

Dry Matter

All the components of cheese solids excluding moisture. Dry matter includes proteins, milk fat, milk sugars and minerals.

Emmenthaler

The Swiss word for Swiss cheese.

Eye

A hole within cheese that is caused as a result of fermentation during the curing process. Eyes are common in all Swiss-type cheeses.

Farmhouse

A term referring to artisanal cheeses handmade on farms in England and elsewhere.

Fat

Many cheeses have 8 grams of fat per ounce (1 ounce = 28 grams). Low fat and reduced fat cheeses have between 3 and 6 grams per ounce. There is little that will be saved in the way of fat and calories by eating a low-fat cheese and much to lose in flavor, texture and quality. Flavor in cheese is greatly due to its fat content.

Fondue

A delicious combination of Gruyere and Emmentaler. Fondue is one of the national foods of Switzerland. It is a communal meal where all the diners use slender forks and immerse bite size portions of toasted bread into a large pot of melted cheese. Fondue is wonderful at festive holiday celebrations or intimate dinners for two. Everyone will love dipping into this luscious and creamy cheese combination!

Serve fondue with hearty bread cubes, crackers, fresh vegetables and fruits for dipping.

Pair fondue with Chablis, Pomerol or Chasselas.

Formaggio

The Italian word for cheese.

Fromage

The French word for cheese.

Grana

The Italian term for hard-grating cheese.

Kaas

The Dutch word for cheese.

Kase

The German word for cheese.

Lait Cru

The French term for raw milk.

Pasta Filata

Cheeses whose curds are heated and then kneaded and stretched to become elastic. The Italian term for plastic-curd type cheeses.

PDO

Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) symbols were created by the European Union (EU) to protect the names and reputation of specific regional foods from misuse and imitation. The legislation for these seals was formed in 1992 and is enforced by the EU to ensure that foods such as Fontina and Asiago can only be labeled as such if they come from the designated region.

This official labeling process has helped to eliminate unfair competition and protects consumers from misleading, non-genuine products which may be of inferior quality.

To qualify for a PDO seal, a product must be produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognized know-how.

Pencillium

The molds in or on certain cheeses for the purpose of ripening. Penicillium Candidum is used to develop soft-ripened cheeses such as brie; Penicillium Glaucum is used for gorgonzola and Penicillium Roqueforti is used for Roquefort and Danish Blue cheese.

PGI

Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) symbols were created by the European Union (EU) to protect the names and reputation of specific regional foods from misuse and imitation. The legislation for these seals was formed in 1992 and is enforced by the EU to ensure that foods such as Fontina and Asiago can only be labeled as such if they come from the designated region.

This official labeling process has helped to eliminate unfair competition and protects consumers from misleading, non-genuine products which may be of inferior quality.

To qualify for a PGI seal, a product must be closely linked to a given geographical area meaning that at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation takes place in the area.

Plastic Curd

Cheeses whose curds are heated and then kneaded and stretched to become elastic. The Italian term for these cheese varieties is “pasta filata.” Mozzarella, Provolone and string cheese are plastic-curd type cheeses.

Queijo

The Portuguese word for cheese.

Queso

The Spanish word for cheese.

Raw Milk

Milk that has not undergone pasteurization. All raw milk cheeses sold in the U.S. are aged over 90 days and safe to eat.

Rennet

An enzyme that coagulates milk and separates the curds from the whey. Rennet can come from animal, vegetable or microbial sources.

Rind

The outer surface of cheese that can vary in texture, thickness and color. Cheeses may be rindless, have natural rinds or be covered in wax.

Ripe

A descriptive term for cheese when it has arrived at its peak flavor through aging. The optimum period of aging varies widely among cheese varieties.

Room Temperature

Almost all cheeses could benefit from being left out about one to two hours at room temperature, between 65° F and 75° F, before serving so their textures and flavors are allowed to develop.

Runny

Soft-ripened cheese varieties often become runny at the peak of ripeness or if placed at room temperature for at least one hour.

Sodium/Salt

Salt is used in the cheese production process to prevent the cheese from spoiling as it cures. Some authentic cheeses are naturally high in salt (Feta, Pecorino Romano), while many others are naturally low in salt (Mozzarella, Swiss Emmenthaler).

Surface Ripened

A term referring to cheese that ripens from the exterior. Bloomy-rind, washed-rind and some blue cheeses are surface-ripened; also referred to as soft-ripened.

Tomme

The French word for a wheel of cheese made in the mountainous regions of France such as Tomme de Pyrenees and Tomme de Savoie.

Vaca

The Spanish word for cow and cow’s milk.

Whey

The watery part of milk that is separated from the curds during cheesemaking. There are cheeses made predominantly from whey such as Ricotta.