Cheese is a foodstuff made from the curdled milk of various animals, most frequently cows, but often goats, sheep, and water buffalo. Rennet is often used to induce milk to curdle, although some cheeses are curdled with acids like vinegar or lemon juice, or with extracts of various species of Cynara (sometimes called vegetable rennet). Rennet is an enzyme obtained traditionally from the stomach lining of bovine calves, but more frequently nowadays, a microbiological (laboratory produced) substitute is used. Bacteria are added to cheese to reduce the pH, alter texture, and develop flavor, and some cheeses also have molds, either on the outer skin or throughout. The natural color of cheeses range from off-white to yellow. In some parts of the world, such as Wisconsin USA, the milk fat is low in beta-carotene, making the cheese a paler yellow than normal. In this case it is common to add annatto plant dye as a coloring agent.
Some cheeses are made with the addition of herbs and spices. In some locations as a response to the loss of diversity in mass-produced cheeses, a cottage industry has grown up around home cheesemaking.
Different styles and flavors of cheese are the result of using different species of bacteria and molds, different levels of milk fat, variations in length of aging and differing processing treatments (cheddaringing, pulling, brining, mold wash). Other factors include milk animal diet and the addition of herbs and spices to some cheeses.
Some controversy exists over the safety of cheese made by traditional methods using unpasteurized milk and over how pasteurization affects flavor.
Styles of cheese
Major classes of cheese include:
In addition, there is a class of foodstuff known as process cheese or cheese food. The most common form is the individual slices commonly used on cheeseburgers although it is also sold in blocks or as a thick liquid. These are based on natural cheese, but also containing emulsifying salts that help stabilize the product. The heat treatment that it receives during manufacture gives process cheese a mild flavor. Some versions of this are known as American cheese.
See also List of cheeses.
In 1546 John Heywood wrote in his Proverbes that "The moon is made of a greene cheese". Variations on this sentiment were long repeated. Some people have assumed that this was a serious belief in the era before space exploration, but Heywood was probably being sarcastic and others enjoyed repeating this as silly nonsense.
Because of the way saying the word makes one's mouth form a smile, in the USA and other English-speaking countries, the word cheese is said just before someone takes a picture.
Toasted cheese is called Welsh rabbit (or, incorrectly, rarebit), but has nothing to do with rabbits and probably not with Wales either.
The word "cheese" comes from Latin caseus and, later, West Germanic kasjus. Note that cheese in Modern German is Käse.
The first factory for the industrial production of cheese opened in Switzerland on February 3, 1815. France and Italy are the nations with the most diversity in locally made cheeses - with approximately 400 each. According to a French proverb, there is a different French cheese for every day of the year.
The love of cheese is called turophilia.
Cheese expressions and quotes
- Like chalk and cheese — (An expression meaning completely different.)
- A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman who has lost an eye. — Brillat-Savarin.
- A slice of pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze. — Anonymous
- How can you govern a country where there are 246 different types of cheese? — (attributed to Charles de Gaulle)
- There's always free cheese in a mousetrap.
- To cut the cheese — a euphemism for flatulence.
- Cheese Primer, Steven Jenkins, Workman Publishing Company, 1996, hardcover, ISBN 0894807625
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Informational site on cheeses of the world. A large database of cheese information is available.
Information on cheesemaking, cheese markets, museums, and serving suggestions for cheeses from the Netherlands.
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Cheese photographs and descriptions, recipes, points of sale in Canada, and promotional contests of authentic Switzerland cheese.
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Descriptions of area cheeses, with chefs' cheese recipes, tips on nutrition, storage, serving and pairings.
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Factsheet from Clemson University: Recommendations for storage and handling of cheese.
American Cheese Society
From the not-for-profit organization which promotes cheeses. General information for all cheese types.
Cook's Thesaurus: Cheeses
Synonyms, equivalents, and substitutions for a variety of semi-firm cheeses.
Forest of Bowland's Guide
An English site comparing several regional cheeses.
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Brief comments on a selection of popular cheeses.
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Recipes, ideas and advice on making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.
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Information for the cheese lover including recipes, FAQs, and serving and storing tips.
A cheese primer for beginner cooks from the Reluctant Gourmet.
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A guide to some of the world's most famous cheeses. Large links section.
Collection of links to other sites; retrieves content and displays in their frameset.
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From Epicurious, a buying, serving, storing and pairing guide.
Information about a working cheese dairy in Herefordshire, England, and information about the cheeses.
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General introduction to cheese and links to more specific descriptions of many gourmet cheeses.
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An early look at the history of Scottish cheese.
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Recipes and information regarding Norwgian cheeses.
Wisconsin Cheese Guide
Prairie Ridge provides information on Wisconsin cheeses including storing, cooking and nutritional information.
Information about cheese, cheesemakers, cheese sellers and cheese events around the world.
British Cheese Board
Information on British cheeses, including links to producers and recipes.
I Love Cheese
The American Dairy Association's official site includes recipes and information on nutrition and storage of cheese.
Everything you want to know about cheese. Extensive search features.
Canadian Cheese Encyclopedia
Information about cheeses including history, recipes, and cheesemaking.
Specialty Cheese Information
Descriptions and pictures of many cheeses from around the world.