On this Day:
In 1815, the world’s first commercial cheese factory was established, in Switzerland. However people had been making cheese for thousands of years before this…
Cheese is a dairy product produced in wide ranges of flavors, textures and forms by coagulation of the milk protein casein. It comprises proteins and fat from milk, usually the milk of cows, buffalo, goats, or sheep. During production, the milk is usually acidified and the enzymes of either rennet or bacterial enzymes with similar activity are added to cause the casein to coagulate. The solid curds are then separated from the liquid whey and pressed into finished cheese. Some cheeses have aromatic molds on the rind, the outer layer, or throughout.
Over a thousand types of cheese exist and are currently produced in various countries. Their styles, textures and flavors depend on the origin of the milk (including the animal’s diet), whether they have been pasteurized, the butterfat content, the bacteria and mold, the processing, and how long they have been aged for. Herbs, spices, or wood smoke may be used as flavoring agents. The yellow to red color of many cheeses is produced by adding annatto. Other ingredients may be added to some cheeses, such as black pepper, garlic, chives or cranberries. A cheesemonger, or specialist seller of cheeses, may have expertise with selecting the cheeses, purchasing, receiving, storing and ripening them.
For a few cheeses, the milk is curdled by adding acids such as vinegar or lemon juice. Most cheeses are acidified to a lesser degree by bacteria, which turn milk sugars into lactic acid, then the addition of rennet completes the curdling. Vegetarian alternatives to rennet are available; most are produced by fermentation of the fungus Mucor miehei, but others have been extracted from various species of the Cynara thistle family. Cheesemakers near a dairy region may benefit from fresher, lower-priced milk, and lower shipping costs.
Cheese is valued for its portability, long shelf life, and high content of fat, protein, calcium, and phosphorus. Cheese is more compact and has a longer shelf life than milk, although how long a cheese will keep depends on the type of cheese. Hard cheeses, such as Parmesan, last longer than soft cheeses, such as Brie or goat’s milk cheese. The long storage life of some cheeses, especially when encased in a protective rind, allows selling when markets are favorable. Vacuum packaging of block-shaped cheeses and gas-flushing of plastic bags with mixtures of carbon dioxide and nitrogen are used for storage and mass distribution of cheeses in the 21st century.
Cheese is an ancient food whose origins predate recorded history. There is no conclusive evidence indicating where cheesemaking originated, whether in Europe, Central Asia or the Middle East. Earliest proposed dates for the origin of cheesemaking range from around 8000 BCE, when sheep were first domesticated. Since animal skins and inflated internal organs have, since ancient times, provided storage vessels for a range of foodstuffs, it is probable that the process of cheese making was discovered accidentally by storing milk in a container made from the stomach of an animal, resulting in the milk being turned to curd and whey by the rennet from the stomach. There is a legend—with variations—about the discovery of cheese by an Arab trader who used this method of storing milk.
The earliest evidence of cheesemaking in the archaeological record dates back to 5500 BCE and is found in what is now Kuyavia, Poland, where strainers coated with milk-fat molecules have been found.
Cheesemaking may have begun independently of this by the pressing and salting of curdled milk to preserve it. Observation that the effect of making cheese in an animal stomach gave more solid and better-textured curds may have led to the deliberate addition of rennet. Early archeological evidence of Egyptian cheese has been found in Egyptian tomb murals, dating to about 2000 BCE. A 2018 scientific paper stated that the world’s oldest cheese, dating to approximately 1200 BCE (3200 years before present), was found in ancient Egyptian tombs.
The earliest cheeses were likely quite sour and salty, similar in texture to rustic cottage cheese or feta, a crumbly, flavorful Greek cheese. Cheese produced in Europe, where climates are cooler than the Middle East, required less salt for preservation. With less salt and acidity, the cheese became a suitable environment for useful microbes and molds, giving aged cheeses their respective flavors. The earliest ever discovered preserved cheese was found in the Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China, dating back as early as 1615 BCE (3600 years before present).
There is some support from studies that dairy products can help with insomnia.
Scientists have debated how cheese might affect sleep. There is some evidence that the tryptophan in cheese can be sleep-inducing, as it is a hormone that reduces stress and stabilizes nerve cells. The high levels of calcium in cheese facilitate the use of tryptophan in the body to produce melatonin, which induces sleep. An antithetical folk belief that cheese eaten close to bedtime can cause nightmares may have arisen from the Charles Dickens novella A Christmas Carol, in which Ebenezer Scrooge attributes his visions of Jacob Marley to the cheese he ate. This belief can also be found in folklore that predates this story. The theory has been disproven multiple times, although night cheese may cause vivid dreams or otherwise disrupt sleep due to its high saturated fat content, according to studies by the British Cheese Board. Other studies indicate it may actually make people dream less (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
If Cinderella made pizzas for a living, would she be called Mozzarella?
Second, a Song:
Todd Charles (aka “The Moogician”) has been a comedy-variety entertainer all of his life. His original and refreshing material that combines magic, juggling, music, and comedy, has taken him all over the world, performing in theaters, fairs, festivals, comedy clubs, and on cruise ships.
It was while living on a dairy farm in upstate New York that Todd began to appreciate all the caring & quality work that went into bringing milk and dairy products to the store shelves. Soon he was inspired to create an entire show with dairy themed material, performing his magic with milk, juggling cheese, and all things MOO! (per https://moogician.com/)
Here is a parody music video by “The Moogician” celebrating Cheese, and the Dairy Farmers who make it possible. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“The early bird may get the worm, but its the second mouse that gets the cheese.” – Jeremy Paxman
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Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky