Have you ever wondered about the science of cheesemaking between bites of brick? You’re not alone! Cheesemaking can be a beautifully simple yet involved art (with a healthy dose of that aforementioned science!) that revolves around a few key steps and processes.
While we won’t be diving into that subject too far here, understanding the basic vocabulary will help when you inevitably go down the Wikipedia rabbit hole for cheesemaking on a Saturday night.
A fancy word for cheesemaking, perfect for breaking out at parties while you wax poetic about your last visit to the local cheese shop.
This French word describes the process of aging or ripening cheese. Affinage brings cheese to 'maturity' and gives cheese the desired texture and flavor the maker has in mind. Generally, this process occurs in a cheese cellar or cave.
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.
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!
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.
These adorable little lumps are the pieces of curdled milk from which most cheeses are made.
A vegetable dye made from achiote seeds, annatto is used to give some cheeses, like cheddar, their instantly recognizable orange color.
Originating in the wine world, this French term refers to all the tiny details and characteristics unique to the area where a particular cheese is made. These details include such things as 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, they can result in cheeses that have delightfully unique flavors and aromas despite identical cheesemaking methods.
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.
In the cheese world, 'artisanal' specifically refers to cheese made using traditional methods, by hand, and in small batches. Wisconsin has dozens of artisanal cheesemakers just waiting for you to discover them.
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 holes for extra whey to drain out during pressing.
Terms for Describing Cheese-romage
Simply – fromage is French for cheese. Will you sound fancier by using it? We’ll let you decide.
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.
Cheese can ripen just like fruit! A cheese is ripe when it’s been aged to perfection according to the cheesemaker’s standards.
Although the term is largely self-explanatory, it’s worth knowing that cheeses that can be identified as buttery generally have a high fat content, giving them their characteristically smooth and butter-like texture.
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 one, you’ll recognize the smell. Some cheeses are naturally infused with smells reminiscent of the farm they came from.
Farmstead or Fermier
Farmstead cheeses are made on a dairy farm using only milk from that farm. (Fermier is French for 'farm', by the way.) This generally means more control over the terrior of the cheese and implies a more artisanal approach to cheesemaking.
This is the protective and often tasty layer on the outside of cheese. Cheese rinds range from the inedible to the delicious. Learn all about the world of cheese rinds (and which ones are safe to eat).
Have you ever wanted to try samples of the same cheese aged for different lengths of time? That’s exactly what the phrase 'vertical tasting' describes. We also highly recommend it.
This, as you may have guessed, is a piece of cheese cut from a wheel. It is also known to cheese enthusiasts as 'not nearly enough.'
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.
Ready to turophile!
Armed with your new vocabulary, you’ll be ready to impress your local cheesemonger and entertain guests with your knowledge of fromage. If all this talk of delicious cheese has worked up an appetite, head over to our recipes and choose from over 300 handcrafted recipes featuring Wisconsin cheese. Share your creation with us on Instagram or Facebook and become part of the largest cheese community in the world!
FAQs: Cheese Terms
What is a cheese lover called?
The official word for someone who loves cheese is a turophile. This word got its start back in the 1930s and never really caught on—saying 'cheese lover' might just be easier. Wondering where the word comes from? The origin story for turophile can be traced to the Greek word for cheese, tyros, and the English ending -phile, for lover.
What is an Affineur?
Affi-what? An affineur is someone who manages the aging process for cheese. Cheese aging is an enormously important step to ensure proper flavor and texture in many of your favorite varieties of cheese, like aged cheddar. Dream job, anyone?
What do you call someone who makes cheese?
Simply: a cheesemaker. Or if you’re trying to impress someone, you could go with the French word, fromager.
What does a cheesemonger do?
A cheesemonger is someone who specializes in selling cheese. Another way to think about a cheesemonger is as a cheese storyteller. Every cheese has a story, and it’s the cheesemonger’s job to learn it so they can explain the cheese’s place in the world (and on your plate). A cheesemonger is someone you can ask about cheese pairings or cheese recommendations based on your tastes.