Cheese Terminology 101

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Whether you consider yourself a cheese expert or are just beginning your cheese education, the number of varieties, styles, techniques and terms can be overwhelming! We’re breaking down some of the most common cheese jargon, terminology and buzz to help you feel like a cheese master.

Affinage – The art of finishing cheese as it ages to bring it to maturity; the process helps influence the flavor, texture and body of the cheese. This is typically done in a cellar or cave.

Brine – A salt and water solution that is used to wash some cheese varieties during the final steps in the cheesemaking process. The brine serves several purposes – it stops the bacteria to ensure the cheese cures properly, it can help add flavor, and the brine pulls moisture from the surface of the cheese allowing a rind to begin to form.

Buttery – A term used to describe the flavor of certain cheeses that are either high in fat or have a slightly sweet flavor and creamy texture. Example: Roth Havarti

Casein – The key protein in milk that coagulates during the cheesemaking process with the addition of rennet.

Earthy – A term used to describe the flavor of cheese varieties with rustic, grassy flavors and aromas. Example: Roth’s Private Reserve

Hand-Rubbed – The process of rubbing the exterior of a cheese with spices or other seasonings to create a flavorful rind. Example: Roth GranQueso.

Mouthfeel – The physical sensations caused by cheese (or any food!) in the mouth. This sensory attribute helps determine the overall flavor of cheese.

Piquant – A term used to describe the pleasantly sharp or spicy flavors of cheese. Example: Roth Buttermilk Blue

Rennet – An enzyme added to help coagulate milk during the cheesemaking process.

Rind – The outer surface on a cheese that helps create a seal and lock in moisture during the aging process.

Smear Ripened – A type of washed rind cheese that is also smeared with a bacteria solution to encourage uniform growth of the desired bacteria as the cheese ages.

Whey – The liquid in milk that separates from the curds during the cheesemaking process.

Washed Rind – A process of ripening in which the rind of the cheese is washed with whey, brine or other liquid (such as wine or beer) to add flavor to the cheese and produce a firm rind.