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The History Of Cheese making

Cheese has been around for thousands of years. It is a good way of making milk last longer and is a useful food because it is full of calcium, fat and protein.

The first evidence of cheese making dates back to well before recorded history.

It is possible that cheese was discovered by accident because animal intestines were used to carry food in. When milk was stored in the stomach of an animal, the naturally occurring rennet would have split it into curds and whey – the curds being the solid that is the cheese. Salting the curds would help preserve it.

Goats and sheep were domesticated around 8000 BCE and there is evidence that dairying occurred in Egypt around 3100 BCE and Egyptian tomb murals from around 2000 BCE showed people making cheese. These early cheeses were likely to be similar to feta and sour and salty in taste.

Cheese making was certainly around in Europe during the Roman Empire and cheese was also widely imported – cheese suppliers thrived. Because the European weather is cooler, less salt is required to preserve the cheese and so more delicate flavours can be produced. Strong flavours can be produced with the help of microbes which give the mould associated with blue cheeses. Again, these microbes require cooler temperatures.

Early cheeses were probably made from the milk of sheep and goats but today cow’s milk is more commonly used.

At one time, Europeans saw cheese as food for peasants and it would not have been seen on the tables of noblemen but as time went by it became a desirable food and artisans created some very fine cheeses.

Cheese is now available in a wide range of varieties from soft cheeses (e.g. brie) to hard (e.g. cheddar cheese). Some are notable. Stinking Bishop is one such cheese and as the name suggests it is on the smelly side but actually very nice. The most shocking cheese is probably the infamous Cazu Marzu which is a speciality of Sardinia, Italy. It is a variety of pecorino cheese that is left for the cheese fly Piophila Casei to lay eggs in. These eggs then hatch into maggots and help produce the final cheese. Not everyone likes to eat live maggots and so the Caza Marzu can be left in a sealed plastic bag to suffocate the maggots.

A modern twist on cheese is processed cheese – a variety favoured by burger chains. Processed cheese is made using regular cheese but salt, colouring, emulsifiers and whey are added to make it last longer. It isn’t classed as cheese in some countries because of food regulations and so it is called things such as cheese spread or cheese food.

Mon, March 5 2012 » one time