Cheese 101

This dairy product made from milk has thousands of fans. Not only is it delicious, but it’s also nutritious.

Where does it come from?
The milk usually comes from cows but other sources are also popular such as goats, sheep, camels, reindeer and yaks. Cheese-making has been practiced for thousands of years ever since people started breeding their own animals. Cheese is also considered a staple food in some regions. It is an art and this practice has created at least 1,778 types of cheese around the world.

How is it made?
The main ingredient for cheese-making is milk. It is first weighed then heat-treated or pasteurized to make sure it’s clean. Next, good bacteria or components known as starter cultures are added. The type of bacteria used will determine its texture and flavor. Then an enzyme known as rennet is added to make the milk coagulate. The result of this mixture should look like a custard.

This mixture is separated into whey and curds. The whey is in liquid form while the curds are solid. Smaller cut curds form a group of cheese separate from the large-cut curds. These cut curds are then cooked to a desired firmness. After that, the whey is drained so that the curd takes shape.

The curd is salted and formed into different varieties. The cheese is then pressed for at least three hours. Other types are cured and aged to achieve a particular texture and flavor. Aging may take weeks and even years.

What are the benefits of eating cheese?
Most cheese contain protein and fat, the amounts vary on the type of cheese. It also has water and carbohydrates. Most of the fat is saturated but the amount will vary on the type of cheese.

Cheese also has carbohydrates such as lactose, so those who are lactose intolerant or have milk allergy are not advised to consume large amounts of cheese.

Vitamins and minerals found in cheese include vitamin B12, Vitamin A, Vitamin K2, calcium, riboflavin, selenium, sodium, and zinc. Cheese is overall a healthy food source because it comes from milk. It’s good for your bones and heart.

What are its uses?
According to experts, cheese-making has been around for more than 4,000 years. There is a legend about an Arab merchant who placed his milk supply in a pouch made from sheep’s stomach. As he traveled, the heat separated the whey and curd.

Today, cheese is not only consumed individually, but also used as an ingredient in different types of food. It can be combined with bread to make sandwiches or mixed with salads, dry fruits, nuts and tree nuts, wine and as one of the key ingredients in pizza and pasta.

What are the types of cheese?
There are so many types of cheese that they can be classified in different ways. They can be categorized by milk source, country, aging and processing, and texture. Sometimes flavorings, colors and other ingredients are added.
The most common cheese often used in cooking are parmesan, cheddar, camembert and stilton.