Cheese1

Cheese is a dairy product obtained from the coagulation and draining of milk or cream or a combination of milk and cream. In general, it takes 5 kilograms of milk to make 450 grams of cheese.

There are four basic steps in the cheese-making process: coagulation (or curdling) of the milk, the shaping of the curd, salting and inoculation, and ripening.

Coagulation (curdling) is the curd-formation stage; a ferment or rennet is added to the milk and acts on a group of proteins in milk called casein, causing it to coagulate into curds. Rennet is an enzyme extracted from the fourth stomach of suckling calves; rare and costly today, it has been largely replaced by bovine or porcine pepsin, or, more commonly, by bacterial cultures. The freshness, natural acidity, and temperature of the milk all influence the process of coagulation. For example, a lack of freshness increases the acidity of the milk, causing it to coagulate more quickly. In industrial cheese making, the milk is pasteurised in order to destroy harmful bacteria and to neutralize the lactic acid ferments so as to obtain a more predictable product.

Draining consists of separating the water (the whey) from the curd, thus giving it a firmer texture. The quantity of whey remaining in the curd after it has been drained determines the firmness and texture of the cheese. At this stage, all cheeses are still unfermented and unripened soft white cheeses. Depending on the type of cheese, draining may also include cutting (to drain off more whey), kneading, pressing, or cooking. The cheese is also shaped into moulds during this stage.

Salting has an antiseptic effect, while also retarding the development of microorganisms, improving the keeping qualities of the cheese, and accelerating drying and the formation of a rind. The salt can be spread over the surface of the cheese (dry salting) or the cheese can be immersed in brine. The salting stage lasts an average of 2 - 4 days. Some cheeses are inoculated with mould spores in order to obtain a bloomy rind (Brie, Camembert) or the veining characteristic of blue cheeses (Roquefort, Gorgonzola). The development of mould can also be induced under certain controlled storage conditions. The cheese is then ripened.

During ripening (also called maturing or aging), the cheese is transformed by the biochemical action of the bacteria spores it contains. The lactose is converted into lactic acid and the proteins break down into amino acids. This is a crucial stage in cheese making, for it determines such characteristics as the consistency, odour, flavour, and rind of the cheese (soft white cheeses and process cheeses do not undergo ripening). Successful ripening depends on several factors, including temperature and humidity, both of which are carefully controlled. Temperature has a direct effect on the microbial and enzyme activity, and each category of cheese has an optimal ripening temperature; for example, soft cheeses are ripened at between 8 - 10°C, semi-firm cheeses at 10 - 12°C, and firm cheeses at up to 20°C The duration of ripening also varies: the longer the ripening process, the lower the moisture content of the cheese, the firmer its texture, and the more pronounced its flavour.

While the exact origins of cheese are unknown, archaeological evidence suggests that cheese making dates back to the beginning of animal husbandry, approximately 10,000 years ago. It is thought that the discovery of cheese was an accident. Having observed that milk curdled when left out at room temperature, the first cheese makers found that the curd could be drained to separate it from the whey (a process accelerated by heat), and thus obtained cheese. According to legend, a shepherd carrying milk in a pouch made from the lining of a sheep's stomach discovered that the milk had coagulated into cheese along the way.

Milk and cheese were the food of gods and heroes in mythology. Cheeses made from goat's and ewe's milk were common fare in ancient Roman times, an era which saw cheese-making attain an unprecedented level of sophistication. The Romans, including Parmesan and Pecorino, developed knowledge of the art of cheese-making spread throughout the empire and a number of firm cheeses. After the fall of the Roman Empire and the barbarian invasions, Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries became the major centres of cheese making during the Middle Ages. A number of cheeses still bear the name of their monastic origin (Saint-Paulin, Pont-1'Eveque, Livarot, Limburger, Munster).

Cheese provides many essential nutrients. Cheese contains, in a concentrated form, many of milk's nutrients.

The composition of milk used in cheese-making changes as a result of separation of the curd from the whey, and ripening or curing of cheese. Separation of the curd from the whey in cheese-making causes a significant partition of nutrients and a considerable change in the nutrient content of cheese compared to that of the original milk. Milk's water-insoluble components (e.g., fat, fat-soluble vitamins, casein), which are primarily retained in the curd, are concentrated in cheese. Most ripened cheeses contain about 10 times the amount of water-insoluble components as in milk. For example, in Cheddar cheese the 3.2% fat (in milk) is increased to 32% (in cheese) and the 2.3% protein is increased to 23%. Most of milk's water-soluble constituents (e.g., milk sugar or lactose, dissolved salts, other proteins such as lactalbumin and lactoglobulin) remain in the whey. These nutrients are therefore lower in cheese than in milk, with the amount in cheese depending on how much whey is entrapped in the curd. The proportions of the non-fat nutrients are about the same as in whole milk cheese.

The amount of various nutrients retained in the curd and whey largely depends on the type of cheese being manufactured, the type of milk (whole, reduced fat, non-fat) or whey used, and the manner of coagulation (enzyme or acid coagulated).

Ripening also influences the nutrient content of cheese, although to lesser extent than separation of the curd from the whey. Generally, nutrient changes during ripening or curing do not result in nutrient losses per se. Protein, carbohydrate, and fat are the nutrients mainly affected during ripening. The end products of alterations in these nutrients are responsible for the characteristic odour and flavour of the finished cheese. In certain varieties of cheese, the B complex vitamins may increase due to the synthesis of the vitamins, mainly on the outer layers of the cheese. However, on a moisture-corrected basis, little difference in the vitamin content may occur.

Cheese is an important source of high-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals, as indicated below. Because of its nutrient content, cheese is considered to be a nutrient-dense food, providing a high concentration of nutrients relative to its energy content.

When purchasing cheese, check the expiration date on the package and avoid cheeses that have been stored at room temperature. Each category of cheese has specific characteristics that are important to look for at the moment of purchase. Certain problems are easy to spot, and any cheeses showing signs of these defects should be avoided.

For example, soft cheeses should be soft both inside and out; they are fully ripe when the cheese is creamy, smooth, and uniformly coloured, and when it fills out the crust. The crust itself should be soft, not too dry, and uncracked. Avoid cheeses that are overly firm or chalky white in the centre, a sign of under-ripeness. Overripe soft cheeses have a sticky rind that is often darker coloured or that smells like ammonia. Soft cheeses that have been improperly stored will have a hard crust and will be dry on the inside.

Semi-firm cheeses should be neither too dry nor too crumbly; if the cheese near the crust is darker than at the centre, the cheese has likely been improperly stored. These cheeses should be neither rancid nor sharp tasting.

Firm cheeses should be uniform in colour and texture, with a firm rind. Avoid dried- out, bulging, pasty, or overly granular cheeses with a cracked rind, all of which point to improper storage conditions. Firm cheeses should be neither too salty nor too bitter tasting.

Blue cheeses should be more or less generously veined depending on the variety, and the veining should be evenly distributed throughout the cheese. The cheese, which is usually white, should be neither too crumbly nor too dry nor too salty.

The duration of the storage life of cheeses is mainly a matter of moisture content. For example, because soft cheeses have higher moisture content than firm cheeses, they do not keep as long.

Fresh cheeses and blue-veined cheeses will keep for only a week to 10 days and must be refrigerated in airtight wrapping or container.

Soft cheeses do not keep for very long once they are fully ripened.

Semi-firm cheeses can be stored for several weeks in the refrigerator provided that they are well wrapped.

Firm cheeses will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator or in a cool place if they are well wrapped in wax paper or aluminium foil.

All cheeses can be stored in the refrigerator. They should be well wrapped in plastic wrap or aluminium foil and placed in the warmest section of the refrigerator (some cheeses, including soft cheeses, lose flavour when stored at inappropriate temperatures). Cheeses can also be stored at cool temperatures ranging from 10 – 12 °C Surface-ripened cheeses should not be stored in vacuum-sealed or airtight packages.

Cold cheeses are more flavourful if they are taken out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before being served. Avoid leaving them out at room temperature for too long, however, or they may dry out and spoil.

If mould has developed on the surface of a firm cheese, cut out 1 – 2½ centimetres of the cheese around the mould just to be safe, and cover the cheese with a fresh piece of wrapping. It is preferable to discard fresh and soft cheeses that contain mould, as they could cause food poisoning.

While it is possible to freeze cheese, this method of preservation is not recommended, as it tends to detract from the flavour of the cheese and to make it more crumbly. Should freezing prove necessary, it is best to cut the cheese into wedges about 1 inch thick and weighing no more than 450 grams. Dry cheeses stand up better to freezing than those with high moisture content; fresh cheeses cannot be frozen. When well wrapped, cheese will keep for 2½ – 3 months in the freezer. Frozen cheeses are best thawed in the refrigerator to minimize alteration of their texture; it is better to reserve frozen cheeses for cooking.

Only firm cheeses are suitable for grating, and they are easier to grate when cold than when at room temperature. Once grated, hard cheeses will stay fresh for about a week in the refrigerator.

Cheese will melt more quickly during cooking if it is crumbled, grated, or cut into pieces beforehand. When adding it to a sauce, cook it over a gentle heat until it melts; but do not let it boil, as this causes the proteins in the fat to separate. Firm cheeses such as Parmesan, Emmenthal, and Gruyere withstand high temperatures better than other cheeses, and are thus more suitable for gratineed dishes. Remove the cheese from the heat as soon as it has melted. All cheeses information is courtesy of Dairy Australia

Cheese can be consumed as a snack or as part of a meal, in addition to having a wide array of uses in cooking as a main ingredient, a condiment, a stuffing, a coating for meats and vegetables, and in desserts. Indeed, cheeses blend just as nicely with savoury foods (salads, sauces, soups, croquettes, pizzas, pasta, crepes, soufflés, fondues, raclette, croque-monsieur, omelettes) as with sweet dishes (cakes, pies, donuts); fresh cheeses are the type most commonly used in baking.

When seasoning dishes that include cheese, it is important to remember that most cheeses are salted and to adjust the seasoning of the dish accordingly; this is particularly true of blue cheeses, whose salty taste is actually accentuated by cooking. Cheeses within the same family can be easily interchanged in recipes; for example, Edam, Brick, or Jarlsberg can replace Gruyere and Emmenthal. Cheeses are often served at the end of a meal, and many consider that a good wine best accompanies them.

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History

While the exact origins of cheese are unknown, archaeological evidence suggests that cheese making dates back to the beginning of animal husbandry, approximately 10,000 years ago. It is thought that the discovery of cheese was an accident. Having observed that milk curdled when left out at room temperature, the first cheese makers found that the curd could be drained to separate it from the whey (a process accelerated by heat), and thus obtained cheese. According to legend, a shepherd carrying milk in a pouch made from the lining of a sheep's stomach discovered that the milk had coagulated into cheese along the way.

Milk and cheese were the food of gods and heroes in mythology. Cheeses made from goat's and ewe's milk were common fare in ancient Roman times, an era which saw cheese-making attain an unprecedented level of sophistication. The Romans, including Parmesan and Pecorino, developed knowledge of the art of cheese-making spread throughout the empire and a number of firm cheeses. After the fall of the Roman Empire and the barbarian invasions, Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries became the major centres of cheese making during the Middle Ages. A number of cheeses still bear the name of their monastic origin (Saint-Paulin, Pont-1'Eveque, Livarot, Limburger, Munster).

Nutrition

Cheese provides many essential nutrients. Cheese contains, in a concentrated form, many of milk's nutrients.

The composition of milk used in cheese-making changes as a result of separation of the curd from the whey, and ripening or curing of cheese. Separation of the curd from the whey in cheese-making causes a significant partition of nutrients and a considerable change in the nutrient content of cheese compared to that of the original milk. Milk's water-insoluble components (e.g., fat, fat-soluble vitamins, casein), which are primarily retained in the curd, are concentrated in cheese. Most ripened cheeses contain about 10 times the amount of water-insoluble components as in milk. For example, in Cheddar cheese the 3.2% fat (in milk) is increased to 32% (in cheese) and the 2.3% protein is increased to 23%. Most of milk's water-soluble constituents (e.g., milk sugar or lactose, dissolved salts, other proteins such as lactalbumin and lactoglobulin) remain in the whey. These nutrients are therefore lower in cheese than in milk, with the amount in cheese depending on how much whey is entrapped in the curd. The proportions of the non-fat nutrients are about the same as in whole milk cheese.

The amount of various nutrients retained in the curd and whey largely depends on the type of cheese being manufactured, the type of milk (whole, reduced fat, non-fat) or whey used, and the manner of coagulation (enzyme or acid coagulated).

Ripening also influences the nutrient content of cheese, although to lesser extent than separation of the curd from the whey. Generally, nutrient changes during ripening or curing do not result in nutrient losses per se. Protein, carbohydrate, and fat are the nutrients mainly affected during ripening. The end products of alterations in these nutrients are responsible for the characteristic odour and flavour of the finished cheese. In certain varieties of cheese, the B complex vitamins may increase due to the synthesis of the vitamins, mainly on the outer layers of the cheese. However, on a moisture-corrected basis, little difference in the vitamin content may occur.

Cheese is an important source of high-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals, as indicated below. Because of its nutrient content, cheese is considered to be a nutrient-dense food, providing a high concentration of nutrients relative to its energy content.

Buying

When purchasing cheese, check the expiration date on the package and avoid cheeses that have been stored at room temperature. Each category of cheese has specific characteristics that are important to look for at the moment of purchase. Certain problems are easy to spot, and any cheeses showing signs of these defects should be avoided.

For example, soft cheeses should be soft both inside and out; they are fully ripe when the cheese is creamy, smooth, and uniformly coloured, and when it fills out the crust. The crust itself should be soft, not too dry, and uncracked. Avoid cheeses that are overly firm or chalky white in the centre, a sign of under-ripeness. Overripe soft cheeses have a sticky rind that is often darker coloured or that smells like ammonia. Soft cheeses that have been improperly stored will have a hard crust and will be dry on the inside.

Semi-firm cheeses should be neither too dry nor too crumbly; if the cheese near the crust is darker than at the centre, the cheese has likely been improperly stored. These cheeses should be neither rancid nor sharp tasting.

Firm cheeses should be uniform in colour and texture, with a firm rind. Avoid dried- out, bulging, pasty, or overly granular cheeses with a cracked rind, all of which point to improper storage conditions. Firm cheeses should be neither too salty nor too bitter tasting.

Blue cheeses should be more or less generously veined depending on the variety, and the veining should be evenly distributed throughout the cheese. The cheese, which is usually white, should be neither too crumbly nor too dry nor too salty.

Storing

The duration of the storage life of cheeses is mainly a matter of moisture content. For example, because soft cheeses have higher moisture content than firm cheeses, they do not keep as long.

Fresh cheeses and blue-veined cheeses will keep for only a week to 10 days and must be refrigerated in airtight wrapping or container.

Soft cheeses do not keep for very long once they are fully ripened.

Semi-firm cheeses can be stored for several weeks in the refrigerator provided that they are well wrapped.

Firm cheeses will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator or in a cool place if they are well wrapped in wax paper or aluminium foil.

All cheeses can be stored in the refrigerator. They should be well wrapped in plastic wrap or aluminium foil and placed in the warmest section of the refrigerator (some cheeses, including soft cheeses, lose flavour when stored at inappropriate temperatures). Cheeses can also be stored at cool temperatures ranging from 10 – 12 °C Surface-ripened cheeses should not be stored in vacuum-sealed or airtight packages.

Cold cheeses are more flavourful if they are taken out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before being served. Avoid leaving them out at room temperature for too long, however, or they may dry out and spoil.

If mould has developed on the surface of a firm cheese, cut out 1 – 2½ centimetres of the cheese around the mould just to be safe, and cover the cheese with a fresh piece of wrapping. It is preferable to discard fresh and soft cheeses that contain mould, as they could cause food poisoning.

While it is possible to freeze cheese, this method of preservation is not recommended, as it tends to detract from the flavour of the cheese and to make it more crumbly. Should freezing prove necessary, it is best to cut the cheese into wedges about 1 inch thick and weighing no more than 450 grams. Dry cheeses stand up better to freezing than those with high moisture content; fresh cheeses cannot be frozen. When well wrapped, cheese will keep for 2½ – 3 months in the freezer. Frozen cheeses are best thawed in the refrigerator to minimize alteration of their texture; it is better to reserve frozen cheeses for cooking.

Preparing

Only firm cheeses are suitable for grating, and they are easier to grate when cold than when at room temperature. Once grated, hard cheeses will stay fresh for about a week in the refrigerator.

Cooking

Cheese will melt more quickly during cooking if it is crumbled, grated, or cut into pieces beforehand. When adding it to a sauce, cook it over a gentle heat until it melts; but do not let it boil, as this causes the proteins in the fat to separate. Firm cheeses such as Parmesan, Emmenthal, and Gruyere withstand high temperatures better than other cheeses, and are thus more suitable for gratineed dishes. Remove the cheese from the heat as soon as it has melted. All cheeses information is courtesy of Dairy Australia

Using

Cheese can be consumed as a snack or as part of a meal, in addition to having a wide array of uses in cooking as a main ingredient, a condiment, a stuffing, a coating for meats and vegetables, and in desserts. Indeed, cheeses blend just as nicely with savoury foods (salads, sauces, soups, croquettes, pizzas, pasta, crepes, soufflés, fondues, raclette, croque-monsieur, omelettes) as with sweet dishes (cakes, pies, donuts); fresh cheeses are the type most commonly used in baking.

When seasoning dishes that include cheese, it is important to remember that most cheeses are salted and to adjust the seasoning of the dish accordingly; this is particularly true of blue cheeses, whose salty taste is actually accentuated by cooking. Cheeses within the same family can be easily interchanged in recipes; for example, Edam, Brick, or Jarlsberg can replace Gruyere and Emmenthal. Cheeses are often served at the end of a meal, and many consider that a good wine best accompanies them.

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Varieties