Cheese is one of the most butchered foods in the world today. Our modern-day food system has completely made a mess of what was once one of the most gourmet specialty food products in our world. For thousands of years humans have been making cheese. In earlier times, each and every village would have their own “type” of cheese that was made from the specific funguses and mushroom spores that happened to be in the environment.
Today, cheese has sadly been reduced to slices of prepackaged and processed junk that has zero resemblance to a real, good tasting hunk of cheese. I´m Dr. Foodle, and today I´m going to re-introduce you to one of the most important, delicious, tantalizing, and delectable foods that can be added to virtually any dish.
It is believed that cheese actually came into being by accident thousands of years ago. Our ancestors used to transport milk from their cattle and goats, and one of the ways they did this was by carrying the milk in a sack made from a cow´s stomach. That may sound a little gross to us modern day folks, but we´d best be thankful. Cow´s stomachs have naturally occurring rennet, the ingredient used to curdle cheese. Imagine the delight of our prehistoric brethren as they opened their cow-stomach pouch to find that their milk had suddenly hardened into something completely different but pleasantly delicious.
Unfortunately, the majority of Americans today only eat processed cheese, which really isn´t cheese at all but a milk-based product. “Real” cheese comes from a process of acidifying and curdling milk. Acidifying or souring the milk is done with the help of an acid like vinegar or lemon juice or with the help of specific bacteria. Rennet is another product that is added to the process of making cheese, which turns the cheese into a more rubbery gel-like form.
Once the milk has been separated into the curds (pre-cheese solids) and the whey (liquid), there are literally hundreds of different ways to treat the curds to get different types of cheeses. Mozzarella cheeses are stretched and pulled which gives it its signature flavor and elasticity (think of a hot pizza slice pulled from the pizza pie). Cheddar cheese take the curd and continually pile it up on top to push all of the moisture out of the cheese. Gouda and Colby cheeses wash the curd in warm water to lessen the acidity and produce a milder tasting cheese.
Artisanal cheeses can vary from town to town. Aged cheeses especially are known for their unique, local flavors. As cheeses are aged, specific bacteria and funguses that are present in the locality where they´re matured mix with the curd to form unique, different flavors.
Cheese making is an art that can be adapted to the particularities of each individual place. The mass production of processed cheese has effectively ruined the uniqueness of flavor that so many different cheeses offered. So the next time you go looking for a good cheese, forego the processed slices and be daring enough to discover the flavors of a matured Swiss cheese, a mild blue cheese, a dark cheddar, or a blue-veined bleu cheese.