Whether it’s on pizza, in a turkey sandwich, or melted in a pot, cheese is a food that’s incredibly popular and used in many different kinds of cuisines around the world.
It’s been around for so long that cheese is considered an ancient food that has been made since the domestication of animals. Although it’s derived from animal milk*, cheese comes in different varieties that showcase distinct flavors and coloring. In fact, there’s evidence that the proteins and fats in cheese make it addictive!
And people love it so much that a National Cheese Lover’s Day was created (January 20), of course. So, to celebrate, we’re providing you with some cheese-loving words to throw around on that day (or any day, really, because cheese).
1. Fromage: Ever heard the stereotype of stinky French cheese? Well, fromage is the French word for cheese! It’s related to the word form, from a Latin root.
2. Curds: When making cheese, an essential part of the process is to get the milk to curd. When milk curds, it solidifies, and the curds are then processed and strained to make different kinds of cheeses. (The separated liquid is called whey.) Some dishes call for using the solidified curds, like many Indian desserts and poutine. That’s a dish popular in Quebec and consists of cheese curds, french fries, and gravy. Yum!
3. Cheddar: Cheddar is a type of cheese that tastes delicious on hamburgers and crackers alike. Cheddar cheese takes its name from Cheddar, a village in southwest England. And cheddaring is the name for the process of making cheddar cheese. When a cheesemaker makes cheddar cheese, they have to cut up and press together the cheese curds numerous times. This creates slabs that press the moisture out of the cheese, making it the hard block we love.
4. Runny: Describing a good wheel or slice of cheese requires some specialized vocabulary. If the consistency of your cheese is runny, it can mean one of two things: it can be like a warmed-up Brie or Camembert, with a gooey consistency that’s perfect for dipping or spreading. Or, a runny cheese is one that’s gone rancid, as that type’s natural consistency isn’t meant to be so soft.
5. Ripe: You’ll need ripe cheese for your charcuterie, which means it’s reached its peak. Some cheeses are aged a very long time while some are known as fresh, or young. Depending on the type of cheese, you’ll need to know if it’s ripe enough to eat. A ripe cheese will look vibrant, be soft but not too soft, and have a balanced flavor. Overripe cheese will taste unpleasant or like ammonia. Soft overripe cheese will be too runny to eat, while hard cheeses like Parmesan will be too hard and lack flavor.
1. Rennet: Something you might now know about cheese is that, in order for it to coagulate (thicken), a specific enzyme is needed. Rennet, produced from the stomachs of mammals like calves, is introduced in the cheesemaking process early on. That means cheeses that use animal rennet are not strictly vegetarian. But don’t despair, vegetarian cheese lovers! There are alternative methods of coagulating cheese, including using enzymes from plants and microbes.
2. Penicillium: The genus Penicillium names a type of fungus that’s OK to eat. It includes Penicillium roqueforti, the veiny blue stuff that’s in blue cheeses Roquefort; and Penicillium glaucum, in Gorgonzola. While it might seem strange to eat for those who haven’t experimented with different kinds of cheeses, the mold in these varieties is responsible for the “bite” they’re famous for.
3. Affineur: Want to make cheese your career? An affineur is someone who matures cheese. Since aging is such an important part of making many cheese, affineurs are sought after by cheesemakers who can’t age the cheese themselves. The word affineur is borrowed from French, from a verb meaning “to refine, mature, ripen.” French cheeses from certain regions tend to be aged more than others, hence the need for such a profession.
4. Turophile: Now that you know all these cheesy words, would you consider yourself a turophile? This word comes from the Greek tȳrós (cheese) and the combining form -(o)phile, referring to a “lover” of something. So, it literally means “cheese lover”! Turophiles are also sometimes called caseophiles, based on cāseus, the Latin word for and source of English cheese.
*5. Cheeze: We’re not leaving you out, vegans! Cheeze, deliberately spelled with a Z, is often used to designate vegan cheese, which is made without animal products, often using soybeans, rice, nuts, or yeast. This cheeze is also slang for money—you know, like cheddar. Cheese and money? Basically one and the same, as far as turophiles are concerned.
Whether you stalk the grocery store for the latest shipment of Manchego or simply like extra mozzarella on your pizza, now you know how to confidently talk about cheese!