There are many thousands of different types of cheeses with different flavors and textures. Although a lot of cheese is made from cow’s milk, it is also made from the milk of buffalo, goats, and sheep. Today, it is widely consumed throughout much of the world. It is not known when cheese was first produced, but most experts believe that it was sometime between 8000 and 3000 BC. The earliest evidence of cheese is from the Ancient Egyptians in 2000 BC. Although some people still produce cheese the traditional way, most cheese that is consumed today is made by mass production.
How is cheese made?
Although there are slight differences depending on the type of cheese, the general process of cheesemaking remains the same. There are three distinct steps for making most types of cheese, and these haven’t changed dramatically in thousands of years.
Step 1 – Curdling
The first step in making cheese is to separate the milk into curds (solid) and whey (liquid). This is done by acidifying the milk, either by adding an acid to the milk or by adding a special type of bacteria to the milk. A special group of enzymes, called rennet, may also be added at this time. The rennet helps to set the cheese into a rubbery consistency. For some types of cheese (most soft varieties) the whey is removed from the curds and the cheese is virtually complete.
Step 2 – Curd processing
The second stage in cheesemaking, especially for harder cheeses, is processing the curd. Depending of the type of cheese, it is heated to temperatures between 35-55 degrees Celcius, which forces more of the whey from the curd. The cheese is then pressed into a mold where water and whey is removed and it achieves its final shape.
Step 3 – Ripening
The final step in the cheesemaking process is the ripening of the cheese. A fresh cheese often has little flavor and can be quite rubbery, so many types of cheese are left to ripen for a set period of time. This period can last from a few days to a few years. During this time the bacteria and enzyme activity changes the taste and texture of the cheese.