On National Cheese Lover’s Day, don’t feel bleu, throw a feta or act capricious. January 20th is a gouda day to kummin over and have some cheddar or asiago or fontina!
There is no firm evidence of how cheese making was discovered. but legend tells us it was likely by chance that someone created the first cheese. Thousands of years ago, people transported milk and stored it in sheep stomachs. Left to sit a few days, the proteins would separate into curds and whey. From there, preserving the solids with salt may have seemed a logical next step. Salt was a highly valued preservative in ancient times.
The earliest record of cheese making dates back to 5,500 BCE in what is now Poland. Today there are over 1,400 varieties of cheese.
Basic Cheese Making
The basic principles behind making cheese are quite simple. Let the milk sour (or scientifically, coagulating the casein protein). Then separate the curds (solids) from the whey (liquid). The curds are then salted and left to age.
Bacteria, enzymes or fungi may be added at various stages. These along with the type of milk, temperature, time and moisture are all controlled to produced the desired taste, color and texture. Herbs and spices may also be added.
The nutritional value of cheese varies depending on the variety. Cottage and mozzarella cheese are at the lower end of fat and calories per serving while mascarpone and cream cheese pack it on. Marscapone makes desserts like tiramisu rich and creamy.