How a Cheese Iron is the Prized Tool of a Cheesemonger

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Let's talk about the instrument that cheesemongers wield to make all the difference when making cheese. It’s the one item we all have as affineurs that helps to confirm that our maturing process has paid off. I am talking about the humble cheese iron, or borer or cheese trier, as it’s sometimes referred to.

I’ve had mine for about four years now and it could perhaps become a family heirloom in twenty or thirty years, should a family member want it! Read on to find out more about the origins and uses of the cheese iron and learn how it makes Rennet & Rind’s cheeses taste and feel amazing.

The Basics and Origins

A cheese iron is a ‘T’ shape, the top of the ‘T’ being a handle made from wood or iron. At the pointy end is a semicircle, though some varieties have a tapered blade.

But where - I hear you ask - did this tool come from and how do you use it? Well, as they say, necessity is the mother of all invention and the idea originates from wastage. Cheese has to be tested for its resistance and overall quality, and before ironing, there were some tales of cheesemakers comedically jumping or standing on the cheese to do this - hardly hygienic and also a pretty one-dimensional test! The other alternative would be to cut the cheese open but if the cheese wasn’t ready, you might have potentially wasted 30kg of cheese which would be sold for less or not sold at all.

The cheese iron, which has remained largely unchanged since its introduction, provided those buying cheese with an assurance of the quality, whilst also allowing the cheesemakers the opportunity to preserve their product effectively. Win-win!

What Happens After Testing?

After all the testing is done, we place the iron back into the hole, and, while using a finger to hold the rind in the cavity of the iron, pull the iron out whilst leaving the cheese in its original place. We also smear residual cheese to seal any gaps, which helps to reduce the risk of possibly tainting and causing blueing to the cheese.

By using an item as simple as a cheese iron, we can understand more about that batch of cheese and what we can do with it. Whether that’s maturing it for longer, pulling it from the maturing rooms to be presented to customers, changing our maturing techniques or even working out if our methods haven’t been successful and what we can change.

The cheese iron process is here at Rennet & Rind. Producing artisan cheese is a delicate science because of how much it fluctuates. There are so many variables to consider, from the weather, time of make, the temperature of milk, how the cows are feeling that day to which way the wind is blowing - the list is endless.

However, these unknown variables are what make artisan cheese exciting. Every batch is different; you can be tasting a cheese made from precisely the same ‘make’ process, but because they’re made days apart they can end up completely different in flavour. It does work both ways and the flavour could be for better or for worse, but it’s my job to make sure it's for the better, so that every time you try a cheese from us, it is always at its peak perfection. It’s also what separates mass-produced cheese from the artisans. These variables always provide a lasting experience. One which you will hopefully remember.

I hope you found this article insightful into the practices that we use to make sure our cheese is perfect. If you’re interested in trying some of our succulent artisan cheeses for yourself, browse our rich and varied collection online today.


Perry James Wakeman

Head Cheesemonger of Rennet & Rind. Qualified MonS Affineur, World Cheese Awards Judge and Patron/Trainer of The Academy of Cheese.

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