CDR Cheese Grading Short Course featured in Wisconsin Dairy News

Wisconsin Dairy News: What exactly are cheese taste testers searching for?

by Kacey Persson, Daybreak Producer

MADISON, Wisconsin (WXOW) - If you've attended a cheese judging competition, surely you've seen the judges sniffing, tasting, and rolling pieces of cheese. But exactly what are they looking for in a piece of cheese? In this segment of Wisconsin Dairy News we learn some of the techniques!

Although it looks simple, evaluating cheese is never an easy task. It takes a well trained palate, and a keen sense of smell and taste. It all starts before the cheese is taken from the package with the way it looks.

"Are there molds on it, are there crystals on it, are there imperfections such as cracks or splits on the surface so you're taking a critical look at that cheese," explains Mark Johnson, Senior Scientist of the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research.

Each year the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research holds seminars on grading cheese. Attendees learn about all the different qualities in a piece of cheese

Attendees learn about flavor defects, body and texture defects, as well as appearance, color, and surface defects. The workshop is a great way for cheesemakers to learn what judges look for before entering a cheese for contest.

"It gives the cheesemaker the chance to judge their cheese how good is it compared to the best cheese of that category that you have ever had. How do they stack up?" says Mark.

"You should use them as a learning tool and say what's causing those defects so maybe I can make slight adjustments to my make procedure to try to improve on that because I guess the ultimate for a small cheesemaker is to make the best product possible," says Kerry Henning, the Master Cheesemaker at Henning's Cheese.

And it's those subtleties that make the difference. Even experienced cheesemakers can learn a thing or two!

"What I had thought a certain word meant is not even close to what the graders, professional graders consider that word to mean. So that was very interesting that I never knew that," explains Kerry.

But there is a distinction between judging and grading cheese.

"As a judge, I'm looking for perfection in a cheese. But my perspective of what a best cheese should be. As a grader, I'm judging how the end-user, how my customer wants my cheese," says Mark.

And that's Wisconsin Dairy News.