History of Dairy Products: Cheese

About the dairy product cheese, history and information about its production and nutrition, the varieties of cheese.


The average American eats a 1/2 ton of cheese during a lifetime. There are thousands of varieties of cheese from simple fresh cheeses like Ricotta to dessert cheeses like Brie, from heavily cooked cheeses like Swiss to uncooked cheeses like Camembert, from hard, grating cheeses like Parmesan and Romano to various kinds of adulterated "process cheese foods." Most cheeses are made from cow's milk, but some use the milk of other animals. Feta and Roquefort come from sheep's milk, Gjetost and Gaiskasli from goat's milk, Lapland cheese from reindeer milk, and Surati (or Panir) cheese from buffalo's milk.

Basically, cheese is made by allowing milk to ripen or sour. Then the lumpy curds are separated from the liquid whey by adding a coagulant such as rennet. The curd is then cut, heated, strained, pressed, and aged. Most commercial rennet is made from the lining of young animals' stomachs, but nonanimal rennet, such as that obtained from withania berries, is also available. It is possible to make cheese without rennet by letting the milk sour until a firm curd forms and the whey begins to separate.

Cheese is rich in protein and fat, and most cheeses contain good amounts of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins B2 and A.

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