Cheese is a dairy product produced by curdling milk. The basic process behind cheese making is the acidification of milk using specific enzymes to trigger coagulation. Cheese has been in production for thousands of years. A popular ingredient in America and Europe, cheese is often used as a side snack and a key ingredient in many recipes.
According to USDA, 100 grams of cheese contains:
- 250 calories
- 3.57g carbohydrates
- 17.86g protein
- 714 IU vitamin A
- 536mg calcium
- 54mg of cholesterol
- 3.57g sugars
- 0g fiber
The “Accidental” Discovery of Cheese
It is a common perception that cheese was first discovered while transporting milk from one region to another during hot summers. In earlier times, animal stomachs were used to hold milk. The linings of the stomachs were leak-proof and strong in texture. Rennet is an enzyme found in the stomachs that causes the milk to curd under the scorching summer heat. Semi-solid curds were then separated from the remaining liquid (whey) and maintained into shape.
For extra preservation, salt was added later, which gave the cheese its distinct sour taste.
The History of Cheese
The practice of making cheese goes back to somewhere between 8-10,000 years ago. It was common among shepherds who had domestic animals at their expense. The exact origin of cheese is unknown. However, cheesemaking became a common ritual in the Middle East and Europe. It was introduced to Asians and Americans by European travelers much later.
Historical records show that Romans were fond of cheese, and its production was widespread in the Roman Empire. Several types of cheese had already been discovered by the reign of Julius Caesar. The cheese was also a part of the regular diet for soldiers as these men were also dairy farmers at some points in their lives. They would carry cheese to other continents during the invasion.
The Romans were also responsible for integrating cheese with other ingredients such as wheat flour and sugar to create a sweet dish known as cheesecake, which was considerably different from what we eat today.
The fact that Romans were well-known for documenting recipes and the mistakes made during experimentation helped improve the cheesemaking process.
The love of cheese was so obvious among the Greeks that they associated the art of cheesemaking with one of their mythical gods, Apollo. It was said that Apollo sent down cheesemaking humans who were masters in making cheese. There are several mentions of cheese-eating characters in classic Greek literature, such as poems by Homer.
Feta is a cheese of Greek origin that is common even today. It is also one of the main ingredients
Cheese in Asia and America
European invasions are held responsible for the introduction of cheese and dairy farming among people of Asia. But there are crucial records that prove that the Chinese had been involved in cheesemaking for a long time. Rushan is a kind of cheese that has been produced in China since the Ming Dynasty during the 14th century.
The standard American cheese was a complete failure until the Swiss took over. This helped the Americans, and soon they had a cheese production unit of their own by the 1850s. By then, American had also gotten a taste of the authentic European cheese such as Parmesan, Swiss, and Gouda.
Middle Ages & Cheese
It is fascinating to know that making cheese was once almost considered a religious practice. The church took responsibility for cheese production along with many humble people from around. Cheesemaking was also a favorite past-time among monks.
There used to be cheesemaking contests between villages to see who made the better tasting cheeses. In short, cheese was not only a type of food; it was something people enjoyed making and invested their time perfecting this art.
Colonel Meacham & His Cheesy Adventure
Colonel Thomas Meacham was a farmer who took great pride in himself for his cheesemaking abilities. Once, he decided to make huge wheels of cheese – 750 grams each and presented them to the 7th president of the United States of America, Andrew Jackson. The wheels of cheese were transported to Washington, where they made it to the White House.
The historical wheels of Cheddar cheese sat in the halls of the White House for two years. When they were finally opened for public, ten thousand people showed up and ate them within two hours.
Modern Day Cheesemaking
The dependence on animal-based c like rennet was soon replaced by modern techniques. With the introduction of pasteurization and artificial coagulants in the 19th century, mass production of cheese started growing.
Today, the cheesemaking process has gone to microbiological levels to enhance its flavor and longevity. A DNA profiling is done to catalog the micro population of a cheese. To get new flavors and odor, a technique called mass-spectrometry is used.
Types of Cheese
Whether it is Greek or American, cheese is well-liked in almost all parts of the world. Some use it in its original form while other melt and incorporate them into sauces – whatever the form, it sure enhances the whole menu.
Here are some of the most popular types of cheese that you should know about:
Widely used in salads, originated from Italy. It is semi-soft in texture and crumbles in its original form but is easily made in homes from cow milk.
One of the tastiest cheeses, cheddar is famous for its cheese-strings we see when cutting a pizza slice. It is light yellow, and when in molten form, it has a smooth texture.
Pronounced as “How’da,” this type of cheese is of Dutch origin. The difference in its making is that the curds are washed with water when separated from the whey, which gives it a sweeter and very mild flavor. Gouda is great with dishes that require molten cheese, such as soups and sandwiches.
The most famous Greek cheese, feta, is made with the milk of goats and sheep. It has a strong salty flavor, which is usually preferred with Greek salads.
This type of cheese is made by curdling milk with any citric acid. Usually used with sweet delicacies, it can also be eaten as it is with dry fruits.
A hard cheese with prominent holes and a brown ring, gruyere is of Swiss origin. It is often accompanied by white wine.
Artisan Cheese & Cheese Boards
Apart from being a popular food item, cheese these days is also a symbol of wealth and class. Many people take pride in their knowledge of types of cheese and their ability to distinguish them by taste and smell. A formal dinner would look incomplete without a cheese-based dish.
Similarly, a new concept of cheese boards has been recently introduced. A colorful collection of various cheeses and other condiments makes these cheese boards popular as a picnic snack.
Cheese – A Historical Dairy Item
We can conclude from the above that cheese has undergone massive changes and evolutions from one type to another. It has a huge history behind it, ranging from the Roman era until now, and has been a status of wealth and class. Nowadays, cheese is used in many daily food items and snacks, making it an important food item of the modern world of snacks and eatery.