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Cheese Facts


Glossary of commonly used terms

Acid - a slightly sour flavour

Ammoniated - some overripe cheeses (especially soft ones like Camembert and Brie) develop this Ammonia smell (similar to bleach).

Aroma - the smell of a particular cheese, from lightly aromatic to ferociously overpowering. Though not always, strong smelling cheeses are usually strongly flavoured.

Barnyardy - a term usually used to describe the taste and aroma of hay/straw, the best example of this is probably goat's cheese.

Bleu - French name for blue veined cheeses.

Blue Vein Thumb

Bloomy or Flowery Rind -  A light 'down' of mould,  a result of the cheese being cultured with a light spray of penicillium candidate spores.

Brushed by Machine or hand - the process of brushing the rind of naturally rinded cheeses for moisture and flavour while they are maturing.

Casein - the milk protein that solidifies once coagulation (setting) takes place.

Cheddaring - technique of stacking and turning curds at the bottom of the vat every 10 -15 minutes for 1½ hours.

Close Smooth -  unblemished texture, free of holes or cracks.

Cooked - used to describe hard cheeses, the curd is cooked by being heated at a high temperature and then pressed to extract the maximum amount of whey.

Creamy - yielding texture and rich taste.


Curdling - coagulation of the milk by introduction of rennet.

Crumbly - condition of cheese that breaks away when cut - parmesan, fetta & blues.

Dry Matter - what remains once moisture is removed - Parmesan is largely dry matter, Camembert is still 50% moisture.

Earthy - distinctive characteristic used to describe full flavoured cheeses usually with musty, natural rinds.

Fat Content - indicated on the packaging. Ranging from 4% to 75% but on the average about 33%.

Fresh Cheese - unripened cheese e.g. Cottage, Ricotta Cream Cheese and Curd.

Gruyere - one of the best known Swiss cheeses. Also general name for large French cheeses eg: Beaufort, Emmentaler, Comte.

Hard - used to describe cooked cheeses with a low moisture content, eg - Parmesan or Cheddar

Holes or Eyes - caused by cultured bacterial activity, these round holes give distinctive character to Gruyere and other Swiss types.


Lactic - milky aroma, and sometimes flavour of certain cheeses (tart and citrus tang).

Micro-organisms - yeasts and fermenters naturally present in milk and milk curd.

Moulds - use of penicillium candidate results in exterior white mould, while penicillium glaucum or roqueforti create internal moulds used to create blue vein.

Mushroomy - used to describe the flavour and aroma of soft and semi- softs eg: Camembert and Brie. Reminisent of Field Mushrooms.

Nutty - used to describe a character in hard cheese, usually swiss and dutch. (hazelnut flavour and aroma).

Open - cheese with openings or holes in it.

Paraffin - wax protective outer coating. eg: Red wax on Edam.

Pasteurisation - heating of milk to sterilise and kill bacteria.

Paste - interior of a cheese.

Pasty cheese

Pronounced - descriptive term for dominant flavour or aroma in a cheese.

Piquant - sharp tasting.

Rennet - substance which contains a milk coagulating enzyme. Found in calves' stomachs or as a vegetable extract.

Rind Natural or artificial - external surface of cheese designed to protect the paste, allow it to ripen and develop to the desired flavour.

Fleur de maquis

Skimmed milk - milk from which part or all cream is removed.

Starter - bacterial culture which produces lactic acid - tastes like yoghurt.

Supple - used to describe the texture of cheese, firm but not hard, pliable and resillient.

Tangy - sharp, distinctive, flavoursome.

Texture - largely dependent on moisture content. Harder cheeses have less moisture, softer cheeses more.

Washed Rind Cheeses - describes a process of regular rind washing of cheese while being ripened, with washes as varied as brine to brandy. This keeps the cheese moist and supple and contributes to the final flavour of the cheese. Some of the strongest smelling and flavoured cheeses have washed rinds.

Washed rind




Cheese Types and Classifications

The 7 Types of Cheese

Unlike wine or animals, the character of cheeses can be judged by a glance at their rind.
From just a brief encounter you can gauge its texture, taste, strength of flavour and, with a little experience, even the stage of maturity.
Using the “rind” method, you can categorise 90% of all cheeses into one of the following types.

Fresh Cheeses – (no rind)

Fresh cheese

Only 1-15 days old when eaten, they have no time to develop a rind and only a subtle ‘lactic’, fermenting fruit flavour with a hint of the green pastures. They can be smooth and creamy, mousse-like or crumbly like feta. Some are wrapped in chestnut leaves, rolled in ash or covered in herbs
Examples: Banon, Ricotta, Feta, Cottage cheese, Cream cheese

Natural Rind – (wrinkled rind, bluish grey mould)

Natural Rind

Nearly always goat, they are chalky and moist when young with a lemony fresh tang. Gradually they develop a delicate bluish grey mould and dry out, producing a wrinkled rind (depending on type of mould used) which becomes more pronounced with age and the flavour is more nutty with a more distinct goaty taste.
Examples: Mothais sur feuille, Chabichou, Edith’s goat cheese, Crottin de Chavignol

Soft White Cheese – (white fuzzy rind)

Soft White

The curd retains much of the whey, ensuring the cheese becomes wonderfully soft, almost runny and grows a fuzzy white rind of Penicillin candidum. The flavour can be best described as mushroomy and sometimes with a hint of sherry! Unpasteurised examples develop a reddish-brown ferment on the rind whereas pasteurised versions have a pure white appearance.
Examples: Camembert, Brie, Chevre Log

Semi-Soft – (brownish orange to thick greyish brown)


There are two styles of semi-soft cheese. The first are those with supple, elastic, sometimes rubbery texture with a sweet, buttery flavour eg. Edam and Emmenthal to those with a pungent aroma and a savoury or even meaty taste eg. Raclette and Fontina. Semi-Soft cheeses may have barely formed rind like Edam or be encouraged to develop a thick, leathery rind encrusted with greyish mould.
Examples: Edam, St Nectaire, Tomme de Savoie

Washed-rind cheese


Rubbed or ‘washed’ in strong brine to maintain their internal moisture and attract special bacteria that create the characteristic orange sticky rind, strong, piquant flavour and aroma. The texture ranges from slightly chalky when young to rich, smooth and voluptuous when fully mature.
Examples: Pont L’Eveque, Langres, Epoisses

Hard Cheeses – (thick, dense rind often waxed or oiled)

Hard Cheese

The curd is cut finely then heated in large vats before the whey is drained off. The curd is cut again or even ‘milled’ before being salted, packed in moulds and firmly pressed. Some cheeses are bathed in brine to seal and protect the cheese from drying out in the curing cellars.
Examples: Cheddar, Parmigiano Reggiano, Gruyere, Manchego

Blue Cheeses – (gritty, rough, dry or sticky variable in colour)

Blue vein

The blue moulds, like penicillin Roqueforti, need oxygen to develop their colour. This is achieved by piercing the young cheese with rods (normally steel); the blue then grows along the tunnel, cracks and trails between the roughly packed curd.
Examples: Stilton, Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Cashel Blue

Flavoured Cheeses – (from barely formed to hard and crusty)

Flavoured cheese

Flavoured cheeses offer an alternative to those who like dessert rather than cheese or who are not sure they like cheese! They range from the sublime to the ridiculous and are hard of semi-soft cheeses with added flavouring –nuts, fruit, spices, herbs, even salmon or ham!
Example: Cornish Yarg, Gouda with Cumin, Stilton with Apricots, Chevre with berries, sultanans or nuts


Cheese Myths and Misconceptions

Before you go forth and preach the gospel of cheese to friends, family and the 'hard to convince'' who still think cheese is for cooking and the rind of Camembert is edible paper, there are some myths and misconceptions about cheese that need to be dispelled:

What is rennet?

It is an enzyme present in the stomach of all milk fed animals; its purpose is to coagulate mother's milk, in the infant's stomach, into solids and liquid. Cheesemakers have learnt to extract this enzyme and used it to make cheese. The liquid is drained off and the solids or curds are converted into thousands of different cheeses around the world.

What is a vegetarian cheese?

Instead of using rennet some cheesemakers use non-animal alternatives like fig juice, lemon juice, bay leaves, ladies bed straw and thistle however animal rennet is the most effective at ensuring the majority of the solids, protein and fat, are separated out and not left in the whey.

Today many cheesemakers use a laboratory created non-animal rennet, making the cheese suitable for vegetarians.

How do they get the small holes in cheeses like Emmental?    

Before rennet is added to the milk, a special starter culture is added that encourages a more active fermentation process than other starters. This heightened activity causes bubbles of CO2 to form and 'burst' inside the cheese while it is maturing - each burst creates another hole.

Is all cheese fattening?

No. There are many cheeses with lower fat contents, e.g. Brie has a fat content 1/3 less than cheddar and fromage frais is 1/3 less than Brie. Unfortunately, because cheese is known to be high in fat, it tends to be one of the first things we cut out or cut down on, yet many people find that there is little change in their weight. Why? Because cheese rarely accounts for more than a small percentage of the actual fat eaten in a person's diet.
Instead look for the hidden fats in your diet - bread, muesli, crisps, chips, pastries and biscuits.

If I am allergic to cows' milk cheese can I eat goat or ewes milk cheese?

Many people have found that although they are allergic to cow’s milk products they have no reaction to goat or ewes' milk products. It is definitely worth discussing with your doctor.

How safe is raw milk cheese?

There were five confirmed Australian outbreaks of gastroenteritis resulting from the consumption of raw milk between 1999 and 2001.

Figures released in 1996 by the Communicable Disease Surveillance centre showed that of the 516 reported cases of food poisoning in the United Kingdom, only 17 were related to Milk and dairy products. Of these only 10% were from cheese and none were made with raw milk.
By comparison Poultry and Eggs accounted for 147 cases, Desserts 70 and drinking water 17. It would therefore appear that cheese, and in particular raw milk cheese, is one of the safest foods you can eat.

What if I am pregnant, can I eat cheese? 

Most of the bad press cheese receives is sensationalism and hysteria however if you are pregnant or have a weak immune system you should avoid soft cheeses (as well as chicken, pate, cooked meats, prepared salads and sea food) regardless as to whether they are pasteurised or not.