How is Cheese Made?

Cheese is derived from milk and is used as food. Cheese can be made with a large variety of forms, textures, and flavors. The composition of cheese is primarily fat and also includes some proteins (both of which are derived from the milk of animals such as goats, cows, or sheep). The primary method by which cheese is produced is through the coagulation of casein, which is a protein that is found in milk. The history of cheese-making dates back to before recorded history. It is thought that the process by which cheese is made was initially discovered on accident.

There are three primary steps that take place in the process of making cheese. These three steps are curdling, curd processing, and ripening. Curdling is the process by which milk is separated into curds (the solid portion) and whey (the liquid portion). This is often done by souring the milk (making it more acidic) and adding rennet (enzymes found in animal stomachs that are capable of separating the parts of the milk). Acidification of the milk can be done either by the addition of an acid (for example: vinegar) or by adding some sort of bacteria (which will ferment the sugars in the milk to lactic acid). What is done during the acidification step (particularly if bacteria are used) plays a huge role in how the cheese will taste when it is completed.

Curd processing is the second step in cheese-making. After curdling, the cheese will have the consistency of a moist gel. For soft cheese, this is the final step. Soft cheese is then drained, salted, and packed for sale or storage. For other cheeses, the curd is then cut into cubes for drainage. Hard cheeses are often heated to a range between 95 and 131 degrees Fahrenheit. Some cheeses are also salted for preservation and flavoring. Following this, the curds are pressed into a mold which will give the cheese its final form.

Ripening is the final step in cheese-making. This step is also known as aging the cheese. The basic process is to let the newly molded cheese sit and rest in order to allow microbial organisms and various enzymes change the texture and flavor of the cheese. This could last anywhere from days to years, depending on the type of cheese that is being produced.

The history of cheese-making begins before recorded history and there is no evidence of where cheese-making actually originated. The earliest known location of cheese-making is in Europe (particularly, Poland). The earliest known date that cheese-making has been recorded is around 5500 BC. It is thought that, since animals skins were often used for food storage, cheese-making was accidentally discovered by the formation of curd and whey from milk being stored in an animal skin. There has been evidence found of cheese being made in Egypt around 2000 BC in the form of murals found on the walls of Egyptian tombs.

In ancient Rome, cheese was a food that was eaten everyday and cheese-making was considered an art form. Cheese, even then, was renowned for its flavor and there was a large variety of cheese available. This is remarkable given the fact that they lacked the storage capabilities that we have. As the Roman empire colonized Europe and had interactions with other civilizations, cheese-making spread as well. This was an exchange of ideas that has been noted in a number of other fields as well.

New types of cheese were made and spread very easily along trade routes into parts of the world that had never seen them before. Many of the cheese that we eat today were first created in the late Middle Ages (such as Cheddar, Parmesan, Camembert, and Gouda).With the spread of imperialism in the world in the nineteenth century, cheese also spread to other cultures (such as those in Asia, Africa, and South America. Soon, many countries industrialized and cheese began to be mass produced. This mass production gave way to the booming cheese industry that we know today.

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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

Disclaimer: The suggestions in the article(wherever applicable) are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or any other type of advice