Our Love Affair With Cheese

| 9/24/2014 8:19:00 AM

Country MoonWhen we went to Wisconsin a couple weeks ago, we were constantly reminded why we are in love with cheese. Long identified with the comfort food, the state has been the largest cheese producing state in the United States since 1910. Anyone from Wisconsin is known as a “cheesehead,” and it is the official nickname for the Green Bay Packers.

Mac & cheese, pizza, burgers, subs, and so many more items in our diet just wouldn’t be the same without this favorite dairy product because cheese just makes it better. We were reminded of this fact at every turn through Wisconsin’s rolling countryside.

Cheese has been around a long time, with the earliest record of cheesemaking dating back to 5500 B.C. Even though its origins predate recorded history, the consensus is that it was created by accident. Throughout history animal skins and inflated internal organs have provided storage for a range of foods. At some point in time milk was probably stored in a container made from the stomach of an animal resulting in milk being turned to curd and whey by the rennet from the stomach.

This, in essence, is how cheese is made. Milk is acidified, or soured, by adding rennet, which is a complex of enzymes produced in the stomachs of ruminant mammals. This separates the milk into solids (curds) and liquids (whey). Sometimes vinegar is added to start this process, but usually it is a starter bacteria that is used. It all depends on what kind of cheese is being made. Adding rennet sets the cheese into a strong and rubbery gel as compared to fragile curds produced by acid coagulation (adding vinegar).

Softer, smaller and fresher cheeses are curdled with a larger proportion of acid to rennet while harder, larger and longer-aged cheeses are just the opposite. After this process, it is cut into smaller cubes to let the water drain out and salt is added to keep it from spoiling.

According to the International Dairy Federation, there are roughly 500 different types of cheese. The different varieties are classified according to the length of aging, methods of production and the fat content.

9/26/2014 8:50:16 AM

Lois, cheese making is a lot like wine. You can make it as simple or complex as you would like. Your recipe at the end of the post was an actual demonstration at the last Kansas Mother Earth News Fair. It was simple and easy way to make cheese. Their recommendation was to experiment with different flavors such a garlic or herbs which would be mixed in after the pinch of salt was added. The beauty of this process is that even store bought homogenized pasteurized milk can be used with excellent results. I still have intentions to try this but just haven't done it yet. It's on the Winter bucket list of things I want to try. ***** Have a great cheese making day.

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