HOW TO TASTE:
- EYES– Look at the product and describe what you see:
- Color: rind, inside (paste)
- Is texture uniform?
- Eyes? Cracks? Salt crystals? Color variation? White patches? Weepy and wet? Sweaty? Crumbly?
- NOSE AND TASTE– What do you smell when you open the package, then as you cut into it? What do you taste first on your tongue? What lingers? What shows up last?
- Sweet: (on tip of tongue) or absence of (puckering, tannic)
- Sour: (astringent on sides and back of tongue, mouthful of saliva)
- Bitter: (where tongue meets throat) as if you’re trying to swallow a prickly pill
- Salty: (front and sides of tongue)
- TEXTURE– How does it feel on your tongue? In your hand?
- Whip cream, easily dissolves, moist like cheesecake, smeary clay
- Rubber eraser, mealy, greasy particles
TYPES OF CHEESE
- Appearance: Marbled cream with blue-green mold
- Flavor: Sharp peppery flavor which lingers pleasantly
- Texture: Moist and slightly sticky and tends to crumble
- Undesireable traits: rancid without the peppery notes, bitter, dry body, lack of mold development, ammonia-like, black color, musty flavor, soapy
Descriptive words and analysis-
- Appearance: blue/green veining, other colors?, white or creamy body
- Rind: brown, fluffy, dense, thin, brainy, mottled, uniform, splotchy
- Aroma: Wet stone, mold, cave, mushroom
- Flavor: salty, peppery, metallic, spicy, mushroom
- Texture: Soft and oozing to dense and dry to high moisture and crumbly
- Appearance: light pink to dark orange hue on rind, shiny, sticky, tacky
- Aroma: smelly feet, barnyard, pungent, fermented fruit
- Flavor: milky and mild, slightly salty to leathery, petrol, corky, bacony, fruity, meaty, peat mossy, salty
- Texture: Can be creamy or runny, pliable, bulging, buttery
- “part mushroom, part cream, part cognac, and part earth”
- Appearance: Edible, fluffy/furry white, almond colored, ash rind, white or blue mold spots, brainy texture, brown mottling, white or straw colored paste, white exterior and creamy yellow interior
- Aroma: Slightly ammonia, hay, mushroom, mown grass
- Flavor: mushroomy, cooked broccoli (??), buttery, milky, creamy, lemon tang (goat), nutty and sweet
- Texture: ranging from dry, dense clay to cream-cheesy with liquid under rind, Young: starts out firm and chalky, Middle: flowable and free from any curdiness
- Appearance: smooth, snowy white, rindless
- Aroma: very little, subtle milk
- Flavor: milky, lactic, tangy (goat/sheep), sweet (cow), acidic, peppery
- Texture: wet, curdy, crumbling, milky, smooth, fine grained, cohesive, spreadable
- Flavor defects: ammonia, bitter, rancid, oxidized, barny, goaty, bucky, flat,
- Body and texture defects: gassy, mealy, pasty, chalky
- Desired flavors: slightly sweet, nutlike, roasted peanuts or hazelnuts
- Desired body and texture without eyes: close (free from mechanical openings), firm and short (breaks easy), flint like appearance and at the lower moisture level will lend to flake or crumble
- Desired body and texture with eyes: somewhat elastic to allow eye formation, other than eyes, will have a closed texture and firm body. Eyes should be uniform in size and evenly distributed.
Hard cheese, Uncooked/pressed (such as raw Gouda) :
- Appearance: rind less edible, thick, rough, earth-colored, often with white or yellow mold
- Aroma: wet dirt, straw, rye, bark, horses
- Flavor: grass, clover, herbs, earthy, leathery, some sweetness
- Texture: semisoft to firm, pliable, potentially mealy or chunky
Cooked/pressed (such as Parmesan) :
- Appearance: less edible rind, firm smooth, hard natural rind, clothbound, hard, craggy, glossy, waxed
- Aroma: mild, cave and fruit notes ranging to toasted nuts and burnt sugar
- Flavor: cooked milk, butter, dates, hazelnuts, butterscotch, caramel, burnt toast
- Texture: smooth and elastic, firm and curdy, dry and flaky, breaks apart when chewed.
GLOSSARY OF CHEESE TERMS:
acidic; acid A good acid balance in cheese is exhibited by a pleasantly tangy flavor. Excessive acid produces a harsh, bitter flavor, sometimes referred to as sour or sour milk, and is considered a fault. The words acidic and acidity are sometimes used synonymously.
acidity A cheese with good acidity has an agreeably tangy flavor. One with too much acidity can taste harsh or bitter. Acidity and acidic are sometimes used as synonyms.
acrid A detrimental descriptor for cheese with a biting or bitter smell or flavor.
ammoniated; ammoniacal [uh-MOH-nee-ay-ted; uh-MOH-nee-uh-kal] Cheese that has the smell and/or flavor of ammonia, typically the result of its being overripe or having been mishandled (such as being stored at too warm a temperature). soft-ripened cheeses like brie and camembert are most likely to become ammoniated. As with most things, a hint of this characteristic is permissible—more than that is distasteful and considered a fault. On the other hand, ammoniated cheeses are safe to eat if you can get past the smell.
a point [ah PWAN] In the cheese world, this French phrase describes a cheese that’s at its peak—perfectly ripe and ready to eat.
aroma A broad term describing a cheese’s smell, which is most pronounced when the cheese is first cut. The aroma may range from lightly fragrant to overwhelming, although the smell may not necessarily telegraph the strength or mildness of flavor.
aromatic A term describing cheese with a definitive aroma.
assertive A cheese with a definitive aroma or flavor.
astringent As with wine that’s too tannic, an astringent cheese exhibits a harsh, puckery mouthfeel.
barnyardy; barny Descriptor for cheese with an aroma (and, sometimes, flavor) reminiscent of, well, a barnyard. Unless overpowering, this earthy. musty characteristic is generally considered a positive quality. It can be found in some aged goat and sheep’s milk cheeses. Also called cowy.
bitter A bitingly unpleasant aftertaste akin to that of coffee that’s been sitting over heat for an hour or more.
blind A description sometimes used for swiss-style cheeses that have very few or no eyes.
body The textural characteristics of cheese—by touch, when cut, and by mouthfeel. For the most part, body depends on moisture content—the more there is, the softer the cheese. By the mouth, body can range from creamy to grainy; to the touch it can vary from soft to crumbly. Other descriptions for body include elastic, firm, flaky, hard, resilient, rubbery, semisoft, supple. and waxy.
butterscotch A buttery, caramelized flavor characteristic of some aged cheeses, such as the Dutch Saenk-anter (see gouda).
buttery This descriptor is applicable to both flavor and texture. Flavorwise, buttery refers to a rich, cream-like essence. Texturally, it describes a high-fat cheese with a creamy, full-bodied mouthfeel.
Chalky An adjective that can be both desirable and undesirable. The clean white color and fine texture of an older chevre is said to be chalky. On the palate, chalkiness describes a grainy, almost powdery sensation that leaves an unpleasant coating on the tongue.
Citrusy A lively, tart flavor found in young chevres and other high-acid cheeses.
Clean A fresh, wholesome flavor. A clean finish refers to cheese with no lingering aftertaste.
Close; Closed Describing cheese with a tight, smooth texture without eyes or mars of any kind. A good example of a cheese with a close texture is cheddar See also open.
Cooked Cheese that has a flavor or aroma of overheated milk, a characteristic of overpASTEURiZED milk.
COWy see BARNYARDY
Creamy An adjective that can describe a cheese’s texture. flavor, and/or color. Cheeses with a creamy consistency are soft, smooth, and sometimes oozingly runny—prime examples include ripe brim. When used to describe flavor, creamy suggests a rich. buttery quality, such as those found in triple cream cheeses.
Crumbly A descriptor for cheese that crumbles when cut. Examples are blue-veined cheeses and well-aged feta.
delicate When describing cheese, delicate refers to a soft, mellow (sometimes bordering bland) flavor and/or aroma. Such delicate attributes can be found in cheeses like a young jack or teleme.
earthy Cheese with a flavor and/or aroma reminiscent of freshly turned soil or the wholesome yet somewhat musty nuance of a forest floor or a lush pasture. The term truffly is sometimes used synonymously with earthy. This hearty, rustic characteristic is considered a positive trait. chevres and monastery cheeses are often described as earthy.
farmlike Cheese that has a fresh, grassy or haylike flavor that is definitively milky.
feed A characteristic of cheese that displays the flavor and aroma traits of what the animal ate just before being milked. It can be a positive or negative trait, depending on what the animal consumed.
finish The final aftertaste, which can be variously described as natural, clean. earthy. bitter, and so on.
flat An essentially insipid cheese with no sign of character in either aroma or flavor.
floral A fresh, fragrant quality.
friability |fry-uh-BIH-lih-tee] A cheese that crumbles readily is said to have good friability.
fruity A sweet, fragrant aroma and/or flavor evocative of fresh fruit. The fruity quality may be general, as with American-made munster, or specific, as with the applelike nuance of gruyere.
furry Describing the downy white coating on bloomy-rind cheeses, such as brie. Furry can also be used negatively to describe undesirable mold on other cheeses.
gamy; gamey The strong. earthy characteristics of the animal from which the cheese came (goat, cow, and so on). Gamy can be used positively or negatively, depending on the cheese. Such attributes should not be evident in young cheeses, whereas they might be favorable in an aged cheese.
garlic; garlicky When used in reference to cheese, this term describes an undesirable flavor that’s typically the result of what the animal ate just before milking.
goaty Usually a positive descriptor for the distinctively tangy flavor of goat’s milk cheeses. Conversely, older aged goat cheeses can take on an assertively goaty flavor that some find offputting.
grainy A descriptor for cheeses like parmesan and romano, which have a coarse, granular texture.
grassy; grassiness Describing cheese with a flavor and, sometimes, aroma analogous to grass. This characteristic is generally attributable to what the animal has consumed before being milked. Grassiness, which is typically perceived as fresh and slightly tart, is usually considered a favorable trait and can be found in fresh GOAT CHEESES.
gummy A negative descriptor for cheese with a sticky, chewy texture, which is typically caused by excessive moisture.
herbaceous Cheese with a flavor and/or aroma reminiscent of herbs, a quality usually attributable to what the animal ate before being milked. An herbaceous trait is often found in aged cheeses made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. Of course herbal flavors and aromas may also come from herbs being added to the cheese during processing or used during ripening.
intense An “intense” cheese has assertive, concentrated aromas and flavors.
lactic The word itself is an adjective for things relating to or derived from milk. In cheese-tasting parlance, it describes a cheese with the pleasantly tangy flavor and aroma characteristic of sour milk. It can also describe a SMOOTH. CREAMY TEXTURE.
Lipase [LIP-ays] see rancid
liquescent [lih-KWEHS-uhnt] A descriptor for cheese that is decidedly oozy or thickly liquid. Also used for cheese that seems to melt in the mouth.
metallic A negative descriptor for a cheese that tastes tinny.
mild A light, almost soft flavor, a common trait in many young cheeses.
mottled Cheese with a blotchy color variation—both on the rind and in the paste—is described as mottled. Such cheeses are typically made from two different batches of curds.
mushroomy The clean. earthy aroma and flavor reminiscent of mushrooms and found in some soft-ripened cheeses such as brie and camembert.
musty A negative descriptor for a dank earth aroma and/or flavor, typically caused by mold growth.
nerveux [nehr-VUR] French for “nervous,” sometimes used to describe a slightly acidic or tart flavor.
nutty A flavor and aromatic characteristic reminiscent of toasted nuts. swiss-style cheeses, such as gruyere, are often described as nutty.
Oniony A generally negative flavor characteristic that’s usually the result of the pasturage on which the animal fed.
OOZy Synonymous with runny.
Open A textural description for cheese with eyes, which can range from pinpoints to the size of walnuts. See also close.
Overripe A negative term describing cheese past its prime, which can manifest in a rancid or ammoni-ated flavor and/or aroma.
pasty A textural descriptor for an undesirable stickiness.
peppery A spicy flavor trait with a nice bite. A peppery quality can sometimes be found in well-aged cheddars as well as in some blue-veined cheeses.
perfumy A descriptor for the almost sweet. nutty. floral aroma found in some cheeses, such as aged goudas and gruyeres.
piquant A positive flavor characteristic that can range from tangy to sharp. Cheeses with this trait include some aged cheddars and asiagos, as well as some young goat’s milk cheeses.
pungent An assertively penetrating aroma and/or flavor found in many soft-ripened cheeses, such as LIMBURGER and BRICK.
rancid; rancidity A rancid flavor or odor is caused by the decomposition of fat as lipase enzymes release fatty acids. This flavor can exemplify as a stale, somewhat bitter and spoiled quality. Oddly enough, a slightly rancid quality lends a few cheeses, such as romano, some of their distinctive flavor characteristics. On the whole, however, rancidity is decidedly a fault. In relation to cheese, the term rancid is also called lipase or soapy.
rich A cheese described as rich is typically high in butterfat and produces a full-bodied (see body), complex flavor impression on the palate.
ripe A cheese is ripe and ready to be consumed when it reaches its optimum flavor after being aged (see ripen-ing). Depending on the cheese, aging can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to over a year or more for a cheese such as parmigiano-reggiano.
robust Describes an assertively complex and full-bodied mouth sensation—a “pop” of flavor that lingers pleasantly on the palate.
rubbery A negative textural term for cheese with a bouncy, elastic quality that is overly chewy. A rubbery texture is a characteristic found in many bulk-manufactured reduced fat mozzarellas.
runny Describes the interior of a cheese that, when cut, gently oozes from its rind rather than retaining its shape. Such a characteristic may either be positive, as with a perfectly ripe epoisses, or negative, as with a cheese that’s been stored improperly at too warm a temperature.
Sapid; Sapidity [SAP-ihd; sa-PIHD-ih-tee] Cheese that exhibits a pleasantly full-flavored, mouth-filling sensation.
savory A deep, rich, almost meaty flavor and/or aroma. See also umami.
Sharp In cheese-tasting parlance, the word sharp is synonymous with pronounced. Therefore, a cheese may have a sharp flavor or aroma, or be sharply salty, bitter, and so on. Such cheeses are typically fully developed and assertively flavored.
Smoky An evocative flavor and/or aroma descriptor that can describe cheese that has been smoked (see smoked cheese) or an earthy, ashy characteristic.
Smooth Synonymous with silky or satiny, this term describes a spreadable cheese with a texture that’s smooth and rich. The mouthfeel is creamy and luscious.
Soapy see rancid
Sour see acidic
Spicy When used to describe aroma, spicy refers to a piquant or pungent characteristic. Flavor-wise, spicy describes cheeses with a kick of heat, as through the addition of jalapenos, black pepper, and the like.
springy A cheese (such as one that’s soft-ripened and ready to eat) that, when gently pressed on the surface, rebounds to its original shape.
Strong A somewhat ambiguous cheese-tasting term for a pronounced, incisive flavor and/or aroma.
Supple A textural term describing a cheese that’s firm yet pliable and yielding to the touch. A good example of supple cheese is fontina.
Sweet When describing cheese, this term relates not to sugar but rather to a flavor that exhibits a reduced level of acid or sodium or both. It can also describe a fruity quality. The end result is a sweet essence on the palate.
tangy Describes the sharp, distinctive flavor of higher-acid cheeses such as those made of goat’s milk, such as CHEVRE.
terroir [teh-RWAAR] When used as a cheese descriptor, terroir refers to characteristics reflective of the area from which the cheese came. For example, a cheese from a heartland producer might have a distinct grassy characteristic, while one from an oceanside producer is more likely to have the tang a salt-air environment contributes. The terroir is distinctive in each location, and the cheese is unique to the terroir. See also main listing.
texture The general feel of a cheese, whether by hand or by mouth. Texture may be described in numerous ways—firm, soft, grainy. supple. waxy. crumbly. and so on. When referring to eyes or lack thereof, the textural terms used are open (eyes) and closed (without holes). For the most part, texture is a result of the cheese’s moisture content (soft cheeses have more moisture than hard ones), but also its processing, as in the case of pasta filata cheeses.
umami [oo-MAH-mee] It’s long been accepted in the Western world that there are four elements of taste — sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. In 1908, Tokyo Imperial University researcher Kikunae Ikeda identified a fifth taste that he called umami, a word loosely interpreted as “delicious” or “savory” — the essence of flavor, another dimension. Ikeda concluded that, of the five tastes, umami and sweetness were the only two the palate perceives as singularly pleasant. Compared to the other four tastes, umami is exceedingly subtle, resonating more as an overall distinctive palate sensation than a taste. Cheeses described as exhibiting an umami character are those that are long aged, such as aged cheddar and parmigiano-reggiano.
Vegetal [VEHJ-ih-tl] The flavor and aroma characteristic of fresh or cooked vegetables. A natural degree of plant character can be attributed to what the animal ate before being milked. However, a dominant vegetal quality is considered a fault.
velvety The downy rind of some soft-ripened cheeses (brie, for example) can be described as velvety. Some depict the mouthfeel of such a cheese as velvety, If though the more apt description would be smooth.
waxy A term describing the firm waxlike texture of cheeses like edam and emmental.
weedy Refers to a flavor in a cheese that is overly vegetal and/or grassy and/or earthy.
weeping Description for swiss-style cheeses that have eyes beaded with minuscule droplets of moisture, the natural result of the dissolution of proteins during ripening. In such cheeses, weeping signals peak ripeness and flavor. On the other hand, a cheese may weep if stored improperly at a warm temperature—not a positive signal.
yeasty An aroma and flavor associated with fermenting yeast—think freshly baked bread just from the oven or a bottle of just-opened beer.
young A term applied to cheeses that have undergone a ripening period of only 14 to 30 days. The short aging time produces MiLD-flavored cheeses. Young cheeses are also called current.
Descriptive words: bitter, sour, sweet, salty, cowy, nutty, catty, free-fatty-acid-y, fruity sulfur, brothy, milkfat, diacety, whey, cooked, mineraly, feed, fermented, flat, garlic/onion, heated, high acid, moldy, rancid, sulfide, unclean, whey taint (sweet yet acidy), yeasty, old milk, low salt, high salt, flaked, flint (shards, not curds), crunchy, stringy, oily, opaque, antiseptic, bland, slimy,
Body/texture: corky, crumbly, curdy, gassy, mealy, open, pasty, short (breaks easy), weak, grainy, loose knit, pin holes, sticky, bubbled, foreign material, huffed, mold under wrapper, soft spots, blistered, lopsided, uneven, mottled, wavy, seamy, unnatural, acid cut, excessive rind, rind rot
Goat/sheep: citrusy, spicy, piquant, zingy, sharp, goaty, bucky, bitey, sheepy, woolly, lanolin, mouth-watering, tany, hot, intense, bracing, zippy, prickly