Fresh cheese Unripened young cheese with no rind or mould. Typically curds are transferred into moulds, which are left to drain for a few days before being sold. One to try: Crowdie.
Soft Cheese Young cheese, such as Tunworth, often characterised by white rind. Penicillium (a type of fungi) can be added at the start of the process; as the curds mature, the Penicillium mould blooms, producing enzymes that ripen the cheese.
Semi-soft cheese Older, ripened soft cheese. Includes washed-rind cheeses, which are made by washing the rinds of maturing cheese with brine or alcohol to encourage the bacteria that create smelly orangey or pinkish rinds and break down the soft centre until silky and vegetal, as with Celtic Promise.
Hard cheese The likes of Cheddar, Lincolnshire Poacher and Lancashire become firmer and drier the longer they’re aged, developing flavour. Different methods of cutting, heating and draining the curds are used to achieve different results; cheeses are often pressed to drive out moisture, and wrapped in cloth to mature.
Blue cheese Both soft and hard cheeses may grow moulds while maturing because of microbes present in the atmosphere. Modern cheesemakers add blue mould microbes (such as Penicillium
roqueforti) to milk and use techniques such as turning and piercing to encourage veins of blue mould. Blue Stilton is a classic example.
Cheddaring Britain’s favourite cheese is named after the Somerset village of Cheddar, where vast clothbound cheeses were aged in the caves of Cheddar Gorge as long ago as the 12th century. The name also refers to the technique used to drain the curd. It is cut into slabs that are stacked and turned to force out whey, then milled (cut into tiny pieces), salted and pressed into moulds.
Rennet The enzymes that coagulate milk are sourced from the stomachs of unweaned calves and are a byproduct of the dairy and veal industries. Mass-produced cheeses are usually made with vegetarian rennets, cultured in laboratories.
Starter culture Lactic acid bacteria are added to milk at the start of the cheesemaking process to begin the conversion of lactose (milk sugar) to lactic acid. Most starter cultures are mass-produced in labs and available to cheesemakers as freeze-dried sachets. More traditional makers use bulk starters – living bacteria that have been gathered from farms and kept alive in labs. A small number of natural cheesemakers still cultivate starters from their own soured milk.