1-40. INTRODUCTION TO CHEESE
a. How Cheese Is Made. Cheese is a dairy food product made from the curd of
milk and it consists primarily of casein, butterfat, and moisture. Natural cheese is made
by coagulating milk and then eliminating the whey (liquid portion) by means of cooking,
draining, and washing the curd (solid portion). Coagulation is caused by lactic acid
production resulting from the addition of a starter, with or without the addition of rennet.
(Rennet contains a milk-coagulating enzyme found naturally in the stomach of calves.)
Some cheeses are made from goat's milk. Process cheese is prepared from a blend of
one or more types of natural cheese and an emulsifying agent. It is manufactured by
grinding, mixing, and heating the mixture into a homogeneous mass along with the
addition of such optional ingredients as cream, water, salt, spices, artificial coloring, and
b. A Legend About the Discovery of Cheese. The history of cheese dates
back thousands of years. According to legend, the first cheese was made by accident
when an Arab merchant getting ready for a journey across the desert put his supply of
milk in a pouch made from the stomach of a sheep. The pouch apparently was
carelessly cleaned, if indeed it was cleaned at all, for when the Arab stopped for his
evening meal he found the milk changed to what we know as curd and whey. The
pouch containing the milk also must have contained rennet from the lining of the
sheep's stomach and this, plus the heat of the desert, caused the curd in the milk to
coagulate and the whey to separate. The merchant found that the curd satisfied his
hunger and the whey satisfied his thirst. The taste of the curd probably improved each
day of the journey.
c. Popularity of Cheese. Cheeses have proved to be delightful foods and have
contributed variety and interest to our diets. Cheeses also are a source of nutrients and
several cheeses today are considered to be a gourmet food. Americans are eating
more cheese now than in the past. In 1990, Americans nibbled 24.5 pounds per capita
as compared to 14.5 pounds per capita in 1974 and 10.6 pounds per capita in 1968.
Current consumption has increased to more than three times what it was in 1954.
1-41. CLASSIFICATION OF CHEESE
The use of cheese as a food has spread throughout most of the world and each
country has developed its own characteristic cheeses. There are now more than 800
varieties of natural cheeses listed in the USDA publication, "Cheese Varieties and
Descriptions." This publication, in addition to listing the worldwide varieties of cheeses,
provides descriptions of over 400 cheeses, many of which are similar in nature but
different in name, depending upon where they were originally produced. There are
about 18 distinct, basic varieties of natural cheeses.
a. Four Categories. We divide all cheeses into four major categories based on
the moisture content of the finished product. The categories are: very hard, hard,