Imagine this – nomads 8000 years ago storing milk in animal skin pouches and when they stop to rest and open it, lo and behold, they find it solidified, tasting delicious. True or not, this could just have been one of the ways that people discovered how to make cheese.
Today, cheese is made by fermenting milk and adding rennet which is a curdling agent. It is then pressed and stored. There are so many cheeses all over the world today and they are so much a part of our many cuisines. Can one really imagine Italian food without cheese? From the ancient Arabs to the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans, cheese has been down a long and distinguished road.
Today, cheese-making has reached an art that is absolutely mind-blowing. The great thing is that cheese has become an accepted taste even in countries that were not traditionally cheese-eaters. There’s a cheese wave that’s sweeping the world and no-one’s complaining!
Cheese – In All Its Various Avatars
There are so many cheeses available today, so much so that many supermarket shelves look like a veritable cheese addict’s paradise. Cheese can be categorized on so many different parameters. Let’s take a quick trip through Cheeseland to familiarize ourselves with the types of cheese most readily available.
The first classification can be done on the basis of its hardness. So you have soft cheeses, semisoft cheeses and hard cheeses. Now the softness or the hardness of the cheese depends entirely on the amount of moisture that is present.
The second classification is based on the method by which the cheese is made. Cheese can be Natural or Processed. Processed cheeses are usually blends of more than one cheese. The cheeses are melted and blended together. Processing usually involves cheeses of different ages so the new cheeses in the mix get the benefit of the flavor of the older, more ripened ones. A lot of cheese in America is processed.
Natural cheese on the other hand is cheese that is not blended with any other cheese. This can be further classified into unripened or ripened. Unripened cheeses are fresh cheeses which are eaten very soon after they are made. These include cheeses like cottage cheese or cream cheese. Ripened cheeses on the other hand are kept to age so that their distinctive flavor comes out. These include cheeses like Parmesan, Stilton, Camembert, Brie, Swiss, etc.
In America alone, there are over ten billion pounds of cheese produced every year. That’s a lot of people saying Cheese around the country!