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Want a crash course in learning to speak cheese? We’re launching a brand new online resource for Murray’s fans: Cheese Vocabulary! With everything from tasting words to cheesemaking practices and scientific terminology, you’ll be a cheese expert in no time.

    Annatto, as seen in cheeses like Devonshire Red, is a flavorless natural dye made from the seed or extract of the achiote tree, indigenous to parts of Latin and South America. Reddish in color, it stains cheeses a deep orange hue.
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    An affineur is someone who manages the aging process for cheese. Cheese aging is enormously important step to ensure proper flavor and texture in many of your favorite varieties of cheese, like aged cheddar.
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    A French word meaning aging or ripening cheese. Affinage brings cheese to “maturity” and gives cheese the desired texture and flavor. Generally, this process occurs in a cheese cellar or cave.
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    Bloomy Rind
    The white, edible crust formed by spraying the cheese surface before aging with a harmless, flavor-producing, white Penicillium candidum mold, which allows it to ripen from the outside in and retain a high percentage of moisture, such as in Brie and Camembert.
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    The ultimate expression of terroir, this is a descriptor that gets right down to the farm. It connotes a degree of earthiness and/or gaminess in the cheese, often with a primal aroma of wood, wool, and warm milk. A barnyardy quality is most typically associated with cheese made from sheep’s and goat’s milk, which have different protein and fat structures than cow’s milk.
    Brevibacterium linens (B. linens)
    Harmless bacteria cultivated on the surface of washed-rind cheeses, which create an orange or pinkish hue and a bracing odor. B. linens require moisture, oxygen, and a low-acid environment to flourish.
    Curds are quite simply coagulated milk. Curds are made up of a matrix of milk proteins that trap globules of butterfat and water. When the curds are cut, the liquid remaining is known as whey.
    The layer of cheese just inside the rind. This tends to be more creamy and runny than the interior paste and can be thick or thin depending on the size, age, and style of the cheese.
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    The primary protein in milk.
    is a specific term with origins reaching as far back as 15th century France; literally translated, it means the products of a fancy pork butcher. Modern charcuterie does often include pork, but the definition has widened to reflect a dish served throughout many cultures.
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    Cheese Cave
    Affinage, the French word for cheese aging, refers to the process during which young or “green” cheeses are placed in a temperature- and humidity-controlled chamber and treated until they reach their peak ripeness. For centuries, caves – being cool in temperature and high in humidity – have provided an optimal aging environment for cheese. Common throughout Europe, the practice of aging cheese was relatively rare in the United States when we built our first set of caves at Murray’s in 2004. We now maintain four distinct caves at our headquarters in Long Island City. Each cave imbues our cheeses with distinct and original flavor.
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    Crunchy little flavor flecks that often develop in the paste of aged, dry cheeses as the result of protein breakdowns over time. The technical term for these flavor morsels is tyrosine, and they typically have a complex, nutty, sweet profile that brings a joyful textural contrast to the cheese.
    Double Crème
    Double or Triple crème refers to the butterfat content of a cheese (only of the dry matter, not the water content) by way of percentage--the higher the percentage, the more rich the cheese. Double crème cheeses are within the range of 60 to 74 percent butterfat, which is created by adding cream to enrich the flavor and create a delightfully buttery, mouth-coating paste.
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    You might know these as the round holes in Swiss cheese! Referred to as eyes, these round, spherical openings in the paste of certain firm cheeses form during cheese making when carbon dioxide gas, produced by various bacteria, create bubbles in the curd. A popular example of cheese with eyes is Emmentaler.
    In the Italian tradition, it is not uncommon for a single cheese to have two different expressions: one fresh and one aged. This practice most likely arose from necessity. If milk was in abundance, it could be turned into a fresco (Italian for “fresh”) cheese, consumed right away and without worry of making it last. Frescos are typically softer and milder than their aged counterparts, often eaten at breakfast.
    Farmstead cheeses refer to cheeses made with milk only sourced directly from the farm where it is produced. With a long and rich history in Europe, farmstead cheesemaking means that the only milk used is from animals raised on the farm.
    Green Cheese
    The term “green cheese” is used to describe wheels of cheese that are unripened or unmatured, with no developed rinds. This is what we call fresh wheels that come to us before any aging or treatment has been performed.
    Kidding & Lambing
    This describes the processes by which baby goats and sheep are born. Both animals mate in the fall so that their young are born in the spring, when the weather is mild and grass is plentiful, which aligns perfectly with seasonal cheesemaking.
    Referring to having aromatic properties relating to milk, lactic is a descriptor often used to describe cheeses that have a milky essence across a spectrum that can include the flavors of sour cream or yogurt--typically a bright, clean, slightly tangy profile associated with the taste of fresh milk.
    Raw Milk
    “Raw” means fresh milk that has not yet been pasteurized. Raw milk is rich in a plethora of “good bacteria,” and flavor-producing enzymes that make it a coveted resource for many artisan cheesemakers. Because of the diversity of bacteria, raw milk can also be a bit of a wild card and is not readily welcomed in certain markets and products. In the U.S., laws surrounding the sale of raw fluid milk vary from state to state. When it comes to cheese, however, Uncle Sam has a say. Legally in the U.S., raw milk cheese must currently be aged for at least 60 days. Any fresh cheese in the U.S. that is available for sale is pasteurized.
    While often associated with cheddars, “sharp” is a way of describing a cheese with relatively high acidity. A sharp cheese is literally mouth-watering in that it promotes increased salivation as you eat it.
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    In the Italian tradition, it is not uncommon for a single cheese to have two different expressions: one fresh and one aged. This practice most likely arose from necessity. If resources were limited and needed to be stretched, the cheese would become stagionato (“seasoned”) via the process of affinage. Stagionatos are typically stronger and more assertive cheeses, eaten at dinnertime.
    Starter Culture
    Starter culture refers to a preparation of bacteria that, when added to milk, consumes lactose and produces lactic acid. The resulting acidification is one of the preserving techniques used in the cheese making process. Starter cultures can be used alone or in conjunction with rennet to coagulate the milk.
    Italian for “little shreds.” When it comes to cheese, this refers to the extra scraps of fresh curd that result from the process of making mozzarella. Mozzarella is traditionally made in southern Italy, where the terroir leads animals to give rich, sweet milk. Not wanting to let good cheese go to waste, cheesemakers took these little shreds, put them in a pouch of mozzarella, topped them off with fresh cream and tied the pouch at the top. And just like that, burrata was born.
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    The dictionary definition of terroir is “the characteristic taste and flavor imparted to a product by the environment in which it is produced.” We define it, simply, as taste of place. From topography to soil composition to the gamut of climatic considerations, no two spots on earth are exactly alike. Plant two identical seeds in different regions (even in different area codes) and you will grow two products that taste different from one another. Terroir influences the taste of a cheese because the grass an animal eats will affect the flavor of its milk.
    A French term indicating a small round of cheese; smaller tommes are known as tommettes. Also a generic name given to a class of cheese produced mainly in the French Alps from the skim milk left over after the cream has been removed to produce butter and richer cheeses. As a result, tommes are generally low in fat.
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    From Mirriam-Webster: Are you stuck on Stilton or gaga for Gouda? Do you crave Camembert? If so, you just might be a turophile, the ultimate cheese lover. From an irregular formation of the Greek word for cheese, tyros, plus the English -phile, meaning "lover" (itself a descendant of the Greek -philos, meaning "loving"), turophile first named cheese aficionados as early as 1938. It was in the 1950s, however, that the term really caught the attention of the American public, when Clifton Fadiman (writer, editor, and radio host) introduced turophile to readers of his eloquent musings on the subject of cheese.
    Triple-cream or triple-crème
    A fresh, soft French cheese containing at least 72 percent fat.
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    is the hobby of collecting cheese labels. As of May 2019, the world's largest collection encompasses 250,655 label designs.
    A popular term in the English Cheddar scene, truckle can mean a few different things. We consulted one of our favorite English Cheddar makers, Mary Quicke, who shared that sometimes, a truckle can refer to a large cylindrical or barrel-shaped log of cheese, while in other instances, the term is used to describe small rounds of cheese reminiscent of mini wheels. One of the most popular examples of the larger format version is Flory’s Truckle from Milton Creamery, a beloved rustic cheddar.
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    One of the most celebrated occasions in Alpine villages, this grazing process is a true union of local tradition and nature, which watches the seasonal movement of animal herds in a cyclical pattern. Because of the steep slope of the mountains, herds graze in the lowlands during winter and move up higher on the mountain in the warmer weather. In many towns, this cycle represents the changing of seasons and is typically celebrated with a festival welcoming the sheep or goats back down from the mountain after the summer season has ended. Because of these grazing patterns, Alpine cheeses made during different times of the year can vary widely in flavor, with sweeter, grassier profiles resulting from milk harvested during the warmer months.
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    Tyromancy is the ancient practice of predicting the future by interpreting omens found in cheese. The word comes from the Greek words turos (cheese) and manteia (divination).
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    A cheese that is bathed in brine, whey, beer, cider, wine, or brandy during ripening to encourage the growth of B. linens bacteria, which lends a pungent aroma, full, salty flavor, and an reddish-orange rind (such as Limburger).
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    This is the liquid that separates from the curd during the process known as coagulation. The whey contains some proteins and maintains most of the lactose from this process. Whey cheeses, like ricotta, form curds primarily under the influence of heat.
    Semi-firm, firm, or hard cheeses that have been cured for two weeks to 30 days; such cheeses usually have mild flavors.
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