Cheese making can be traced back some 8000-9000 years to origins in the Fertile Crescent, that is, latter day Iraq. Just as beer arose from the adventitious contamination of moist sprouted grain, so did cheese develop as a consequence of the accidental souring of milk by lactic acid bacteria, with the attendant clotting to produce curd. Cheese, whey (the liquid that separates from the curd) and fermented milks all comprise milk rendered as long life forms. The first enzyme employed to curdle milk was obtained unknowingly (the first cell-free enzyme preparation not having been made until 1897, by Buchner from brewer's yeast) from the stomachs of the hare and kid goats that were immersed in milk. Rennin was not produced in an isolated form from calf vells until 1970. Similarly, adventitious organisms are less widely used for cheeses nowadays - and pure cultures of lactic acid bacteria have been available since 1890.
Parallels between cheese making and the production of beer (and many other fermented foods) continue when one considers the evolution of the modern cheese making business. The Industrial Revolution with the advent of extensive rail networks and heavy, urbanisation to support expanding employment in large factories meant that cheese production was consolidated into a relatively few large producers employing enhanced control and automation.
There are in excess of 2000 different types of cheese. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) definition of cheese is
Cheese is the fresh or matured product obtained by the drainage (of liquid) after the coagulation of milk, cream, skimmed or partly skimmed milk, butter milk or a combination thereof. Whey cheese is the product obtained by concentration or coagulation of whey with or without the addition of milk or milk fat.
One can classify cheeses according to their country of origin, composition, firmness and which maturation agents are employed in their production and by the processes generally employed in their manufacture and maturation (Table 10.1). The listing shown does not include the spiced cheeses that incorporate the likes of caraway seeds, cloves, cumin and peppers.
An overview of cheese making is given in Fig. 10.1. The critical requirement is that the cheese should have the correct pH and moisture content. Easily the most important need is to time and control acid production, alongside the control of expulsion of the whey that contains the substrates and buffers that regulate how much acid is produced and the extent to which pH changes occur.
Unless cheese is heat-processed, its composition will continually change through the action of surviving micro-organisms and enzymes.
Table 10.1 Some types of cheese.
Firmness and subdivision
Unripened/low fat Unripened/high fat Unripened stretched curd Ripened through external mould growth Ripened by bacterial fermentation Salt-cured or pickled Surface-ripened
Semi-soft Ripened through internal mould growth Surface-ripened by bacteria and yeast Chiefly ripened through internal bacterial fermentation but perhaps also surface growth Ripened internally by bacterial fermentation
Ripened internally by bacterial fermentation Ripened internally by bacterial fermentation, also with 'eye' production Ripened by internal mould growth
Very hard cheese
By heat/acid denaturation of whey protein
Cottage Cream Mozzarella Brie
Bel Paese Munster
Emmental (Swiss) Gouda Gruyere Stilton
Derived from Olson (1995).
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