In an engaging tour of the science and history of cheese, Michael Tunick, in The Science of Cheese, explores the art of cheese making, the science that lies underneath the deliciousness, and the history behind how humanity came up with one of its most varied and versatile of foods
After bread, cheese might represent mankind’s oldest produced by science. Kara Chadbourne, cheesemonger from Antonelli’s Cheese in Austin answers some questions about how the cheese is made and where it comes from.
Where did cheese start?
Documentation, kinda doesn’t go as far back as cheese does. But the original recipe, as legend has it, is actually an accident, as some of the great food discoveries tend to be right?
Middle eastern goat herder who was traveling across this kind of dry airy desert tried to store his milk in the stomach sack of actually one of the animals they had butchered, like a canteen. Unfortunately when he went to drink it later, it was solid. I say unfortunately for him. For us, obviously it was very fortunate because that’s how we kind of learned that milk can turn solid and start to discover how.
Is there something special about an animal stomach that turns milk into cheese?
Rennet. Rennet is one of the four core ingredients in making cheese. And is really what gives body to the milk. So the stomach lining serves kind of as a sort of akin to gelatin. Let’s say I’ve got a glass of milk, and I want to turn it into cheese.
What’s the first step?
So four ingredients are necessary in making any cheese. You already got your first one if you got your milk. You want to heat up the milk. And then you add in cultures. And cultures are essentially going to start the lacto-fermentation process. The same way that yeast derives the fermentation process of the bread base, those cultures do the same for the milk. And then you start to add in that rennet. And the rennet is what’s going to give you the solids versus liquids. So it’s going to separate the curds from the whey. As soon as you have that texture, you’re cutting the curds. And that’s the first big decision.
How big do you cut them?
Because the more surface area on each curd, the more it’s going to kind of wash out that whey. So if you want a softer cheese, you’re going to cut the curds a bit larger. If you want to make something like a parmesan or parmigiano or something you’re going to really age out, you want it to be dry you’re going to go small. And then you’re going to kind of, as soon as it’s sturdy enough, season your cheese. And that’s the salt.
Seven styles of cheese:
1. Fresh cheeses
Color and rind develop with age, so you just have a perfectly white cheese right here that’s really just a beautiful example of a feta or a fresh cheese.
2. The semi-soft cheeses
Those are the ones that are really going to bend before they break. Lower melting points, so these are your grilled cheeses.
3. Firm cheeses
Those are going to definitely break, not bend, but they may still have a nice melt-in-your-mouth quality here. So these are going to include a lot of the cheddars out there, a lot of the gruyers, swiss cheeses, things like that.
4. Hard cheeses
Often considered recipe cheeses or grating cheeses.
5. The bloomy rinded cheeses.
These are the cheeses that really use molds and bacteria in the make process itself. What is happening here is there is this one strain of mold called penicillium candidum. And the cheesemaker is either mixing it in with a milk or actually spraying the exterior of the formed cheese with this mold.
6. Washed rinds.
This is where you’re using bacteria instead of mold. The trappist monks were kind of the people making washed rinds cheeses. During the lent where they were abstaining from eating meat, they would take their beers and use them to wash their cheeses.
Bacteria that lived in the beer itself called brevibacterium linens give a very meaty sort of flavor.
The environment in which you’re aging has a huge deal to do with what the cheese is going to end up tasting like and feeling like.
7. Blue cheeses
Is it a fungus that’s in there? It’s a mold. It’s a penicillium. This type of penicillium needs oxygen in order to bloom into blue. So what they are doing is creating these passageways. These lines you see here are where they needled the cheese and you can see these little dots on top too. And you can see they actually poked holes in the cheese during the aging process.