Chef Terrance Brennan is the founder of Artisanal Premium Cheese, a company that practices the fine art of affinage -- the age-old craft of maturing and aging cheese to achieve peak flavor. He's also something of a cheese revolutionary -- a chef who's helped Americans discover and appreciate the sublime magic of handcrafted artisanal cheese (we'll get to that word in a minute). What better person to ask about cheese words?
Paste. "The body within the rind of the cheese, what the French call the 'pate.' In other words, the interior of the cheese."
Farmstead. "Cheese milked and produced from the same farm."
Grassy. "A descriptive term for flavor, meaning a kind of weedy, herbaceous taste, especially when cows are grazing in lush fields during the spring and early summer and eating a lot of the grasses and herbs before milking."
Bloom. "Cheeses like brie and camembert contain candidum penicillin that develops a white mold on the rind, which we refer to as a bloomy rind."
Eye. "The technical name for holes formed in certain Swiss cheeses after the fermentation process."
Sharp. "Refers to the flavor, typically referring to cheddars, as in 'sharp cheddars.' It can also be used to refer to blue cheese. Most artisanal cheddars are not really sharp flavored. That's found more in the mass-produced cheeses."
Brush. "When you take one of the dry-rind cheeses, like Ossau Iraty and Abbaye de Belloc, and brush off the dust from mites that eat the outside. You use a firm brush to clean the outside of the cheese."
Ammonia. "Some cheeses sometimes give off ammoniated gasses. We let cheese breathe a bit when we open the package but if it's overly ripe, it can give off too much ammonia."
Acid. "When a cheese has a sour flavor we say it's acid."
Cave. "Back in the day -- and still today in places like Roquefort -- cheese was matured and aged in limestone caves. At Artisanal, we cure cheese in modern 'caves' -- high-tech walk-in coolers with a cave-like environment. We can control temperature and humidity to one-tenth of a degree in our cheese caves."
Artisanal. "A lot of people ask me what "artisanal" means. Artisanal is actually not a word in the dictionary. I'm not going to be so bold as to claim that I made up this word but I certainly popularized it when I opened my restaurant, Artisanal, seven years ago. "Artisanal" means foods that are handcrafted by skilled artisans in small batches, using time-honored techniques and recipes. It's become so popular the Wall Street Journal even wrote an article last year about how this word is being abused -- anything can be called "artisanal" now. Our cheeses, however, are the real deal."
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