Cheese is a nutritious dairy product that can be found in nearly all cuisines across the globe. While many people consume cheeses made from the milk of cows, there is other mammals’ milk used for making cheese as well. Among them, we can mention buffalo, goats, sheep, and camels.
No matter what our eating habits and interests are, we can always find a cheese we love that adds a pleasant taste to our dish. Flavorful and aromatic, it is one of the food products that can be served with a wide range of dishes, including pasta, pizza, sandwich, and so on.
Despite the tremendous existing variety of cheeses, making them requires three main ingredients: salt, milk, and rennet. In fact, what makes a cheese distinct is the kind of microbes you add to the milk.
Kalleh offers an extensive range of cheese-based products, which include processed and industrial ones with varying textures and levels of fat (breakfast cheese such as Amol, Labneh, Mascarpone, and cream cheese) as well as handmade natural cheeses (such as Gouda, Pesto, Blue cheese, and Parmesan) that appeal to a wide range of tastes.
The Interesting History of Cheese
Did you know that cheese was actually made in the first place all by accident?
Back in time, humankind first domesticated sheep about 9000 years ago to milk them and use their dairy products. The chain of dairy animals was made longer with goats and cattle over a thousand years. Donkeys, water buffalo, and horses were the next animals added to this list. Subsequently, our ancestors domesticated camels, reindeer, and also the yaks to milk them for their daily meals.
According to what many archeologists believe, cheese was first discovered when a herdsman carried fresh milk inside an animal’s stomach. He used a pouch made from the belly of a sheep and kept the milk inside it. The existing rennet inside the sheep’s organs mixed with the milk, and consequently, it was separated into whey and curds. As you may know, ruminant animals, such as sheep and cows, have a fourth stomach that is home to rennet.
So man saw and touched cheese for the first time in history without meaning to do so!
The first version of the accidentally produced cheese was white, very soft, and almost tasteless. Little by little, farmers learned that adding salt to this dairy product and letting it age for quite some time brings a much better taste to it.
Some Numbers Regarding Cheese
The exact date when the first cheese was made is yet unknown. However, ancient discoveries in Poland led to finding shards of pottery that were used as a sieve. It was first suspected to be related to cheesemaking and was later proved since some milk proteins were found in the clay. It is estimated to date back to 7000 years ago. Similarly, cheesemaking has been found on murals in Egypt, too
Talking about different types of cheeses, Cheddar and Parmesan were created about 1500 years ago. Gouda is believed to be made in 1697, and Camembert appeared in 1791. Switzerland is the home to the first cheese factory that was opened in 1815.
We can consider the year 1851 as the starting point of the cheesemaking industry when Jesse William from New York utilized an assembly line in his factory to make cheese on a larger scale. Over the next ten years, the production of rennet increased, and better standards were developed for cheese production.
With this brief introduction in mind, let’s find out about different types of this dairy products.
Different Kinds of Cheese
Taking a look at the wide variety of cheeses on the market can sometimes make us confused. There are different categories by which the cheese is classified. To mention a few, the age, the method used for preparation, the type of milk, color, texture, and region can all create a different taste and color.
To put it straight, we divide cheese into the major families based on the common categorization of them. It should come as no surprise that some appear in multiple categories due to the variety of available products.
Fresh or unripened cheeses are not aged, meaning that they are usually a few days old.
These are soft with no rind. They have a creamy texture and also a reasonable fat percentage between 19-24. Changing the type of milk and salt results in different fresh cheese tastes and kinds. The amount of moisture and whey in it also plays a significant role in its appearance and flavor.
When the texture of the fresh cheese is grainy, people call it Cottage cheese. If the cheese has a smooth and creamy texture, we have the cream cheese, and quark, for the conditions that the fat content is lower.
Mozzarella is a very popular one in this category. It’s made by steeping the fresh cheese in a bath of hot water and then giving it different shapes. The heating process allows the protein structure to stretch when melted. That’s why it’s a perfect choice for pizza. The spun balls of Mozzarella can either be eaten fresh or kept for a longer time.
If this kind ages a while, then we have the aged fresh cheese. Mostly made from goats’ milk, a thin and transparent white or grey-blue rind can be found on the aged type.
The well-known types of fresh cheeses include Cream Cheese, Mozzarella, Cottage, Ricotta, Queso Fresco, and Mascarpone.
This type has more fat compared to the previous group (between 24-26%) and is made with the help of penicillin mold. In fact, they ripen from the outside and can be easily distinguished with the soft layer of mold atop.
Cheese-makers expose the soft-ripened varieties to the mentioned molds so that the fats on the outside layers will be converted into aromatic elements. You should be aware to avoid using cheeses of this type that have a strong smell of ammonia.
The most favorite types of soft-ripened cheeses include Camembert, Brie, and Cambozola.
Having around 26-28% of fat, this one is created by removing the whey as a result of pressure. It is often aged for about a few months and results in a creamy and moist product.
Semi-soft cheeses attract different molds during the process of getting prepared. Cheese-makers remove them frequently, and what remains is a fine rind. The density of the rind defines the final taste of the product. In some areas, they are washed in brine multiple times to let the bacteria have a better development.
Havarti, Jarlsberg, Muenster, Limburger, Epoisses, Taleggio, and Chaumes are some examples of semi-softs around the world.
4.Semi-hard and Hard Cheese
If you extend the pressing for hours, or in some cases weeks, you get a compact curd that is called a hard or semi-hard cheese. The fat percentage of this kind falls somewhere between 28-34% and can attract mold of different colors during the preparations.
This kind of cheese is typically flavored by two factors; the introduced bacteria and the duration of aging. Since they have lower moisture, they take longer to mature and typically have a stronger flavor. The most known of this category is Cheddar, a favorable product in many countries. Lactococcus lactis ssp. cremoris is the strain of bacteria used for making this famous dairy product.
The hard cheeses are hard enough to be grated over different dishes such as pasta. For instance, to make Parmesan, the freshly curdled milk is soaked in salty water for about three months and then aged for two years or more! A thick rind is a final result that is hard on the teeth.
Interestingly, it’s likely to find some crunchy bits in hard varieties. While it may seem to be a hunk of salt in the first place, it’s called cheese crystal. This byproduct of the long process of aging doesn’t have any particular taste, whereas it proves the activity of bacteria breaking down the sugars in milk.
Other recognized types in this category include Asiago, Manchego, Gouda, Swiss, Edam, Emmental, and Monterey Jack.
If you have ever seen a Roquefort or Stilton cheese, the chances are high that the blue veins have attracted your attention. Those, again, are nothing but a special kind of mold.
The roots of mold cheese go back to the 7th century to a cave near Roquefort in France. A shepherd who had forgotten his lunch, a mixture of cheese and bread, returned after a few months to get it back. He was then confronted with the blue-colored infested edible that had happened because of the existing mold inside the cave.
Unlike the soft-ripened cheeses, a blue penicillium mold is sprayed into the milk container before getting curdled. Then, cheesemakers cut the curd, pile it into the molds, and let it drain. This blue mold won’t grow unless it gets enough air. Therefore, they make holes inside it to allow oxygen to penetrate.
The reaction between the mold and curds results in a somewhat spicy taste. Blue cheeses include Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Danish Blue, and Stilton.
Although many of us consider processed cheeses as a type of product that belongs to this category, experts in dairy products don’t count them as real cheese.
The truth is that they include most of the elements of the aforementioned types, including milk, fat, whey protein, and lactic acid. However, the main characteristic that separates this group is that the applied process is wholly different and does not share similarities with the traditional cultures used.
Modern cheesemakers manipulate traditional recipes, use whatever kind of milk they like, and make a new product of their own. So they can use cows’ milk for Mozzarella, goats’ milk for Brie, and even change the commonly-used molds for processing the curds. Moreover, special kinds of additives are also added to these products to improve their shelf life and alter the flavors.
As a result, they can’t be put into any of the categories mentioned above.
How Should You Store Cheese?
Thus far, we have learned about the different types of cheese and can recognize the differences between them. Now we are going to know a few practical tips about the ways we can store this dairy product efficiently.
- Forget About Plastics!
First off, never use plastic bags or cellophane for wrapping cheeses. Doing so prevents air from reaching it, which in turn creates excess moisture. Plus, the protective rind that covers the surface of the cheese gets damaged. The final result is a change in taste, texture, and even smell.
Instead, you can use aluminum foil to conserve it. It lets your cheese breathe, and ensures it lasts the longest possible. It’s best advised to keep the wrapped cheese in an airtight container. You can use plastic boxes for stronger cheeses to stop the emission of the strong odor and also protect it against pressure.
- Don’t Wrap It Very Tight
The development of ammonia is an inseparable process for some kinds of cheeses. If your cheese doesn’t get the chance to release the gas, it may end up having unpleasant tastes. Wrapping this dairy product tightly equals preventing it from breathing out the gases that cause ammonia. So next time you are packing it in the foil, make sure to leave some space.
- Use A New Paper After You Touch It
Replacing the wrapper after cutting or serving the cheese prevents the bacteria from your hands or other surrounding foods from reaching the cheese. This replacement maintains proper moisture inside the wrapper, and therefore, keeps it fresh and delicious for a longer time.
- Don’t Place It In The Fridge
The best temperature for storing the cheese is 5-7 degrees centigrade. This is the temperature at which most cheeses are cured, and this range helps them last longer.
If possible, don’t put the cheese inside the Fridge since the low temperature decelerates the rate of maturing. Additionally, it dehydrates it, which leaves behind a dried-out one that is not very much appealing to many people.
By the way, if you keep cheeses inside the refrigerator, keep in mind to bring them out at least an hour before serving so that the unpleasant smell and flavor are removed. Placing them in the vegetable drawer would be a much better solution in this regard.
The Bottom Line
Cheeses have been around as a food product for thousands of years. In this review, we shed light on their history, discussed different kinds of them, and provided you with some tips to store them better.
Choosing one type highly depends on individual preferences and liking. But as a bit of general advice, if health benefits matter to you most, you should prioritize aged cheeses over the others since they have more vitamins.
Choose a cheese that best matches your taste and enjoy this nutritious food alongside the other meals you serve.