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Cheese Glossary: A Glossary Of The Different Cheese Types

Page 3: Cheese Glossary C

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  Fiscalini Cheddar
A bandage-wrapped Cheddar from Fiscalini Farmstead. “Bandage” refers to the cloth wrapping around the cheese.
Why are Brie and Camembert virtually the same cheese? Legend says that in 1791, during the French Revolution, a priest from the village of Brie (where the cheese was made) arrived in the village of Camembert, and was hidden there by Marie Harel, a farmer. Following his direction, she created the bloomy-rind cheese that came to be known as Camembert. Her children and grandchildren continued the cheesemaking, and Camembert became famous worldwide. Camembert’s round wooden box first appeared in 1880, developed to protect the cheese during transportation by rail. Brie and Camembert are two of the few cheeses that stand up to the structured, tannic red Bordeaux. They also pair well with red Burgundies and Côtes du Rhone. See Brie, and read the full story and the difference between Brie and Camembert.


In Normandy, Camembert is served with Calvados. It is excellent with light reds (such as those from the Loire Valley) or Champagne, and can also stand up to red Burgundy, Bordeaux and Côtes du Rhone. Photo courtesy

The element of milk which solidifies when coagulation takes place. Caseins are insoluble milk proteins which form suspended masses in milk, and thus create emulsions.



A room, sometimes underground, where cheeses are left to ripen. Some cheeses, like Roquefort, are ripened in caves from which they pick up bacteria that give them their distinctive flavors.


A room, sometimes underground, where cheeses are left to ripen. Some cheeses, like Roquefort, are ripened in caves from which they pick up bacteria that give them their distinctive flavors.


  Cheeses ripening in an actual cave. Photo courtesy

Cheddar is a hard, sharp cheese, with a paste that ranges from pale yellow to deep orange. Originating in the Somerset County village of Cheddar in southwest England around 1170 C.E. or earlier, Cheddar is the most popular type of cheese in the U.K. and accounts for more than half of English cheese production. The cheese is now made worldwide, and only one producer remains in the village of Cheddar itself. The name is not protected, so cheese made anywhere can be called Cheddar. However, West Country Farmhouse Cheddar has a PDO (Protected domain of Origin) that covers Cheddars made in the traditional manner (raw milk, calf rennet and a cloth wrapping) in the southwest England counties of Somerset, Devon, Dorset, Cornwall and Somerset.

Strong, extra-mature Cheddar, sometimes called vintage, needs to be matured for up to 15 months. The history of Cheddar and more about this great cheese.


  Keen’s Farmhouse Cheddar
Keen’s Farmhouse Cheddar, produced in Somerset, England since 1899, has a golden paste. Named Best Mature Traditional Cheddar in the World. Photo courtesy

A cheese production technique where the curd is cut into blocks, which are turned and stacked at the bottom of the cheese vat at intervals of ten to fifteen minutes for about one-and-a-half hours. This is an additional step in the production of Cheddar-style cheeses, and one of the most complex techniques in cheesemaking. (Other cheeses, in addition to Cheddar, are made this way.) The milk is set, cut, cooked lightly and allowed to mat at a warm temperature. The matting and stacking of blocks of curd allow for the bacteria to consume the lactose in the milk and convert it to lactic acid. This acidifies the cheese and creates the sharp flavor. The curds become stringy, and are then shredded, salted and pressed into drums for about 24 hours. Examples include Cheddar, Cantal and Salers.

Bonus for the lactose intolerant: During the cheddaring process, much of the lactose disappears. 

  Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar
From Oregon, Tillamook Extra-sharp Cheddar has an orange paste (from annatto).
Available at See the award-winning macaroni and cheese recipes made with Tillamook cheddar.

Cheese is a solid food made from the curdled milk of various quadruped mammals—cheese can be made from the milk of the yak, water buffalo, reindeer and the horse, as well as the cow, goat and sheep common to American and European cultures. The word cheese comes from Latin caseus and, later, West Germanic kasjus (in modern German it is Käse). Cheese was created to store excess milk in a form that would not spoil as rapidly as fresh milk; in a sense, cheese is a controlled spoilage of milk. There are hundreds of types of cheese, based on different breeds of cow, goat and sheep, species of bacteria and molds, different levels of milk fat, variations in length of aging, and different processing treatments (cheddaring, pulling, brining, mold wash). Other factors include milk, animal diet and the addition of herbs and spices that flavor some cheeses.

The first step in cheesemaking is to coagulate the milk into curds with an acid (vinegar, lemon juice, Cynara cardunculus [a proteinase], or the enzyme rennet, which comes from bovine calf stomach). When rennet is used to set the milk, it can result in a very un-cheeselike cheese such as fromage blanc, skyr or quark—all of which have the consistency of yogurt. Yogurt, not made with rennet or other acid, is simply cultured milk (milk with bacteria cultures added) and thus is not a cheese, no matter how similar in taste and appearance it is to the other three products. In cheesemaking, bacteria are added to reduce the pH, alter texture and develop flavor. Some cheeses also have mold, either on the outer skin, the interior or throughout. In some parts of the world (including Wisconsin), where the milk fat is low in beta-carotene, annatto plant dye is used to make the cheese less pale.


  Cheese aging Photo by K. Connors, courtesy of

There are eight basic types or styles of cheese, and a cheese can belong to more than one category. From the least aged to the most aged, the groups are:

  • Fresh Cheeses. These cheeses are unaged: mild and milky and tangy. Examples include mascarpone, mozzarella, ricotta and queso blanco. Read more about fresh cheeses and how to describe them.
  • Semisoft Cheeses. These cheeses have a smooth, generally creamy interior with little or no rind. They are generally high in moisture content and range from very mild in flavor to very pungent. Mild semisoft cheeses ripened by bacteria or yeast include Colby, Fontina, Havarti and Monterey Jack. Pungent semi-soft cheeses including many of the Washed Rind group, such as Epoisses, Livarot and Taleggio. Blue veined cheeses are also semisoft cheeses.
  • Soft-Ripened Cheeses. Buttery and creamy, these mild to medium-strong cheese include the popular Brie and Camembert.


Mozzarella is a fresh (unaged) cheese. Photo by Melody Lan | THE NIBBLE.
  • Surface-Ripened Cheeses Or Bloomy Rind Cheeses. Creamy, earthy, rich and runny, these cheeses are mild to medium-strong and include Brie and Camembert as well as triple-crèmes such as Brillat Savarin and Gratte Paille and double-crèmes like Chaource. St. Maure, Selles-Sur-Cher, Rocamadour, Valençay are also part of this group, as are Italian cheeses Robiola, Rocchetta and La Tur. See also bloomy rind cheeses.
  • Semihard Cheeses Or Pressed Cheeses. These cheeses are longer-lasting. The group includes medium-strong cheeses that have buttery, earthy and fruity flavors—favorites such as Cheddar, Fontina, Gouda and Gruyère. Other familiar names are Baby Swiss, some blues, Colby, Emmentaler and other Swiss cheeses, Monterey Jack, Queso Blanco and some Tilsits. See also pressed cheeses.
  • Hard Cheeses. These are aged for the longest period—from one year to more than four years. They have grainy textures and are primarily intended for grating. They are salty, nutty and sharp, medium-strong to very strong cheeses. Examples include Examples include Asiago, Grana Padano, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano.


  Brillat Savarin
A creamy, surface-ripened cheese like Brillat Savarin goes best with Champagne. Photo courtesy Nicolas Feuilatte.
  • Blue Veined Cheeses or Blue Cheeses. Delightfully earthy, salty and pungent, blue-veined cheeses are medium-strong to very strong and include Gorgonzola and Stilton, ripened by Penicillium molds. This group includes Danish Blue (ripened by Penicillium roqueforti), Gorgonzola (Penicillium gorgonzola), Roquefort (Penicillium roqueforti), and Stilton (Penicillium glaucum).

In addition to the blue veins, these molds provide a distinct flavor profile to the cheese, which ranges from fairly mild to assertive and pungent. Some blue veined cheeses can be found in the other categories as well, except for fresh cheeses. See also blue cheese.

  • Washed Rind Cheeses. Savory, nutty and salty, these strong to very strong cheeses are distinguished by their strong aroma and pinkish or orange-colored rinds, and typically semi-soft texture. Examples include Epoisses, Muenster and Taleggio. See also washed rind cheeses.


  Grana Padano
The Hard Cheese group is best for grating. Above, Grana Padano. Photo courtesy


Cheesemaking requires extensive training; it is both an art and a science. While the basic steps are similar for most types of cheese types, many factors determine the final product, including milk type and quality, environment, particular recipe, and decision-making on the part of the individual cheesemaker such as that of a chef. Here are the six basic steps common to all cheesemaking:

  • Starter cultures are added to the milk to begin acidification or “souring.”
  • Rennet is added, which curdles the milk and creates solids, or curds, which have the consistency of custard.
  • The curds are cut with knives, called harps. This releases the liquid, whey.
  • The whey is drained; the extent of the drainage depends on consistency of the cheese (e.g., the harder the finished cheese, the more whey is drained).

Adding starter culture to the milk is the first step in cheese making.
Both photos courtesy of Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

  • The curds are placed into molds and further drained. To make hard cheeses, the curds are pressed under weights to maximize the amount of whey that is pressed out.
  • Fresh cheese, which is not aged, is ready to be packaged and shipped to market. Other types of cheese begin aging, for a period that ranges from days to years.


  Starter Culture

Cheese Curd
The whey is drained from the curds; then the curds are placed into molds to shape the cheese.


A person who sells cheese. A monger is a broker or dealer. The word monger is usually used in combination with another word, such as in fishmonger.



Chèvre (the French word for goat and goat cheese) is characterized by its whiteness and tangy, distinctive flavor. It is unprocessed and (with the exception of fresh chèvres, meant to be eaten within a few days of production) aged for two weeks or more, and often has an edible white rind. The paste varies from creamy to semi-firm. Chèvres are made in a variety of shapes, including cylinders, cones, discs, crottins, logs (bûches) and pyramids. Examples include Crottin and Le Chevrot.


  Puligny Saint Pierre
Puligny Saint Pierre, a classic pyramid-shaped chèvre. Photo courtesy

Used to describe a cheese’s texture: A close-textured cheese is one which is smooth, unblemished and devoid of holes or cracks. See also open.



The transformation of milk into curd, which is the first step in cheese production. The milk is brought to a temperature of 64°-66°F and a lactic fermenting agent, or starter culture, is added. Rennet is then added to allow the gentle coagulation of the milk over 1 to 2 days (lactic curd). In some cheeses, such as Camembert, three times as much rennet is used so that the milk coagulates more rapidly—in as little as one hour (mixed curd).


The first step in cheesemaking: mixing the milk, starter, rennet, and in the case of Stilton, blue cheese mold, to coagulate the curd. Photograph copyright 1997-2004, Stilton Cheesemakers’ Association. All Rights Reserved.

Made for 1,000 years, Comté is a handmade, artisan cheese governed by strict A.O.C. rules that ensure that each wheel is just as perfect as the last. It is produced in 70-pound wheels from unpasteurized cows’ milk on more than 3,000 family farms in the French Alps. The farmers practice non-intensive agriculture, which focuses on quality rather than the highest possible yields. By law, production must start within 24 hours of milking, so the cheese is made daily. The wheels age on spruce boards for at least sixth months, were it develops a tight-knit texture and satiny body. On the palate, one can detect notes of fruits, hay, and a slightly nutty, smoky flavor gained during the process when the curd is cooked. “Reserve” wheels are aged for one year, developing sweet and nutty notes. Certain spices complement the aromas and flavors of Comté: a small sprinkle of vanilla beans, curry powder or nigella seeds, for example.

Slices & cubes from a huge wheel of Comté. Photo courtesy

A step in the cheesemaking process when the cheese curd is heated, sometimes in the surplus whey. Cooked cheeses are all hard cheeses and other Swiss types—traditionally the biggest wheels of cheese from the mountains: Gruyère, Beaufort and the “cheeses with eyes” like Swiss Emmentaler, the cheese most Americans think of as “Swiss cheese.” (This technique also makes semi-hard cheeses.) The difference between the pressed cooked and uncooked cheeses is (of course) the heating/cooking of the curds before wheels are formed. It is easy to detect those that have been cooked: the paste has a heated, cooked-milk aroma unique to this family of cheese.


Emmenthaler, also spelled Emmentaler. Made from the milk of high alpine pasture cows and aged in caves at those same altitudes. This cheese is available at

Cottage cheese consists of the fresh, drained curds of slightly soured, pasteurized milk. The whey is drained from the curds, and the remaining curds are known as cottage cheese. The curds can be large or small. Depending on the producer, there can be a lot or a little whey (the liquid component). Two other fresh cheeses are made from cottage cheese:

  • Pot cheese: Drained longer, cottage cheese becomes a drier-curd product known as pot cheese.
  • Farmer cheese: When the remaining moisture is pressed out of cottage cheese, causing it to become dry and crumbly, it is called farmer cheese.


Cottage cheese. Photo courtesy Good Culture.

Cows are much larger physically, and thus produce much more milk by volume than sheep or goats. That’s why many of the largest wheels of cheeses—Cheddar, Comte and Parmigiano-Reggiano, for example—are made from cow’s milk. Although there is plenty of variance depending on the breed, feed and other factors, cow’s milk has a sweet yet clean flavor. Cow’s milk contains more fat than goat’s milk, yet less fat than sheep’s milk. See also goat’s milk cheese and sheep’s milk cheese. Cows produce more milk by volume than sheep or goats. This is why many of the largest wheels of cheeses are made from cow milk, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, Comte and most Cheddar.

Milked twice a day, cows produce 8-20 quarts per day, goats produce 3-5 quarts of milk and sheep produce one quart of milk. In general, cow milk has a sweet yet clean flavor, and of the three milks, cow is most able to absorb and develop the intended flavor profile without asserting its own inherent traits. While there is plenty of variance depending on the breed, cow milk contains more fat than goat milk, yet less fat than sheep milk. Also see goat’s milk, sheep’s milk and water buffalo’s milk


Large wheels of cheese are, of necessity, made of cow’s milk.

The fatty element of milk.


A soft, fresh, sweet, mild tasting cheese. Cream cheese has a high fat content, at least 33%. The earliest-known references to the style of cheese date back to the mid-1600s, in France. America’s most prominent brand got its name not because it was created in Philadelphia; it was first made in New York in 1872, by a dairyman named William Lawrence. In 1880, he adopted the brand name “Philadelphia” because that city was known at the time as a center of fine food.


  Cream Cheese
Photo of Philadelphia cream cheese by Claire Freierman | THE NIBBLE.

A term used to describe the taste, and sometimes the texture, of certain cheeses.



Crème fraîche is cultured cream, a thickened cream with a slightly tangy, nutty flavor and velvety, creamy texture. The fresh cream is set aside to let the natural lactic bacteria take over. The bacteria thicken the cream to a consistency and richness almost like sour cream, though with a more delicate texture and tartness. Crème fraîche does not separate or curdle when cooked with wine or at high temperatures, so is perfect for thickening sauces and soups, and imparting rich flavor and texture—it is a staple of French cuisine. The French make crème fraîche with unpasteurized cream; in the U.S., all fresh diary products (aged fewer than than 60 days) must be made with pasteurized milk or cream. Here’s a recipe to make crème fraîche at home. You can make a quickie version by mixing equal amounts of sour cream and heavy whipping cream.


  Creme Fraiche
Crème fraîche from Vermont Butter & Cheese Company. Read our review. Photo by Claire Freierman | THE NIBBLE.

A goat cheese shaped like a drum, but some claim the name means something earthier: Crottin means “dropping” or horse dung in French. The cheese is so-named because as the cheese ages, it becomes dark and hard and bears a resemblance to the animal dropping. See photo at right. Crottin is the signature goat cheese shape of the Loire Valley; Crottin di Chavignol, an AOC-designated cheese, has been produced in and around the village of Chavignol since the 16th century. Crottins, where are small in shape, are often served with a salad.



A term referring to a cheese that has portions that breaks off when the cheese is cut. Blue-veined cheeses are particularly crumbly.

These crottins are made in European fashion by Vermont Butter & Cheese Company. Read our review. Photo by Claire Freierman | THE NIBBLE.
See tyrosines.


Cheese is made of curds. Curd comes from the Latin word coagulare, meaning to thicken or to clot. Curds are obtained by curdling (coagulating) milk with rennet (an enzyme) or an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar; then draining off the whey. Whey is the liquid portion of milk, after the solids (protein and fat) have been extracted. The solids become curds when an acid (vinegar, lemon juice) or enzymes are added. The curds are broken down in a vat to separate them from the whey. As larger curds contain more water than small curds, a large curd is prepared for soft cheeses, a medium-sized curd for firmer cheeses, and a small curd for hard cheeses. The curds are cut up into lumps, and the curd mass is constantly stirred to prevent it from clumping together again.

A draining board or ladles are used to remove the curds from the whey. With pressed cheeses, the whey filters through strong cloth bags which retain the curds. The curds themselves are made up of caseins (large molecules of milk protein) and fat.


Curds and whey. Photo courtesy of Vella Cheese.

Refers to the temperature at which the cheese is prepared. Raw cheeses are cooked at temperatures that do not exceed 100°F; semi-cooked cheeses from 100°F to 120°F, and wholly cooked at temperatures over 120°F.



An early stage in cheesemaking when milk coagulates after the introduction of rennet.


Fontina, a semi-cooked cheese. Available at

The stage of cheesemaking in which the cheese curd is ladled into molds that determine the final shape of the cheese: round, rectangular, cylindrical etc. This process is also known as “hooping the curd.”

The stage in the cheesemaking process when a cheese is left to ripen.

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Molding the cheese. Photo courtesy
The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures

Last Updated  May 2018

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