Know Your Cheese

Know Your Cheese

A glossary of cheese terms

By Stephanie Lucianovic

Bloomy rind

This appears on cheeses that have been sprayed with or exposed to the molds necessary for their ripening. The cheese then ripens from the rind inward (the area just under the rind may become soft and runny during this process). Cheeses with bloomy rinds are white, soft, and velvety. Camembert is an example.

Hard/firm

Describes cheeses whose moisture content has been significantly reduced by aging, salting, or pressing. These are also referred to as grating cheeses. Parmigiano-Reggiano is an example.

Paste

The interior of the cheese beneath the rind. Depending on the moisture content of the paste, the cheese can be described as hard/firm, semihard/semifirm, semisoft, or soft.

Pasteurized

Milk that has been heated to 144 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or 160 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds to kill off potentially harmful bacteria. Cheesemakers are of the opinion that using the lower temperature is the better way to achieve pasteurization without compromising flavor; but the quicker, hotter way is often deemed more economical.

Raw

Milk that has not been heated above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Also referred to as unpasteurized. Because of FDA regulations, raw-milk cheeses that have been aged fewer than 60 days cannot be made or sold in the United States. Farmhouse-produced cheddar from Somerset, England, is a raw-milk cheese that has been aged at least six months. Parmigiano-Reggiano from Emilia-Romagna, Italy, is another raw-milk cheese. It may be aged between 14 months and four years.

Rennet

A preparation containing the coagulating enzyme used in the cheesemaking process. Not only does rennet encourage the milk to clump into curds, but it also influences the overall flavor of the cheese. With traditional rennet, the enzyme is taken from the stomach lining of the animal whose milk is being used for the cheese. Some cheeses might be described as vegetarian or rennetless, but that only means that the coagulant is vegetable-based, like what is obtained from thistle flower.

Semihard/semifirm

A cheese whose moisture content is 50 percent or less; Emmentaler is an example.

Semisoft

A cheese whose moisture content is between 50 and 75 percent; Morbier is an example.

Soft

A cheese with a very high moisture content. These cheeses are aged for only a short period of time. Brie is an example.

Washed rind

A rind that has been rubbed or washed with a saltwater solution, wine, beer, cider, or even brandy. Along with adding flavor to the cheese, washing the rind moisturizes the cheese during the aging process and usually results in an orange, sticky rind. Époisses is an example.