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Tools of the Trade: The Cheese Trier


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In this blog series, intern Vanessa delves into the untrod subject of 19th and 20th century cheesemaking equipment. Join in her exploration of these historic tools, from early subsistence-farm cheesemaking to modern cheese production. Read on for a chance to win an issue of culture!


Perhaps the most compelling aspect of artisanal cheesemaking is how little the tools and equipment have changed over the past two centuries. Though our technology-driven culture has rendered many “old school” farming practices obsolete, the machinery used to make cheese seems suspended in time. The cheese trier (also known as the cheese tester or cheese iron) is a piece of equipment invented in the 19th century that remains relatively unaltered in cheesemaking today.

At the beginning of the 1840s, a significant shift occurred in American cheesemaking. Cheese became a lucrative cash crop for farmers in the Northeast, who began selling their product to local stores and neighbors. Commercial cheesemaking led to the emergence of “cheese agents,” who worked as intermediaries between the farmer and his customers. These middlemen negotiated contracts with the farmers for their following season’s entire cheese production. This led to significant growth in the cheesemaking industry and improvements in the necessary equipment.

The cheese trier proved essential for both the cheese agent and the eventual buyer. Resembling an apple corer, it was used to extract a small plug sample from the center of the cheese wheel. The sample enabled the viewing of different parts of the cheese, which was important because the majority of cheeses are “younger” on the inside than the outside. The use of this tool allowed potential purchasers to insure the cheese had aged properly and was ready for consumption, without compromising the wheel. After the agent or buyer had tasted the product, the plug was inserted back into the hole. The device was so successful that it is still used today among cheesemakers, buyers, and competition judges.

Written by Vanessa Lyons

Vanessa was an online editorial intern at culture. She grew up in New Hampshire enjoying her mother’s glorious cooking, which ignited a zeal for tasty cuisine. A stint at a specialty food and wine store only elevated this desire, specifically for cheese and any of its fermented accompaniments. When not attempting to bolster her cheese knowledge, she escaped to coastal Maine or locked herself in her bedroom to read Game of Thrones.

One thought on “Tools of the Trade: The Cheese Trier”

  1. Kevin Flanagan says:

    Ms. Lyons,

    Thank you for helping me identify a cheese trier that my Uncle recently gave me. The item belonged to my Grandfather who worked for Jamestown Cold Storage (Jamestown, NY) from 1927 to 1940. JCS was contracted by JL Kraft to store and sell their products. My grandfather was their salesman to local grocers who purchased Kraft cheese’s. There are initials on the back of the trier that is hard to identify but appears to be JRPFT. If you would like an photo of my trier, let me know.

    Kevin
    Chicago, IL

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