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Ever Wondered About... Cheese?

Updated Wednesday 27th April 2005

Fascinating facts about cheese and cheeses

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Different types of cheese behave differently when they are grilled. You could do an experiment to see what happens to them. Cut similar sized cubes or slices of as many different cheeses as you have available. Cheddar, Halloumi and mozzarella are good to choose. Put them on some foil on a grill-pan. Heat up the grill and put the cheese pieces under it. Look at them every minute. Try prodding them with a fork. Some melt, some go stringy and some go brown. But they will all be tasty to eat when they have cooled a little!

The love of cheese is called turophilia; fear of cheese is turophobia.

Certain kinds of hard cheese, like cheddar, have been found to help fight tooth decay if eaten soon after other foods.

The first stage of cheese making involves separating the milk into curd (the proteins and fats) and whey (the liquid which is mainly water). This process is called coagulation.

The holes in Emmental cheese are made by a bacterium called propionibacteria. This bacterium consumes the cheese's lactic acid during ripening and converts it into a combination of acids and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide produces the holes and the acids contribute to the flavour of the Emmental.

Cheshire cheese was first produced in Roman times and was thought to have been made in a cat shaped mould, later made famous as the grinning Cheshire cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Making your own yoghurt is fun, cheaper, and you can add your own flavours such as peanut butter, or lemon curd. But you will need to buy “live“ yoghurt to make a starter culture. You can make your own yoghurt by, first of all, taking a vacuum flask and filling it ¾ full with milk. (Sterilised or UHT milk is best, but if you don’t have this kind of milk, heat the milk you do have until it boils and then simmer for about 5 minutes). You’ll also need about 2 tbsp of “live“ yogurt to half a litre of milk. (Be prepared to try different brands of live yoghurt until you find the one that works best for you).

The milk needs to be at body temperature – 37°C (98°F) – so a thermometer is helpful here. Empty the milk into another container and warm the inside of the vacuum flask with some hot water. Pour a little of the milk into a jug, then stir in some “live“ yoghurt until the mixture is smooth. Pour that back into the rest of the milk and stir well. Pour the hot water out of the flask and tip in your yogurt and milk mix. Leave it for about 8 hours. Then tip the yoghurt out into a bowl and put it in the fridge to thicken. Stir in some crushed fruit or honey. Yummy!

Adding wine to the fondue keeps the melted cheese from getting stringy or seizing up. Wine also helps to make the sauce smooth as it contains water and tartaric acid.

The term “Big cheese” originated in medieval times as an expression of envy. The more money you had, the more cheese you could buy.

In 1546, John Heywood wrote in his Proverbes that "The moon is made of a greene cheese." Variations on this sentiment were repeated for many years, so that some people have assumed that this was once a serious belief. But Heywood was probably trying to be clever and others enjoyed repeating this “proverb” as silly nonsense.

Melted and seasoned cheese on toast was first called Welsh rabbit in the 18th century. It is also incorrectly known as rarebit or Welsh rarebit, although the dish has nothing to do with rabbits and probably nothing to do with Wales either.

The earliest types of cheese would have resembled what we know today as feta – a simple soft cheese preserved in brine.

The first factory for the industrial production of cheese opened in Switzerland in February 1815.

France and Italy are the nations with the most diversity in locally made cheeses. According to a French proverb, there is a different French cheese for every day of the year.

In 1878, using 54 Stilton cheeses, Thomas Nuttall made a 60ft replica of Cleopatra’s Needle which he displayed at a cheese fair.

The demand for cheese is growing globally. Even Japan which has no cheese making tradition, imports over 200,000 tonnes each year.

An enzyme called lactase is needed to digest milk. Without it, lactose will stay in the intestine and increase the population of particular gut bacteria, resulting in severe abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Although everyone is born with this enzyme, some population groups lose the ability to produce lactase. It is estimated that 80-95 per cent of adult African and Far East Asian people develop lactose intolerance.

Milk products in which lactose is converted into other molecules (such as lactic acid in yoghurt and cheese) can be consumed safely by people with lactose intolerance.

By medieval times cheese had become a staple of the poor person’s diet. It was an important source of protein and was dubbed “white meat”.

The word "cheese" comes from Latin caseus and, later, West Germanic kasjus. Note that cheese in Modern German is Käse.

 

 

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