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Home :: Glossary of Cheesemaking Terms

Glossary of Cheesemaking Terms

Acid

A descriptive term for cheese with a pleasant tang and sourish flavor due to a concentration of acid. By contrast, a cheese with sharp or biting, sour taste indicates an excessive concentration of acid which is a defect.

Aged

Generally a cheese that has been cured longer than six months. Aged cheeses are characterized as having more pronounced and fuller, sometimes sharper flavors, than medium-aged or current-aged cheeses.

American

A descriptive term used to identify the group of American-type cheeses which includes Cheddar, Colby, granular or stirred-curd and washed or soaked-curd cheeses. Monterey Jack is also included in this group.

Annatto

A natural vegetable dye used to give many cheese varieties, especially the Cheddars, a yellow-orange hue. Annatto is tasteless and is not a preservative.

Bitter

An unpleasant, biting flavor usually an aftertaste. A bitter aftertaste is sometimes associated with variations in manufacturing and curing or aging procedures. It is more prevalent in cured cheeses having higher moisture contents. Bitterness is often confused with astringency. True bitterness is a sensation that is typified by the aftertaste of a grapefruit peel.

Body

The physical attributes of cheese when touched, handled, cut or eaten. The body may feel rubbery, firm, elastic, soft, resilient, yielding, supple, oily, etc. When rolled between the fingers or cut, it may appear waxy or crumbly. Its "mouthfeel" may be grainy or creamy. A cheese also may be felt to determine its condition of ripeness.

Brining

A step in the manufacture of some cheese varieties where the whole cheese is floated briefly in a brine solution. Brining is common in the production of Mozzarella, Provolone, Swiss, Parmesan and Romano cheeses.

Casein

The principal protein in milk. During the cheesemaking process, casein solidifies, curdles or coagulates into cheese through the action of rennet.

Cheddaring

The process used in making cheddar whereby piles of small curds that have been separated from the whey are knit together and cut into slabs. The slabs are then repeatedly turned over and stacked to help drain additional whey and aid in the development of proper acidity (pH) and body of the cheese. The slabs are then cut or milled into curds and placed in the cheese mold and pressed.

Chevres

The plural form of the French word for goat which was originally used to classify all cheese varieties made from French goat's milk, but now commonly refers to all goat cheeses.

Creams, Single, Double or Triple

A classification of cheese derived from a butterfat content on a dry matter basis. Single Creams contain at least 50% butterfat in the cheese solids (dry matter), Double Creams contain at least 60% butterfat and Triple Creams contain at least 70% butterfat.

Dry Matter

All the components of cheese (solids) excluding moisture (water). Dry matter includes proteins, milkfat, milk sugars and minerals.

Fat Content

The amount of butterfat/fat in any cheese. Fat content is determined by analyzing the fat in the dry matter of the cheese. The fat is expressed as a percentage of the entire dry matter.

Laiterie or Laitier

The French words for dairy farmer or dairyman which appear on French cheeses made in a creamery or factory.

Lipase

An enzyme found in raw milk and also produced by microorganisms that split the fat molecules into fatty acids which create flavor.

Milkfat in the Dry Matter (FDM)

The fat content of cheese expressed as a percentage of the total solids of the cheese. Most cheeses are in the range of 45-55 percent milkfat in the dry matter because the dry matter stays constant in a unit of cheese while moisture content in the cheese may vary.

Pasta Filata

Translated literally from Italian, to spin pasta or threads. Pasta Filata refers to a type of cheese where curds are heated and then stretched or kneaded before being molded into the desired shape. The resulting cheese has great elasticity and stretches when cooked or melted.   Cheeses in this family include Mozzarella, Provolone and String.

Pasteurized

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

Rennet

An extract from the membranes of calves' stomachs which contains rennin, an enzyme that aids in coagulating milk or separating curds from whey. Rennet-like enzymes, also used commercially, are produced by selected fungi and bacteria and are referred to as "coagulant" instead of rennet.

Starter

A culture that normally consists of varying percentages of lactic acid bacteria or mold spores, enzymes or other microorganisms and natural chemicals which is used to speed and control the process of curdling milk during cheesemaking.

Titratable Acidity (TA)

Measure of total acidity in milk and cheese. Total acidity is a combination of "apparent ah2h2cidity", which is derived from the alkali binding properties of casein, phosphates, citrates and CO2 and developed acidity which results from the fermentation of milk by lactic acid bacteria.

Turophile

A lover of cheese. Taken from the Greek word turos (cheese) and the root phil (love).

Weeping

A descriptive term referring to Swiss-type cheese whose eyes glisten with bits of moisture. This is caused by the release of moisture by proteins as they are broken down during ripening. Weeping often indicates that a cheese has achieved peak ripeness and will exhibit full flavor.