It Starts with the Milk
In the culinary arts, there are few foods as important as cheese. There are many types of cheese, used in a wide array of dishes. There are mild and sharp cheeses, smooth and creamy varieties and even smelly and moldy types. Each variety of cheese is carefully crafted using various milks with different fat contents and by adding in an assortment of herbs or other spices. All cheeses are made in relatively the same way. It all starts with the cow. The diet of a cow is directly responsible for the taste and the properties of its milk, and certain cheeses are made by changing the diet of a cow in order to affect its milk. Cows who are given feed that has been processed with chemicals yields a milk that has a slightly sour taste that will transfer to the cheese. Diets high in grain yield milk with a higher saturated fat content, while cows given organic feed produce milk that is fresher tasting and healthier.
Rennet is Added
The first step in making cheese is to add rennet to the milk. This is an enzyme that is found in the stomach of mammals. For most cheeses, rennet is taken from calves, although certain recipes call for the rennet to come from other animals such as goats. Vegetarian cheese uses non-animal sources of rennet. Renin, which is present in the rennet, is responsible for separating milk into curds (lumpy parts) and whey (liquid parts). The curds on their own, with a little bit of whey, are called cottage cheese.
Drying the Curds
The curds are then drained and the whey is disposed of, or used to create other products. The curds are pressed and the water left in them is squeezed out. This has to happen a few times for the water to be completely drained away. The curds will start to get firmer after this and become fresh farmer's cheese. This cheese is unprocessed and will not stay for a long time, even when refrigerated. It has the same properties as milk.
Mold and Herbs
In order to keep cheese longer, mold is added. Various molds will yield different textures and tastes. Bleu cheese, for example, is made with Aristolochene Synthase molds. Most cheeses have more than one type of mold in them. Cheese is left to age for a certain amount of time. The longer it ages, the more rich and deep the flavor is. Aged cheeses are more expensive in the marketplace and are known as fine cheeses to connoisseurs. When the mold is added, herbs and spices can be added as well to give the cheese a more unique flavor.
- Photo Credit homepages.ius.edu/SRICKARD/
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