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Guide to Irish Farmhouse Cheeses

Irish Farmhouse Cheese Terms

Unsure of the difference between a rind and a rennet? Don't worry, we've put together a list of terms relating to Irish Farmhouse Cheese. There's even a section on flavour and texture terms!

Acidity

A refreshing, zingy flavour in cheese. Often found in fresh cheeses, but also characteristic of cheddar flavour.

Blue cheese

A cheese that is introduced to the bacteria penicilium roqueforti or penicillium glaucum during cheese making. The cheese is pierced with holes during maturation to release carbon dioxide and allow oxygen to come in contact with the mould.

Curd

The solid content of the milk. It contains large amounts of moisture which can be removed by cutting/salting/heating/mincing the curd.

Fresh cheese

Delicate, white cheese with a short shelf life. Does not rely on the addition of rennet.

Junket

A term used to describe the set milk after renneting.

Pasteurisation

In milk refers to a process of heat treatment. The most common form of pasteurisation used by Irish cheesemakers is HTST (High Temperature Short Time) the milk is held at 72°C for 15 seconds, then rapidly cooled.

Rennin

The main digestive enzyme involved in the coagulation of the milk.

Thermization

A heat treatment whereby milk is heated to 63°C for 10-15 seconds. It has an effect on both the good and bad bacteria populations in the milk but is milder than pasteurisation.

Affineur

A person who purchases cheeses from producers and adds value to the cheese by ageing them (affinage) before selling them on.

Brine

A salt solution.

Crystallisation

The clumping together of casein protein crystals found in cheeses after extensive ageing.

Gouda

Traditionally a Dutch-style semi-hard to hard cheese. It is often coated with a breathable plasticoat or wax.

Mould Rind

Externally ripened cheeses in which the curd is broken down through the enzyme action of a white mould rind consisting of various Penicillium. The surface mould breaks down the chalky curd within resulting in a very soft interior. Mould rind cheeses are

Raw milk

Milk which has not been heated above 40°C before cheese-making. Cheeses made from such milk can be referred to as unpasteurised.

Rind

The exterior of the cheese. The rind of young cheeses are generally edible, but in longer-aging cheeses, the rind acts to protect the cheese over the longer period of time so is best not eaten.

Washed-rind cheese

Externally-ripened cheese in which the curd is broken down by bacteria. The rind of the cheese is kept moist and salty during maturation to encourage the growth of this pungent, orange/ reddish/pink bacterium. Washed-rind cheeses are characterised by an orangey/ pinkish rind; semi-soft to soft in texture; and a mild to pronounced farmyard aromas. Also referred to as smear-ripening.

Ash rind

Ash has traditionally been used on the continent to rind goat’s cheeses. Ash is an inactive substance which prohibits the growth of bacteria on the surface of the cheese.

Casein

The main protein in milk.

Externally-ripened (or surface-ripened) cheese:

Also known as an outside-in cheese, theses cheeses are ripened by enzyme action on the surface of the cheese which causes the breakdown of the curd within. Including bloomy rind cheese, these cheeses are characterized by a larger surface area relative to the paste, and a short ripening period.

Internally-ripened cheeses

Semi-hard to hard cheeses ripened through the action of internal bacteria, the rennet and the milk - which slowly change the texture and flavour of the cheese. This is a much slower process than surface ripening.

Paste

The interior of the cheese

Rennet

A coagulant used in the separation of the liquid (whey) and solid (curd) contents of the milk. Rennet can come from animal (traditional) or vegetarian sources. The majority of Irish farmhouse cheeses are made using vegetarian rennet, often from microbial sources.

Starter Culture

A bacterial culture added to the milk at the beginning of the cheesemaking process. The choice of starter culture makes an important contribution to the flavour of the final cheese. They ferment lactose to lactic acid, and also act as ripening agents in harder cheeses.

Whey

The liquid content of the milk.

Flavour and Texture Terms

We've put together some of the regular terms to describe the texture and flavour of cheese that you will come across as you browse through the different Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers and their range of cheeses.

Bite

A piquant, aggressive aspect in the finish of a cheese. Characteristic of cheddar and certain sheep’s milk cheeses.

Chalky

Refers to the texture of the paste. E.g. present in soft goat’s cheese.

Earthy

The flavour is reminiscent of mushrooms, forest floor and moss. The flavour is found in milder washed rinds.

Cow-ey:

Not necessarily an unclean flavour, but reminiscent of cattle. Not a farmyard aroma.

Farmyard aroma

This indicates a high level of active brevi bacterium linens. Characteristic of washed rind cheeses.

Lactic

An acidic, buttermilk type flavour, refreshing in fresh cheeses. In other styles of cheese, it can be an indicator of a cheese which is not fully ripe.

Nutty

A savoury sweetness, often found in mature hard cheeses.

Sweetness

Often indicative of curd washing as milk sugars have been maintained, and/ or the use of a starter culture based on lactobacillus helviticus.