Imagine your favourite foods… now imagine it with cheese. I bet your mouth just watered. It’s okay, you can take a minute to mop up that pool under your feet, I’ll wait.
Okay, now that that’s taken care of, let’s take a moment to appreciate one of my favourite toppings: cheese. What is it? When was cheese first made? Where can we celebrate all the awesomeness that is cheese? Find out below!
What is cheese?
- Cheese is derived from the milk of many animals including cows, buffalo, camels, yaks, goats, and sheep.
- All milk contains 5 basic components: water, lactose, fat, protein, and minerals.
- Cheese can be produced in a wide variety of flavours, textures, and forms; these variations depend on a number of factors including which animal the milk came from, if it’s been pasteurized, its butterfat content, the bacteria and mold it contains, and the way it’s processed and aged.
- Cheese is valued for its portability, long life, and content of fat, protein, and phosphorous.
- Herbs (i.e. chives), spices (i.e. pepper), wood smoke, pepper, garlic, and cranberries may be added to the cheese for flavouring.
- It is unknown where cheese originated, however it was widespread within Europe before the height of the Roman Empire; by that time, Pliny the Elder suggested that cheesemaking was a “sophisticated enterprise”.
- According to legend, cheese was accidentally discovered by an Arab trader using internal organs for milk storage.
- The domestication of sheep, ca. 8000 BC, is the earliest proposed date for cheesemaking.
- Homer’s Odyssey (8th century BC) mentions Cyclops making and storing sheep and goat milk.
- The earliest evidence of cheesemaking – strainers with milk fat molecules – dates to 5500 BC from Kujawy, Poland.
- Murals painted on ancient Egyptian tombs dating to ca. 2000 BC suggests that they also made cheese. This cheese was likely sour and salty due to the amount of salt needed for preservation (cheese produced in Europe would need less salt).
- Many of the cheeses eaten today are first mentioned in the middle ages: Cheddar in 1500, Parmesan in 1597, Gouda 1697, and Camembert in 1791.
- Cheese was unheard of in Asia, Pre-Columbian America, Africa until the spread of modern European culture.
- The first industrial cheese producing factory was established in Switzerland in 1815, but it was most successful in the United States.
- Factory produced cheese overtook traditional methods in the WWII era.
- Today, more people buy “processed” cheese (normal cheese + additives) than real, natural cheese.
- Curd: mild, semi-soft, creamy texture. Used for cooking and melting… mmmmm poutine….
- Cream cheese: originated in the USA. It has a mild, sweet, and slightly tangy taste.
- Havarti: originated in Denmark. It has a mild, creamy, and semi-soft texture. Dill, garlic, and cranberries can be added for flavouring… and it’s so good with spicy Doritos!
- Brie: originated in France. It has varying tastes and is best served at room temperature alongside deserts or crackers.
- Marble cheddar: originated in England. It has a rich taste with a smooth buttery texture.
- Parmesan: originated in Italy. It has a hard and gritty texture with a fruitty and nutty taste.
- Coopers Hill cheese rolling festival takes place in Gloucestershire, England at the end of May.
- The Cheese Curd Festival in Wisconsin includes eating contests and cheese carving and takes place at the end of June.
Speaking of Wisconsin, they used cheese to melt road ice in December. Experts said the best ones to use are provolone, mozzarella, and any others with a high salt content.
I just realized I had no information about the cheese making process, so click here to find out how it’s made! So there you have it: an overview of heaven. I mean cheese… Same thing. See you on the next one!