When humans stopped hunting and began domesticating animals, they discovered that the milk of grazing animals was good to drink! In very hot countries like Egypt, leftover milk must often have curdled and humans must have subsequently found the solids to be good to eat.
Nobody really knows when it started, but chemical tests of pots 5000 years old produced traces of cheese, and ancient cave paintings seem to show milk being processed. The big step during those times was to turn milk into cheese “at will”, not wait for it to happen naturally over some period of time. This process needed an enzyme called rennet; an enzyme naturally present in the stomach of a young grazing animal! Arab herdsmen probably discovered this by accident too, when milk kept in animal skins made from sheep’s stomachs, curdled quickly and made a sweet tasting “lumpy substance”.
Throughout the world, cheese is well known for its variety in taste, flavours, texture, shapes and versatility in uses! Europe has a large selection of different types of cheeses, with shops dedicated to selling cheese only! In certain countries, especially France, one can buy to 400 different types of cheese in one shop!
The average person grows up mostly with Gouda and Cheddar in their homes, and therefore still need to develop a taste for the more exotic types of cheese. It is time we start moving away from the more ordinary ‘mousetrap’ cheeses and start experimenting with the unusual ones!
Cheese production methods range from the primitive, traditional to the ultra-modern. Greek shepherds for instance, still make their Feta using methods scarcely changed since before Christ. In modern creameries however, milk becomes cheese on semi-automatic production lines, passing from huge tanks to milling machines, pipes, conveyor belts, etc.
Keep an eye out for my next blog where we will dig into different types of milk, grazing, soil and seasons, the cheese making process and much more!
Keep it cooking!