Cheese. It is a solid food made from the curdled milk of cow, goat, sheep, buffalo, camel or other ruminant mammals. It is the ideal preserve because it is very difficult to spoil over time as it improves its weight-related qualities when it dries. The milk is induced curdling using a combination of rennet (or a substitute) and acidification. Bacteria are responsible for acidifying milk, also playing an important role in defining the texture and flavor of most cheeses. Some also contain molds, both on the outside and inside surfaces.
For the ancient Greeks “cheese was a gift from the gods”. There are hundreds of varieties of cheese. Its different styles and flavors are the result of the use of different species of bacteria and molds, different levels of cream in the milk, variations in the curing time, different treatments in its process and different breeds of cows, goats or the mammal whose milk be used. Other factors include the diet of the cattle and the addition of flavoring agents such as herbs, spices or smoked. Whether or not the milk is pasteurized can also affect the taste.
For some cheeses the milk curdles by adding acids such as vinegar or lemon juice, however, most are acidified to a lesser degree thanks to the bacteria added to it, which transform the sugars in the milk into lactic acid, which follow the addition of rennet to complete the curdling process. Rennet is an enzyme traditionally obtained from the stomach of lactating cattle, but microbiological substitutes are also currently produced in the laboratory. ‘Vegetable curds’ have also been extracted from several species in the Cynara thistle family.
The word cheese derives from the Latin caseus. However in Roman times the term formaticum became famous among the legionaries, of caseus formatus, which means molded cheese. Thus one has to say French fromage, in Italian formaggio or in Catalan formatge.
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- 1 History
- 1 Origins
- 2 Classic period
- 3 Modern times
- 2 Production and consumption in the world
- 3 types of cheese
- 1 Denominations of origin
- 2 Types of milk used
- 3 Fresh cheeses
- 4 Cured cheeses
- 5 Creamy cheeses
- 6 Green or blue cheeses
- 4 Nutritional properties
- 5 Elaboration
- 1 Curd
- 2 Processing the curd
- 3 Aging
- 6 Cooked
- 7 See also
- 8 Reference
It is an ancient food whose origins may be earlier than written history. Probably discovered in Central Asia or the Middle East, its manufacture spread to Europe and had become a sophisticated company as far back as Roman times. As Rome’s influence waned, different local brewing techniques emerged. This diversity peaked in the early industrial era and has declined to some extent since then due to mechanization and economic factors.
Since ancient civilizations, cheese has been stored for times of scarcity and is considered a good food for travel, being appreciated for its ease of transport, good preservation and high content of fat, protein, calcium and phosphorus. Cheese is lighter, more compact and keeps for longer than the milk from which it is obtained. Cheese manufacturers can establish themselves near the center of a producing region and thus benefit from milk that is fresher, cheaper and with lower transport costs. Good product preservation allows manufacturers to sell only when prices are high or they need money. Some markets even pay more for old cheeses, just the opposite of what happens with milk production.
The origins of cheese making are in dispute and cannot be accurately dated, although it is estimated to be between 8000 BC. C. (when the sheep are domesticated) and the 3000 a. C.
There is a legend that says that it was discovered by an Arab merchant who, while making a long journey through the desert, put milk in a container made from the stomach of a lamb. When he went to consume it, he saw that it was coagulated and fermented (due to the rennet of the lamb’s stomach and the high temperature of the desert). There are other authors who point out that cheese was already known in prehistory, an extreme that could not be verified.
Legends aside, it probably emerged as a way to conserve milk, applying salt and pressure to it, before using a ferment for the first time, perhaps finding that cheeses made from animal stomachs had a better and more solid texture. The oldest archaeological evidence of cheese making has been found on tomb murals from Ancient Egypt, dated to around 2300 BC. C. These early cheeses would likely have a strong flavor and be intensely salty, with a texture similar to feta or cottage cheese.
Sheep were domesticated 12,000 years ago and in ancient Egypt cows were cared for and milked to have milk so it stands to reason that they would also make cheeses. Milk was kept in leather, porous ceramic, or wooden containers, but since it was difficult to keep them clean, the milk fermented quickly. The next step was to extract the whey from the curd to make some kind of fresh cheese, without rennet, with a strong and acid flavor.
From the Middle East, cheesemaking skills were introduced in Europe, where colder climates required fewer amounts of salt for canning. With the reduction of salts and acids, the cheese became a favorable environment for bacteria and molds, responsible for giving it its characteristic flavor.
The mythology of Ancient Greece attributed to Aristeo the discovery of the cheese. In Homer’s Odyssey ( 8th century BC) a Cyclops is described making and storing sheep and goat cheeses.
In ancient Roman times it was a food that was consumed on a daily basis, and its manufacturing process was not too far from what is currently done outside the industrial sphere. The Re Rustica de Columela (around 65 AD) details the manufacture of cheeses with processes that include coagulation with ferments, rennet pressurization, salting and curing. The Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder (AD 77) dedicates a chapter (XI, 97) to describe the diversity of cheeses consumed by the Romans of the Empire. He argued that the best were Gauls from Nimes, although they could not be kept too long and should be eaten fresh. The cheeses of the Alps and Apennines had a variety as considerable as today. Of the foreigners, Pliny preferred those of Bithynia, in present-day Turkey.
Despite being linked to modern European culture, cheese was practically unknown in eastern cultures, it had not been invented in pre-Columbian America, and it had quite limited use in Africa, being popular and developed only in Europe and the areas strongly influenced by their culture. But with the extension, first of European imperialism, and after the Euro-American culture, cheese has gradually become known and has become popular throughout the world.
The first factory for industrial cheese production opened in Switzerland in 1815, but it was in the United States that large-scale production began to be really successful. Jesse Williams, the owner of a dairy farm in Rome, New York , who started making cheese on an assembly line with milk from nearby farms is frequently held responsible for this . For decades, these kinds of associations between farms were common.
The 1860s showed the possibilities of cheese production, and over the turn of the century science began to produce pure microbes. Before this, bacteria were obtained from the environment or by recycling other already used ones. The use of pure microbes meant much more standardized production. What is called processed cheese began to be produced.
Industrial cheese production preceded traditional production in World War II, and factories have become the source of most cheeses in America and Europe since then.
Production and consumption in the world
Cheese is one of the main agricultural products in the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, in 2009 more than 18 million tons were produced worldwide. This amount is higher than the annual production of coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans and tobacco combined. The largest cheese producer is the United States , which accounts for 30 percent of world production, followed by Germany and France.
As for exports, the country with the highest monetary value of them is France , followed by Germany , which is the largest in terms of quantity. Of the top ten exporting countries, only Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Australia have a predominantly eastern market, with 95, 90, 72 and 65 percent of their exports produced, respectively. Despite France being the largest exporter, only 30 percent of production is exported. And that of the United States, the largest producer, is practically negligible, since most of its production is for the domestic market. The countries that import the most cheese are Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy, in this order.
In consumption per person, Greece is in the first place in the world ranking, with an average 27.3 kg consumed per inhabitant (feta cheese accounts for three quarters of total consumption). France is the second largest consumer in the world, with about 24 kg per person, and emmental and camembert cheeses are its most common cheeses. In third position is Italy, with 22.9 kg per person. Consumption in the United States is increasing rapidly, having practically tripled between 1970 and 2003. Per capita consumption reached 14.1 kg in 2003, with mozzarella (the basic ingredient in pizza) the favorite cheese of the Americans, with a third of the total consumed.
Types of cheese
The wide range of existing cheeses makes a unique classification of them impossible. There are many defining characteristics, such as the degree of aging, or curing, the origin of the milk used, its texture or its fat content. Various types, or characteristics, of them are described below.
Denominations of origin
The vast majority of cheeses are identified with the geographical area from which they come. In certain countries this can be regulated through the designations of origin, with which they try to protect the varieties that have been produced in a certain area since ancient times, against producers from other areas who would like to take advantage of the good name that the originals have created. .
In Spain there are 23 protected cheeses, among which the Manchego cheese stands out, one of the great hallmarks of the La Mancha region, along with Don Quixote de Miguel de Cervantes. There is a wide variety of brands that sell industrial cheeses that imitate it, but cannot indicate that it is Manchego cheese, even though they are manufactured in La Mancha.
This geographical indication is regulated for the member countries of the European Union, although with particularities for each of them. It works in much the same way in France, where it is called the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, whose origins date back to the 15th century , in the first attempt to protect Roquefort cheese. This cheese was the first to obtain accreditation under modern French law, which already covers more than 40 different cheeses. Also in Italy, the Denominazione di Origine Controllata protects cheeses such as Parmesan (under the Parmigiano-Reggiano brand), in Greece against feta cheese, or in the United Kingdom against stilton and cheddar.
Types of milk used
The milk most used in the manufacture of cheeses is whole cow’s milk, mainly because it is the milk with the highest production numbers. The cheeses obtained from bovine milk come from fertile areas, suitable for cattle farming, such as the plains of northern Europe, the Alps, the Pyrenees or the Cantabrian Mountains. Today the production of these cheeses has spread throughout the world, with the use of milk from dairy farms.
Clear examples of cow cheeses are Dutch gouda, Swiss emmental, or Galician tetilla cheese, all with similar textures, flavor and color. In general, cow’s milk gives the cheese a milder flavor than other types of cheese, although this depends on many other factors, making it easy to find very strong-tasting cow cheeses, such as the German Harzer Käse, or the Italian gorgonzola.
Whole cow’s milk is very rich in fat, so it is common to use skim milk, or semi-skim milk, in order to reduce the fat content. However, fat is one of the elements that most influences the flavor of cheese, and as a general rule, using skim milk is synonymous with loss of flavor.
In Mediterranean areas, where cows are not abundant, it is more common to use sheep or goat milk, which gives the cheese a touch of acidity. Castilian cheese, manchego, roquefort, or feta are made from sheep’s milk. An example of a goat cheese with a designation of origin is the Majorero cheese, made on the Canary Island of Fuerteventura. It is also possible to mix different kinds of milk, as in the case of Cabrales cheese (Principality of Asturias, Spain), in which a mixture of cow, sheep and goat milk is used.
Milk from many other mammals is also used, such as buffalo milk in the original mozzarella (cow’s milk is also used today), but it is somewhat more difficult to find, compared to the milk already mentioned.
Fresh cheeses are those in which the production consists solely of curdling and dehydrating the milk. These cheeses do not apply additional preservation techniques, so they last much less time without expiring. Its maintenance could be compared to that of yogurts, since it is necessary to keep them in refrigerated places. The fact of processing the milk to a lesser extent makes them have soft flavors and inconsistent textures.
With these characteristics, they are used as ingredients for salads, such as Burgos cheese, one of the most consumed in Spain. In Italy the cheese par excellence in salads is mozzarella, which is made by introducing the milk curd in hot water, in such a way that dough-shaped doughs are created due to the temperature. In certain areas of southern Italy, mozzarella is consumed within a few hours of its preparation. Mozzarella is also the most used as an ingredient in pizzas, however, a more dehydrated variety is used for this, which does not correspond to a fresh cheese.
Fresh cheeses are also used in desserts, or as ingredients in sauces. Italian mascarpone and German quark cheese are examples of this, with very creamy textures.
The curing of the cheeses consists of the aging of the same, in a process in which they are dried and additionally conservation techniques are applied, such as salting or smoking. The time required to consider a cheese as cured may vary from one to the other, but in general a minimum of one and a half to two years is required.
The curing process makes it obtain a much harder and drier texture, as well as increasing the intensity of its flavor, a property highly desired among cheese lovers. However, many people do not tolerate strong flavors, making it easy to find different curing variants for the same cheese, usually labeling them as tender, semi-cured and cured.
Examples of cured cheeses can be Manchego cheese or gouda. However, gouda is usually exported with a curing of approximately half a year, while in South Holland it can be found to be older, reaching two years.
The grana-padanno and the parmesan are also cured, and may exceed three years. They have an extremely hard texture, making it easy to consume in a grated form, as a condiment or filling for Italian pasta.
Recently, a variety of canned cheese has begun to be marketed in Spain, capable of keeping for several years unopened and without seeing any of its characteristics varied.
The cheese has a solid natural state, however it is possible to obtain a creamier texture by significantly increasing the amount of cream, and therefore fat. These types of cheese are normally consumed accompanied by bread, being common to use them on toast.
Certain French cheeses have a long tradition for their creamy texture. The camembert cheese, with characteristics similar to brie, is one of the most famous, characteristic for its flowery white rind, consumed together with the cheese and giving it a touch of bitter flavor. The designation of origin of this cheese forces it to always be marketed in a round shape, and included in a wooden box.
A more modern type of cheese produced is cream cheese, commonly called philadelphia cheese. It is a white cream, distributed in tubs similar to those of margarine or butter. It is widely consumed in breakfasts and desserts, and a variety from the United States is the main ingredient in some cheesecakes.
In the preparation of desserts, cheese creams are often used, combined with sweet flavors. An example of this is mascarpone cream cheese , widely used in the production of tiramisus. Quark cheese is also used in many dessert recipes in German or Austrian cuisine .
It is also possible to find cheeses with a semi-creamy texture, since they cannot be considered solid or cream, such as the cake of Casar de Extremadura, in Spain . This cheese, although it can be eaten raw, is typical for being cooked for a few minutes in the oven, so that it remains totally or partially liquid. Like camembert, it has a flowered rind, consumed alongside cheese by those who like strong or bitter flavors.
Green or blue cheeses
These cheeses are distinguished by the presence of molds, which give them their green or bluish colors. Perhaps it is the variety that can reject the most with the naked eye, due to its color and strong smell, which can remind one of decay. However, its intense flavor is one of the most appreciated by cheese gourmets.
To achieve the proliferation of molds, the cheeses must be stored in places with very high humidity, normally in the order of 90%. Excellent places for this have traditionally been the caves. The molds that grow in cheeses are normally of the genus Penicillium, in which several of their species are named after the cheese in which they are found, such as Penicillium camemberti (in the bark of camembert), or Penicillium roqueforti, from cheese. roquefort. A totally false popular belief is that these cheeses contain worms or larvae; the cheese that contains them is Sardinian worm cheese.
One of the frequently called “king of cheeses” is roquefort, produced in the French caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, according to its protected designation of origin. Other cheeses famous for their molds are Asturian Cabrales cheese, stilton cheese from England, or Italian gorgonzola cheese, which can be found in a sweet variety (although slightly spicy), and another one with a much stronger and spicier flavor.
The nutritional data of cheese can vary depending on its fat content, but in general it can be said that it is a rich source of calcium, protein, and phosphorus. 100 grams of Manchego cheese contain 21 grams of protein and between 600 and 900 milligrams of calcium. Being basically concentrated milk, it takes 600 grams of milk to equal this amount of protein, and 550 grams for calcium.
Cheese also shares its nutritional problems with milk, derived from the high content of saturated fat, consisting of triglycerides and saturated fatty acid. This type of fat influences cardiovascular diseases very negatively. The Public Interest Science Center ranks cheese as the number one source of saturated fat in the United States, with each inhabitant consuming an average of 13.6 kg per year. However, this amount is considerably smaller than that of European countries such as Greece (27 kg) or France (24 kg), where there is a relatively low rate of heart disease. This fact is known as the French paradox, and it is suggested that it can be justified by the high consumption of products from the Mediterranean diet, such as red wine or olive oil.
Many agencies around the world warn of the risks of consuming cheeses made from fresh (unpasteurized) milk. The US Food and Drug Administration maintains that fresh milk cheeses can cause infectious diseases like listeriosis, brucellosis, salmonellosis, and even even tuberculosis. In the United States, a 1944 law requires all fresh milk cheeses (including those imported since 1951) to have a minimum curing of two months. Other non-European countries have also chosen to legally restrict the consumption of these cheeses, such as Australia, one of the strictest in this regard, although it has recently opened exceptions with Swiss Gruyer, Emmental, Sbrinz cheeses and also with Roquefort cheese. However, pasteurization of milk is not totally effective in avoiding these problems, as can be seen in the data on consumption poisoning in Europe (where in many countries the consumption of fresh cheeses from unpasteurized milk is legal), and in the ones that most cases pointed to pasteurized cheeses. Precautions with cheese consumption should be greater in the case of pregnant women, as noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, due to the risk of transmitting listeriosis to the fetus.
Studies in the field of dentistry state that cheese can help significantly in the prevention of cavities and other diseases of the teeth. It is one of the foods with the highest content of calcium and phosphorous, as well as casein and other proteins, which are the main components of tooth enamel, so the intake of cheese can help its remineralization. Apart from this, some fatty acids have antimicrobial properties, thus controlling the level of plaque. Many types of cheese also stimulate salivary flow, which helps to clean the oral cavity of food debris, also buffering the acidic environment. After meals, the pH of the saliva drops, but the calcium and phosphorus in the cheese help prevent it.
People who suffer from lactose intolerance normally avoid consuming it, however cheeses such as cheddar only contain 5% of the lactose found in whole milk, and in older cheeses it is practically negligible. There are people who experience reactions to amines found in cheese, especially histamine and tyramine. In the most cured, the amount of these substances becomes more noticeable and can cause allergic reactions such as the appearance of rashes, headaches or increased blood pressure.
The only strictly necessary process in the production of cheese is the so-called curd, consisting of separating the milk used in a solid curd from the liquid whey. The cheese that is intended to be obtained will basically be the curd, to which additionally other processes will be applied until it reaches the desired characteristics. The most common ways of separating milk are adding some type of ferment or rennet and acidification. Acids such as vinegar or lemon can be used to acidify milk, but nowadays the use of bacteria is more frequent, converting the sugars in milk into lactic acid. These bacteria, together with the enzymes they produce, also play an important role in the future flavor of the cheese after its aging. Bacteria such as Lactococcus, are used in most cheeses. Lactobacillus or Streptococcus. Swiss cheeses are characterized by the use of Propionibacter shermanii bacteria, which produce carbon dioxide bubbles and provide holes in the cheese, as in the case of emmental.
Some fresh cheeses are curdled only by acidification, but rennet is also used in most. The rennet makes it take a more consistent state, compared to the fragile textures of curds coagulated simply by acids. They also allow for a lower level of acidity. Generally, fresh and less aged cheeses are obtained from curds with a higher percentage of acidification, compared to the use of rennet, which is more significant in harder, drier and cured cheeses. Calcium chloride is also used to promote precipitation.
At this point, the cheese has acquired a thick, moist texture. Some soft cheeses would be practically ready, in the absence of being dehydrated, salted and packaged. In the rest of the cheeses, the curd is cut into small sections, to facilitate the extraction of water from the individual pieces of curd.
In the case of hard cheeses, they are heated to temperatures between a range of 33ºC to 55 ° C. In this way it dehydrates more quickly and subtle changes in the final flavor of the cheese are also achieved, affecting the existing bacteria and the chemical structure of the milk. Thermophilic bacteria capable of surviving them, such as Lactobacillus or Streptococcus, are used in cheeses that are heated to higher temperatures.
Salt plays different roles in cheese making, apart from providing a salty flavor. It can be used to improve preserves, and to affirm texture with its interaction with proteins. In some cheeses the salt is applied only to the outside of the cheese, but in other cases it is mixed directly with the curd.
Depending on the type of cheese, a large number of specific techniques are applied, which give the final characteristics to the flavor and texture. Examples can be cited as stretching and immersion in hot water, until reaching the fibrous texture of mozzarella; or the constant shaking of the curd, cleaning it with water to lower the acidity level very slowly, applied to cheeses such as emmental or gouda.
Many cheeses do not acquire their final shape until they are pressed into a mold. The harder the cheese, the greater pressure has been applied to it. The pressure removes moisture – the molds allow the water to drain – and makes the curd firm into a solid body.
The fresh cheeses would already be ready to consume at this point, however, most cheeses still have a long period of aging and curing until they are completely ready. During aging inside the molds, new microbes are introduced into the cheese, intensifying its flavor. Slowly casein and fat become a complex internal network of amino acids, amines, and fatty acid.
During the curing process, other preservation and flavor modification techniques can also be applied, such as increasing the salt by introducing it in salt water, smoking, or even seasoning with spices or wine. A radical case occurs with Sardinian casu marzu cheese, whose aging process is carried out with larvae of the cheese fly. It should be noted that this cheese can be consumed with the larvae inside, and that its sale is currently prohibited by the Italian health authorities, so it is eaten clandestinely.
Cheeses are normally eaten raw, although they can also be cooked. They are consumed alone or with other ingredients. Cheese fat has a hard texture, similar to that of cold butter, in refrigerator temperatures. If the cheese is in warm temperatures, between 26 and 32 ° C, the fat melts and the cheese is often said to “sweat”. At the time of consumption it is preferable that it be at room temperature, although this depends on the type of cheese in question.
At temperatures above 55 ° C the vast majority of cheeses begin to melt, although the harder ones, such as Parmesan, need about 82 ° C. Some are typical for consuming melted, such as Swiss fondue. Many others can be made to do the same in the presence of acids or starch. Other cheeses become elastic or slimy when melted, a quality that can be enjoyed on dishes like pizza and welsh rabbit. Some cheeses melt unevenly, separating their fats as they heat, while the few acid-curd cheeses, including halloumi, paneer, and ricotta, do not melt and may even harden when cooked as it evaporates. the water they contain.
Cheese as an ingredient is widely used, especially in Italian cuisine. It is a fundamental ingredient in pizzas, as well as lasagna and cannelloni. It is also very common to accompany pasta dishes, either as a condiment, as a filling, or as an ingredient in sauces. It is also common to find it in dishes of Mexican cuisine, such as quesadillas, burritos and tacos. Processed cheese is one of the most common condiments in fast food products, such as hamburgers and hot dogs.
It can also be found in confectionery. The clearest example is cheesecake, but also mascarpone cream cheese, used to make many Italian desserts, such as tiramisu.