History of Cheese Making

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The art of making cheese goes back roughly 8000 to 10,000 years. During the time of the Egyptians, cheese making was depicted in paintings and wall art dating back 4000 years. During the Roman Empire, cheese making had become quite popular, and they had developed a wide variety of different types of cheese.

Throughout the Middle Ages cheese was a staple food made by local farmers. The cheese was made to use the extra milk before it spoiled, as there was no refrigeration at that time. One might use milk from cows, goats, sheep, camels or other milk-producing animals, depending on what the family had. Milk was valuable food source; people found ways to preserve it.

It was believed that when the nomadic tribes stored milk in empty sheep stomach, when left too long, the milk curdled and this may have been the beginning of the first cheese. It was discovered that the enzymes found in the inner layer of the stomach were what caused the milk to change. In other parts of the world, a piece of lining from the inside of a calf’s stomach was used for similar results.

Cheese was also a good travel food, as it is nutritious, packs easily, was inexpensive and readily available to most people. A simple meal of bread and cheese was a staple for many poor families trying to keep food on the table.

Making cheese is a fairly straight forward process, follow a few steps to making one’s own cheese.
One needs a quantity of fresh milk, preferably raw, not processed. This can be difficult to find in the US unless one knows someone who milks his or her own cows or goats.

The main ingredient in cheese is milk, which contains 5 principle parts; lactose (also known as milk sugar), protein, fat, minerals and water. There are two main proteins in milk, the casein (solid part) and whey (liquid part) that is drained off when the cheese is made. It contains the enzymes needed to cause the milk to turn into curds. Now rennet is available commercially as a tablet and one does not need to harm any animals.

Process to make cheese involves a series of steps. The first of which the rennet is added to fresh milk with causes the milk to curdle, or form “curds” as the solid separates from the liquid or the whey.

The curds are then cut into smaller pieces and strained to continue removing the liquid. Depending on the type of cheese being made, the milk is heated to speed up the process of removing the whey.

Softer cheeses like cottage cheese and brie may not always be heated, and contain a higher moisture content than Cheddar for example, which is approximately 37% moisture, compared to Brie which is higher.
The cheese curds are then pressed to expel yet more water create a firmer cheese and form the final shape of the cheese as well.

The art of cheese making came to America during the 1700s when the settlers in the Colonies brought it with them from the Old Country. Cheese making was considered the woman’s job up until almost the beginning of the 19th century, when the first cheese factories were built. Early settlers used skim the cream off the top of the raw milk in the early days, and made butter with it. There was still a great deal of milk left over, and the settlers had to find a way to preserve it, so cheese making was quite common. Today, there are over 1400 different types of cheese.

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