Monday, November 23, 2015

What Do Cheesemongers Do?

As you begin to get more familiar with the cheese industry, you will start to hear the term cheesemonger used semi-frequently. This is especially true for those who visit smaller cheese retailers or talk to cheese experts. Simply put, cheesemongers are professionals with a vast amount of knowledge concerning every aspect of cheese. Other than this, the specifics concerning a particular cheesemonger may vary based on their training, interest, and job.

Cheesemonger History

Throughout history, a cheesemonger has been a merchant with a specialty in selling cheese and some people also call them cheese stewards. The term “mangere” is Old English for a person who works with a particular commodity. That means that the term cheesemonger literally means “someone who sells cheese.” Some people will mistakenly call a cheesemonger a fromager. In reality, however, this French term refers to cheesemakers, something which most cheesemongers are not.

Typical Job

In most cases, a cheesemonger will own a small cheese store. They may also be in charge of purchasing the cheese for a specialty restaurant or food store. As mentioned earlier, cheesemongers do not usually make the cheese themselves. Instead, they know larger cheese suppliers and perhaps local farmers, something which lets them buy and sell cheese of the highest quality available. If you visit a shop with a cheesemonger, they should be able to offer recommendations for pairings of cheese with other items, both beverages and food.


You won’t find any formal training program for becoming a cheesemonger. Instead, a person can do as much or as little training as they need to gain the necessary knowledge and experience concerning cheese. Some people may find a specialty cheese company or a cheesemonger to serve an apprenticeship with. Others will attend the American Cheese Society’s seminars or become certified by this society.


There are also many cheesemongers who are affineurs as well. This term applies to anyone who knows how to properly ripen cheese. This is crucial as there are many cheese varieties that need to be further matured after buying them initially from the manufacturer. One example would be Parmesan, as it needs between 10 and 18 months to ripen. Becoming an affineur can take years as the knowledge and processes are difficult to master.

Your Interactions

You are most likely to meet a cheesemonger if you visit a specialty cheese shop as the best ones should have one of these professionals on hand. Even some online cheese retailers will have a cheesemonger on staff that is willing to communicate with you online or on the phone to help you select the right cheese and pairings.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

How To Become A Certified Cheese Professional

It is easy for someone to call themselves a cheese expert, but to actually become certified as one, they need to undergo a great deal of training and experience. You don’t necessarily need to be a certified cheese professional in order to be an expert in the field, but it helps confirm your knowledge so everyone else knows that you aware of all the details concerning cheese.

Certified Cheese Professional Exam

The way to officially become a certified cheese professional is to take the exam offered by the American Cheese Society (ACS). Their exam is known as the Certified Cheese Professional Exam (CCPE) and is actually the only examination of this type. When you pass the exam, you receive the title of ACS CCP, which stands for ACS Certified Cheese Professional. The certification exam lasts three hours and involves 150 different multiple choice questions that cover all the knowledge a cheese expert would need to know, including items that most people would not necessarily see as related to the profession.


Before taking the exam, you have to prove that you are eligible to take it. You have to have either completed high school or earned your GED in order to show basic literacy skills. Additionally, you need to have 4,000 hours of documentable work (paid or unpaid) that is directly related to the cheese profession within the previous six years. It is possible to have 2,000 hours from the cheese profession and 2,000 hours from professional development, continuing education, and formal education. The ACS lists acceptable work experience for this requirement as being: cheese manufacturing or making, cheese commerce or sales, writing related to cheese, professional teaching or consultation, being a cheese educator, and managing cheese (or working with it extensively) in a restaurant or food store.

Information You Need To Know

There is a vast amount of information that you need to know in order to pass the cheese examination. This includes nine different categories: regulations and regulators, cheese service, cheese evaluation and assessment, cheese categories and types, merchandising and marketing cheese, cheese transportation and storage, cheese ripening, processes of cheesemaking, and raw materials needed for cheesemaking.

Other Options

If you do not want to go through the entire process of becoming a certified cheese professional, but want some sort of certification, there are also various short certification programs that you can take, such as master classes and intensive cheese education programs. These certifications have fewer requirements, but also require much less time to achieve.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thanksgiving Dishes That Are Highlighted With Cheese

Thanksgiving is that special time of year when we gather with family and friends to remember all that we have to be thankful for. But, no doubt about it, the day revolves around food. Some people have strict traditional menus they never vary from year after year. But if you are the type who likes to experiment with different foods, or if you are planning a couple of Thanksgiving get-togethers and need some new ideas, here are some for you to consider. Some are old favorites, maybe one or two will be new to you.

The Cheese Tray

The must-have cheese tray can be dressed up for Thanksgiving with just a little effort and creativity. Cut circles of a deep yellow/orange cheese, cutting off a small slice at the bottom of the circle. Using thin strips of red, yellow, and green bell peppers, form a “turkey tail” around the sides and top of the cheese circle. Cut a black olive to form legs and feet. Cut a small cheese oval for the head and use tiny bits of olive for the eyes. Cutting the cheese circle just a bit differently will form a pumpkin. Use a short strip of green pepper for the stem.

Twice-baked Potatoes

Scrub and bake one baking potato for each person. When baked, cut in half and scoop out the flesh. Mash with a dab of cream, salt, and butter. Refill the potato skin shell, then top with grated cheese, such as Gouda or Swiss.  Just before serving, pop them back into the oven long enough to heat through and melt the cheese.

Macaroni & Cheese

Even the common, everyday mac and cheese can be gussied up for Thanksgiving. Try adding some diced, cooked turkey to your favorite mac and cheese recipe. Crush seasoned dry stuffing bread, mix with some butter or margarine and sprinkle on top of the mac and cheese for the last 10 minutes or so of baking time. Bake it in your prettiest casserole dish.

Apple Pie

What’s Thanksgiving without a home-baked apple pie? Serve yours with dainty slices of cheddar on the side for a classy touch.

Cheese Sauce

Both broccoli and cauliflower are enhanced with a delicate cheese sauce to drizzle over them. Consider replacing the traditional green bean bake with a pretty serving bowl filled with steamed broccoli and cauliflower florets dressed with cheese sauce.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Guide To Cheese Rinds

Rinds can be a confusing topic for cheese lovers as some cheeses contain them, while others don’t. To make matters more difficult to understand, there are multiple different types of rinds as well. In reality, it just takes a little bit of knowledge to understand what exactly a rind is, the various types, and whether you can eat it. Simply put, the rind is the exterior layer of the cheese and it is a natural part of the cheese aging process. Here are the main types and all you need to know about eating them.

Bloomy Rinds

Bloomy rinds are almost always soft and white and they may also be fuzzy. These are formed by spraying a solution that contains edible mold spores on the cheese before or during the aging process. Because the room in which cheese ripens is humid, the mold will grow, creating a rind in a process known as blooming. You will find bloomy rinds on Brie, Camembert, and Saint Andre.

Washed Rinds

If a cheese has a reddish or orange hue, then it is probably has a washed rind. To create these rinds, cheesemakers will wash the cheese with alcohol and/or brine. This then creates the ideal damp environment for B. linens and other edible molds. Washed rind cheeses are sometimes known as stinky cheese due to their strong smell and flavor. Cheeses with washed rinds include Red Hawk, ColoRouge, and Epoisses.

Natural Rinds

The final type of rind is a natural rind and these require minimal intervention in order to form. When cheese matures in a room with controlled humidity and temperature, the air will naturally dry out the outer layer of cheese. This causes a thin crust to form over time, creating the rind. Cheesemakers always watch the formation of natural rinds and will even occasionally rub them with oil during the formation. You can find a natural rind on Parmigiano-Reggiano, Stilton, Tomme de Savoie, and Montgomery Cheddar.

Are They Edible?

Generally speaking, any rind will be a natural part of the cheese and completely edible. There are some times you should not eat the rind, however, such as if a bloomy rind tastes like ammonia, has a texture that is gritty, or is separated slightly from the cheese. Don’t eat a washed rind if it tastes extremely salty. Other than that, the only question as to whether or not you should eat the cheese rind is whether you like the flavor. Some people find it overpowering, and the best way to tell this is to eat your cheese from the inside out. As you approach the rind, the flavors will intensify and if it gets too strong before you reach the rind, you probably won’t enjoy the flavor of the rind itself. Even then, however, you may like the rind in a soup, so consider using it as part of your stock.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cheese Crystals: Feature Or Flaw?

If you ever eaten a well-aged cheese, or even just seen one, then you are probably aware of cheese crystals. These small, crunchy crystals are a natural part of aging and over the years, there has been a great deal of debate over them. Some people view them as a flaw in cheese, while others say they are simply a natural part of the aging process of cheese, adding some texture, and with no negative health effects.

Which Cheeses Have Them

The most likely cheeses to contain these cheese crystals are aged ones, particularly cheese that has aged for a longer period of time. This means that well-aged Parmigiano Reggiano, mountain cheeses (like Pleasant Ridge Reserve or Gruyere), and aged Goudas can all contain these crystals. Even super aged cheddar has cheese crystals, although in that case they are slightly different, although similar enough for most people to lump them under the same category.

What Are Cheese Crystals?

Before you can decided whether cheese crystals are a feature or a flaw, it helps to understand what exactly they are. They are known as tyrosine crystals as that is the substance they are made of. Each crystal is an amino acid cluster that forms as your favorite cheeses age. Tyrosine, a non-essential amino acid, can be found in casein, which is the dominant milk protein.

Despite tyrosine being present in almost all cheese, the tyrosine clusters only appear in some. This is because all cheese contains protein chains which trap fat and protein within them. If the cheese ages for a long time, the protein chains will unravel, leaving these tyrosine deposits.

The View Of Cheese Experts

If you see cheese crystals in a processed, mass-produced cheese, then it is probably a flaw and you will not want to buy that cheese. If, however, you notice them in a well-aged cheese of high-quality, then cheese experts tend to unanimously agree that they are an excellent feature to have in your cheese.

These experts see the crystals as a great way to naturally break up the texture when a cheese is a smooth paste, as they add a nice bit of crunch to the cheese. Many people even say that the crystals interact nicely with your beverage. One example would be eating a super-aged cheddar with cheese crystals while drinking a full-bodied stout as the textural intensity of the cheese’s crunchiness helps match the beer’s fullness. Even the American Cheese Society takes the view that these cheese crystals are a feature and they aim to spread this philosophy.

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