Accoutrement: things you put on a cheese board to sex up the platter. Think honey, jam, crackers, juicy pickles, and plump olives.
Affine: to age cheese. It means “refine” in French and refers to the art of curing a cheese in a carefully controlled environment to help develop all the sultry molds and bacterias that make cheese taste so damn fine.
Affineur: a cheese nanny. This is someone who takes care of cheese wheels as they age and mature.
Alpine: a firm, rugged style of cheese from the Alps durable enough to last through long winters. Cheese experts nerds out over the incredible flavor complexity in Alpine cheeses. They’re full of toasty, nutty notes and often taste like caramelized onions and beef stock. Think Gruyère, Comté, and hunky Pleasant Ridge Reserve.
Ammoniated: this is a term that describes cheese that smells or tastes of ammonia. This is not a good thing – it means a cheese was mishandled or has over-ripened. If your cheese smells like a litter box, don’t eat it.
Annatto: this is what cheesemakers add to cheddar and Mimolette to make it orange. It’s an all-natural vegetable-derived dye that’s virtually tasteless and odorless, but it looks fierce as hell.
Bloomy/soft-ripened: these cheeses ripen from the outside in. They have thin, powdery white rinds with soft, oozy or pudgy insides. They’re the sexy stars behind some of the best cheese porn. Think brie, Bonne Bouche, or Robiola
Blue cheese: the funky cheeses with veins and pockets of blue mold, like Roquefort, Stichelton, and Bayley Hazen Blue. They can also have blue molds on the outer rind, too.
Casein: The main protein in milk. This is what coagulates into cheese. It’s also what makes cheese so stretchy. Amen to that!
Cave or Cellar: This is where a lot of cheeses are aged. A cheese cave or cellar has the optimum airflow, temperature, and humidity levels to keep cheese consistently comfortable as they grow up into their sexy adult selves.
Cooked: Some hard cheeses are made by heating or “cooking” the curd to help release extra moisture. This preps cheeses like Alpine styles for long periods of aging.
Curdle: When rennet is added to milk, it separates or “curdles” into solids and liquid. Also called “coagulate”.
Cheddaring: This is a process used in making cheddar, obviously. After the cheese is coagulated, the curds are drained, cut into smaller pieces, and pressed into big slabs, which are stacked on top of each other. Then, these slabs are turned. This drains the whey and helps develop that tangy acidity in cheddar. The slabs are then cut up again and molded for aging.
Cheese Crystal: this is what I call the crunchy bits inside aged goudas and Parmigiano. It’s actually clusters of an amino acid called Tyrosine that form as cheese ages. They’re beautiful and will always leave you smiling satisfied.
Cheesemonger: Some of the best kinds of people! They’re the knowledgeable cheese lovers who care for cheese and help fulfill your fromage fantasies.
Chevre: the French term for a cheese made from goat milk.
Coagulate: see “curdle.”
Defect: The beauty of artisan cheese is that it’s never quite the same. Imperfections keep things interesting and are expected, but occasionally there are also defects, which are any less-than-ideal qualities in a cheese. These can be caused by errors in manufacturing, handling, or contamination and include dents and discolorations on the rind or in the paste.
Double Cream: a cheese that has extra cream added. It’s basically butter, but with that cheesy complexity you desire.
Eyes: the little dots and holes in cheese. Think of a classic Swiss Emmentaler.
Farmstead Cheese: a cheese that is made using milk from animals that live on the same premises as the creamery.
Formaggio: Italian for “cheese.”
Fromage: French for “cheese.”
Gouda: a tasty little firm cheese with a rounded rind, originally from the Netherlands. It’s meltable and tangy when young and becomes crunchy and butterscotch-sweet when aged. Look for Marieke Gouda and Midnight Moon.
Molds: these are partly responsible for turning rinds into rich, ecosystems which result in some crazy tasty cheeses. There are a lot of yeasts and bacteria that help with that too.
Paste: the inside layer beneath the rind. It’s basically the “meat” of a cheese.
Pasteurization: the process of heating up milk to kill bacteria.
PDO/AOC/DOP: “Protected Denomination of Origin”, in various languages. It basically means “OG.” These labels are a sign that the government is regulating where and how the cheese is made to ensure that it’s consistently sexy and true to its name.
Queso: Spanish for “cheese.”
Raw Milk: untreated, virgin milk that hasn’t been pasteurized. This milk has all kinds of enzymes and bacteria that bring out all kinds of unique and kinky tastes and textures when they become cheese.
Rind: the protective outer layer that’s basically the cheese’s skin. Some are soft, some are stinky, some are edible, and some are coated in wax or cloth.
Starter Culture: a culture that contains lactic acid, mold spores, enzymes, or other micro-organisms to jumpstart the cheesemaking process.
Terroir: the environment in which something is made can create cool unique flavors in a cheese. This is why Comté tastes so different from Gruyère. Think of it as “a taste of place.”
Washed-rind: a cheese that is washed in a brine or solution to help certain bacteria grow. Most of these guys are stanky AF and often taste like beef and mustard. Look for Grayson or Rush Creek Reserve.
Whey: the leftover liquid from cheesemaking. Sometimes people create some fire cheeses out of it, like ricotta and gjetost.