The art of cheese-making has developed over time. It first began several thousand years ago. Today, there are up to 5,000 different types of cheeses worldwide. In addition to the standard cheeses that can be bought in any supermarket, each country has its own specialties.
Cheese is a solid milk product produced in most cases by the coagulation of casein, the protein found in milk. Cheese making is the oldest method of preserving milk. Cheese plays an important role in our diet, especially in the western world. In Europe, North America and Australia, cheese is one of our staple foods. In the rest of the world, lactose intolerance is widespread, reducing the importance of dairy products and therefore also cheese.
The history of cheese production began sometime between 10th and 8th millennium B.C. At that time, man began to domesticate animals. Now, for the first time, large amounts of animal milk were available. To make the milk last longer, people gradually developed the art of cheese making.
The first archaeological evidence of cheesemaking originates from a time around 5,500 B.C. This evidence was found in the country that is currently called Poland. Comes the first recorded technical treatise on milk processing, written by Aristotle, was written in the 4th century.
Cheese making made a big leap forward with the scientific discoveries and technological developments of the 19th century.
There are several ways to produce different cheese types. The three most common types of cheese are sour milk cheese, rennet cheese and whey protein cheese. Sour milk cheese is produced when the milk is soured by lactic acid bacteria, causing the casein to stick together. In the case of rennet cheese, casein is clumped together by the addition of an enzyme mixture. Most hard or semi-hard cheese types are manufactured this way. Whey protein cheese is made from sweet whey. The whey proteins are thereby precipitated via heat.
To produce a kilo of cheese, between four and sixteen liters of milk are needed. Cheese can be divided into different types according to the water content in the fat-free mass. The more dry matter a cheese contains, the harder it is. Fresh cheese, for example, has a water content of about 73%. Hard cheese has a maximum of 56%.
The fat content of cheese is not actually a percentage of the total weight, but a percentage of the dry matter. The reason for this is that cheese loses weight and moisture during storage and ripening. The relative fat percentage may increase even more due to the water loss, but the relationship between fat content and dry matter remains the same.
Each variety of cheese has a different maturing period, which may last from a few weeks to several months. The flavor of the cheese depends on the storage and maturation period. Some cheeses are additionally refined with fungi or bacteria, which results in very special flavors.