Chapter 23 Cheese
According to legend, cheese was first made accidentally by a traveling shepherd, who carried milk in a pouch made from the stomach of a sheep. The combination of heat of the sun with the enzyme rennin present in the lining of the stomach curdled/separated milk into curd (a soft mass or junket) and whey. Curds are coagulated proteins (casein) known as cheese. This soft mass containing protein and fat was then drained to remove the excess liquid or whey and dried in the sun to form a harder mass which could be eaten fresh or salted and stored for later use when the food supplies were less plentiful.
Cheese may be defined as “the fresh or matured product made by coagulating any or a combination of any of the following substances, namely milk, cream, skimmed milk, partly skimmed milk, concentrated milk, reconstituted dried milk and butter milk, and then partially draining the whey, resulting from any such coagulation”.
Cheese Making is a very convenient method for converting a considerable part of the milk nutrients into a product that is less bulky, will keep well, is of a high nutritive value and is palatable and easily digestible.
There are over 400 varieties of cheese listed as being made in different parts of the world. They are made from a variety of different milks from animals like cow, sheep, goat, buffalo and others, by different methods of manufacture, are ripened for different periods of time in different conditions and are made in different sizes from a few ounces to the very large size of 70 lbs or more. They will also differ by colour, texture, hardness, odour and taste.
Classification of Cheeses
Cheese may be classified under one or a combination of the following:
The Country of origin
It is helpful to be able to classify cheese in this way, so that cheeses from different countries may be featured on the menu or cheese board of a restaurant.
The method of manufacture
This system of classification is based on how the cheese has been manufactured, which in-turn determines the type of cheese produced. This classification identifies six main groups of cheeses – hard, semi-hard, soft, surface mould, surface slime and blue-veined (i.e. internal mould and includes acid coagulated cheeses). The important features in the manufacture of cheeses are:
1. The type of milk being used.
2. Whether the milk is ripened or not.
3. Whether rennet is added or not.
4. Whether the curd is scalded (stirred) or not.
5. Whether the cheese is pressed or not.
The general appearance of a traditionally made cheese is important for the recognition of it. Cheese is recognized by:
Traditionally, cheeses have always been made of the same size and shape; hence easily recognizable e.g. English Cheddar is usually made in the shape of a small drum being 13” high and 11” in diameter. The English Leicester is usually made in the shape of a wheel being 4” high and 18” in diameter.
The colour of the cheese–internally and externally–is another point of recognition e.g. the English Stilton has a wrinkled brown coat and a blue-veined creamy-white body. The Dutch Edam has a red wax coat and a rich straw coloured body.
The flavour of the cheeses, when fully mature, is quite standardized, although only minor changes in the manufacture can affect the flavour considerably. The basic aspects of flavour such as cheese being mild, very rich, salty and tangy are usually quite evident to most people, but the description given by the cheese makers like “slightly nutty”, “mildly fruity” etc. needs experience to appreciate.
This is seen when examining the cut surface of a cheese and in greater detail, when cutting a portion of the cheese. Typical textures are hard, semi-hard, semi-hard with gas holes, rubbery, close, loose and crumbly, buttery and open.
Soft : Above 40-80% (e.g. in Camembert).
Hard : 20-40% (e.g. in Stilton).
Cheeses are classified on the basis of ripening as Mild or Strong, Bacterial or Mould. The main classes of cheese are as under:
• Unripened soft cheese (e.g. Cottage cheese, Cream cheese, Neufchatel).
• Ripened soft cheese in moulds by bacteria (e.g. Brie and Camembert).
• Semi-hard, ripened by bacteria (e.g. Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Stilton).
• Very hard cheese without gas holes (e.g. Cheddar, Edam, Gouda and Cheshire).
• Very hard cheese with gas holes (e.g. Gruyere, Swiss cheese).
Basically cheese is made by forming a curd by the action of the enzyme rennin, or acid, upon pasteurized milk. This curd is then ripened by enzymes produced by the addition of a culture of microorganisms. During ripening, the constituents of the curd are modified to produce characteristic flavours and textures.
Heating the milk
The temperature should not be less than 10°C and should not exceed 65°C. The optimum temperature is 37°C (At 10°C, the cheese will be soft, while at 65°C, the cheese will be hard).
This is brought about by the addition of rennet (rennin), curd or lactic acid producing bacteria (Suitable cultures of microorganisms may be added at this stage to bring about ripening or souring of the milk).
This mixture may be held at varying temperatures during what is known as “setting” period which is 20-26°C (70-80°F) for soft cheeses and 30-32°C (86-90°F) for hard cheeses.
The setting temperature, the quantity of rennet added and the amount of acid produced by the microorganisms largely govern the rate at which the curd and whey separate, and also affect the texture of the curd.
Cutting the curd
The curd is then cut to remove moisture. Then the whey is separated – finer the curd is cut, greater is the whey separation.
Cooking the curd
Coking the curd helps in the removal of whey. The curd begins to compact and become elastic, rather than crumbly. During heating, the lactic producing bacteria increase. Higher the temperature, firmer the cheese becomes e.g. Cheddar becomes firm at a temperature of 38°C (100°F).
Separating the curd
All excess whey is finally removed from the curd.
The curd is cut into blocks and piled up. This allows the curd to form a solid mass and further development of the starter culture. The curd begins to develop characteristic properties of texture and flavour.
Milling and Salting
The now-dry curd is milled into small fragments and salt is added – either as fine salt or brine solution (Sometimes in aqueous solution which permits homogenous absorption). Salting influences many factors–flavour, moisture content and texture; also checks lactic acid formation by inhibiting acid producing organisms (also reducing risk of spoilage) and at the same time permits the development of specific ripening microorganisms.
Pressing the curd
Pressing the curd gives cheese its characteristic shape and texture. This cheese is called “Green cheese (Immature cheese)”.
In this stage, the green or immature cheese develops the characteristic texture and flavour of its variety. The green cheese is placed in well ventilated rooms on racks. The temperature is maintained at 13°C and at a humidity of 80-90%. Then the bacteria, moulds etc. are added to bring about changes. The fresh cheese is covered with wax or other things to prevent the moisture loss.
Ripening is a change in the physical as well as chemical properties such as aroma, flavour, texture, composition etc. which occur between the time of precipitation of the curd and the time when the cheese develops its characteristics. Ripening is the process that converts freshly made curds into distinctive, flavourful cheese. This ripening is brought about by certain bacteria or moulds that are introduced during manufacture. Much of a final cheese’s final character is determined by the kind of ripening agent and the way it acts on the cheese. Cheeses can be classified by the kind of ripening agent and whether it ripens from inside or outside. Some examples include:
1. Bacteria ripened (from inside) : Cheddar, Swiss, Gouda, Parmesan etc.
2. Bacteria ripened (from outside) : Limburger, Liederkranz etc.
3. Mould ripened (from inside) : Blue cheeses inc. Roquefort, Stilton etc.
4. Mould ripened (from outside) : Brie, Camembert, St. Andre etc.
5. Unripened : Cottage cream, Baker’s cheese etc.
Following changes take place during ripening:
1. Lactose is converted to lactic acid.
2. Proteins are broken down to simpler components–amino acids.
3. Fats are converted to fatty acids.
4. CO2 is formed that produces holes, as in Emmental cheese.
5. Development of aroma/flavour.
6. Change in colour.
7. Change in texture–hard to soft–due to the action of bacteria or moulds (Brick – Bacteria, Stilton and Roquefort–Mould etc.).
The characteristics of the cheese depend upon the following factors:
1. Type of milk or milk fractions used (The percentage of fat present in the milk has an effect of the quality of the cheese produced. A low percentage of fat will produce a hard leathery type of cheese, whereas a high percentage of fat will produce a soft smoother cheese).
2. Temperature (High gives hard, while low gives soft cheese).
3. Acidity (Putrefactive bacteria, amount of lactic acid produced).
4. Humidity (It controls the growth of moulds).
5. Type of precipitation agent used in coagulating the milk.
6. Pressure used to remove the moisture.
7. Salt (Amount of salt added affects the growth of bacteria. It also acts as a preservative.)
8. Time of ripening.
9. Rennet will produce more elastic curd.
10. Light (whether exposed to sunlight or not).
11. Size of mold in which the cheese is made.
12. Type of microorganisms used.
Processed cheese is obtained by mixing green cheese with cured cheese of the same type, or blending different varieties of cheeses and then treating with heat and adding suitable emulsifying agent to it. Salt, acids, flavouring, colour etc. are also added and heated to approximately 65°C. When cheese is heated, further ripening is prevented. This processed cheese will be very mild. Processed cheese is a uniform product that doesn’t age or ripen like natural cheese. Thus, it keeps very well. It is usually very mild in flavour and has a gummy texture. Because of its melting quality and low price, it is often used in cooking.
The term “American Cheese” usually refers to processed cheese. Processed cheese food and processed cheese spread contain a lower percentage of cheese and more moisture than cheese.
Modification of the same processed cheese without heating and pasteurizing, but simply ground and mixed with flavourings and seasonings, to a spreading consistency, is known as “cold pack” or “club cheese”. In this, further ripening will take place. Processed cheese is very common; since it can be sliced and blended easily with other ingredients of the recipe.
Cooking of Cheese
Cheese is a protein food and like all other proteins, it is toughened by heat easily. All cheese dishes should be cooked at low temperatures, whatever the dish is. Whenever possible, cheese should be melted in a double boiler or chaffing dish, rather than over direct heat. When cheese is melted, it is cooked. Overcooking will produce some toughening effect as cooking at too high heat. Grate or chop cheese finely and dilute with some kind of starchy food such as flour, breadcrumbs, macaroni etc. will help in cooking properly. Adding a small pinch of sodium bicarbonate will soften cheese and prevent stringiness as well as makes it more digestible.
Cook by moist heat, whenever possible, or at least see that there is some moisture included in the dish. Where and when possible, add cheese only at the last moment to prevent overcooking.
The following points should be taken into consideration while selecting cheese:
1. The rind of the cheese should not have mildew or fungi on it.
2. There shouldn’t be an over-strong smell emanating from the cheese.
3. Semi-hard, hard and blue-veined cheeses, when cut, should not appear dry.
4. Soft and processed cheese, when cut, should not be watery; nor should be of a delicate creamy consistency.
All cheeses should be eaten fresh and in their prime conditions. For this, they must be stored correctly so that they reach the customer in a good condition, with a full flavour. Cheeses should be wrapped in separate clean polythene bags to prevent their drying out, and then stored at a temperature of 5-10°C (40-50°F). Before being served, the cheeses should be removed from the bags and placed in a room at normal temperature in order to have the full flavour maximized. Particular care must be taken for soft cheeses e.g. Brie, Camembert etc. as they can soon become over-ripe and unacceptable. Even hard and semi-hard cheese must be stored at low temperatures to avoid deterioration. Store cheese in their original wrapper, once they are opened and cut; cover with moist cloth or aluminium foil or plastic wrap to avoid drying out. The very hard cheeses like Parmesan and unprocessed cheeses don’t need to be refrigerated and may be kept in a clean, cool, dry storeroom. Blue cheeses require a lower temperature of around 4°C (38°F) and a higher relative humidity of 80%. Normally cheese should not be allowed to become dry and crumbly. Small pieces, weighing 1 pound or less of certain varieties like Brick, Camembert, Edam, Cheddar etc. can be frozen for 6-8 weeks. In general, the firmer and more aged the cheese, the longer it will keep.
Uses of Cheese
1. As a cheese course for lunch or dinner. (The cheese would be served to a customer on a cheese board containing U.K. cheeses only, French cheeses only or a variety of U.K. and continental cheeses. Serve cheese at room temperature as only at room temperature will the full flavours develops).
2. As a feature item on a cold buffet.
3. As a cooking cheese:
a. To add to a basic cream sauce to make a cheese sauce.
b. To serve as an accompaniment to soups and farinaceous dishes.
c. To serve sprinkled on dishes to be gratinated.
d. To serve on toast e.g. grilled, Welsh rarebit etc.
To include in salads, snacks etc.
CHEESE AND NUTRITION
Cheese is one of the most highly concentrated of all protein foods. It is also readily digested. Experiments have shown that 90-99% of all cheese is digested. It is also a complete protein. Since approximately 10 liters of fluid milk is required to make 1 kg of cheese, cheese contains many of the nutrients of milk in highly concentrated form – milk proteins, fats, fat soluble vitamins and minerals.
Whole milk cheese contains the same properties as milk. Certain cheese such as blue veined are made out of skim milk and are therefore less nutritious.
Normally cow’s milk is used to make cheese, but certain well known cheeses are made from goat’s milk. The texture of the cheese from goat’s milk differs slightly from that of cow’s milk. It is more crumbly. Sheep’s milk can also be used. The quality of cheese depends to a great extent on the breed and the condition of the animal and the fodder given to it. Cheshire cheese is said to owe its fine flavour to the wild radish, on which the cow feeds, and its special nature is due to the mineral in the soil. Cheshire cheese, therefore, can’t be made in any other place as Cheddar cheese can.
Certain cheeses develop a blue vein on maturing. This is sometimes a purely natural development, often sporadic and unpredictable. Sometimes, fresh cheese is inoculated with pieces of blue cheese to catch the mould by contact. In some cases, special bacilli are introduced. The mould is sometimes strengthened by brushing the cheese clean while the skin is soft, dipping it in whey and then rubbing it slightly with butter. This is done once a day for 10-20 days. Sometimes, cheese is pierced with a copper wire.
Glossary of Cheese terms
Acid, Acidity A description of a pleasant tang; it can be a defect if too pronounced.
Ammoniated A term describing cheese smell of ammonia; a condition that afflicts the rinds of over-ripe cheese. A hint of ammonia is not necessarily objectionable.
Annatto A yellow-orange dye extracted from the seeds of a South American plant; used to colour such cheese as Cheddar, Edam etc.
Bloomy rind The white fleecy rind that develops on certain surface of ripened cheese like Brie, Camembert etc. It is formed by spraying of the surface of the cheese with spores of penicillium candidium, while it is curing.
Chevres The French term for Goat cheese.
Gummy A negative term used to describe an over-plastic texture, as well as over ripe rinds that have become sticky or gooey. Gumminess is undesirable in any context.
Salty Most cheeses have some degree of saltiness; those lacking in salt are said to be dull or flat. Pronounced saltiness is characteristic of some cheeses, but over saltiness is a defect.
Springy A descriptive term for cheese with a resilient texture that springs back when gently pressed. Ripe or neatly ripe soft–ripened varieties should be springy.
Brief description of some well known Cheese
Fresh and Soft Cheese
Ricotta An Italian fresh, Unripened cheese, made from the whey of cow’s milk. It is smooth and mild tasting, and used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes including pizzas.
Curd cheese “Curd” is the general term given to all unripened cheeses made from the separated curds of cow’s or goat’s milk. It is used in cheese cakes and sweet and savoury fillings. It is also a popular base for dips and spreads.
Cottage cheese A lumpy, mild tasting curd cheese, often containing cream.
Mozzarella An Italian unripened curd cheese, originally made from buffalo’s milks, but now obtained exclusively from cow’s milk. It is soft cheese with a rather moist texture. It has a mild, creamy taste and is widely used as a cooking cheese-pizza, lasagna and toasted sandwiches.
Colwick A traditional cow’s milk cheese from England. Usually sold unsalted to be served as a dessert, but can be salted and used as a savoury cheese.
Coulommiers A French cheese made from cow’s milk. This, like Brie and Camembert, has a white rind and a soft interior. It is rich and creamy tasting and is usually made in small wheel shapes. It is a popular cheese for desserts and snacks.
Brie A French soft cheese made from cow’s milk. It has a creamy fruity taste and is delicious in snacks and as a filling for brioche. It is made in large, flat wheel shapes and there are many varieties. The thin crust is edible.
Camembert This world famous French cheese is made from cow’s milk and there are several varieties. It has a distinctive taste which varies from mild to pungent as it ages. An excellent dessert and snack cheese, it is made in small cylindrical shapes, which means that it can be brought as an individual cheese.
Tomme au raisin A French cheese made from cow’s milk and covered with grape pulp, skin and pips. The word “Tomme” is simply a dialect word for cheese from the Savoie region of France and there are many varieties. They usually have a fairly pronounced flavour and make excellent dessert cheeses. They are produced in small drum shapes.
Cream cheese A fresh, unripened cheese made from cow’s milk and usually foil wrapped.
Petit Munster A cow’s milk cheese from Alsace. Traditionally thought of being of as being French in origin, though there are several German varieties. It is made in wheel shapes and is good for snacks.
Boursin aux fines herbes A variety of Boursin coated with crushed black peppercorns which give the cheese a spicy taste, complementing its creamy interior.
Caboe A Scottish double cream cheese (with 60% fat) made from cow’s milk and rolled in oat meal. It has a fairly sweet flavour and goes well with fresh fruit.
Feta A soft Greek cheese usually made from ewe’s milk (sometimes from goat’s milk). It has a sharp and salty taste and is used in savoury stuffing and salads.
Manchego Spain’s most famous cheese; this is made from ewe’s milk and has a creamy, firm textured interior, which sometimes has holes. It is strong tasting and ideal for snacks.
Dunlop A Scottish cheese made from cow’s milk; this is a Cheddar-type cheese with a rather bland, butter taste. In Scotland, it is often eaten with buttered oatcakes; otherwise it is a good snack cheese and is ideal for toasting.
Port Salut A French rinded cheese made from cow’s milk; it is good for desserts and snacks.
Cabrales Traditionally a goat’s milk cheese (though there are now ewe’s milk varieties), it is from the mountain regions of northern Spain. Made in cylinder shapes, it has a strong, pronounced taste and makes a good snack cheese.
Monterey Jack A Cheddar-type cheese, originating in Monterey, California, but now, also made in other parts of America. It is made from cow’s milk and has a rather bland taste with a smooth open texture. It is used in snacks, sandwiches and in recipes.
Colby A popular American Cheddar-type cheese from Colby, Wisconsin. It is a washed curd cheese (If the curds are washed thoroughly in cold water, the moisture content of the cheese is increased, making it mature more quickly). It is a mild cheese with a slightly granular texture and is popular in snacks and salads.
Saint Paulin A rinded French cheese made from cow’s milk, it can be bland or tangy, depending on its degree of ripeness and is similar in taste to Port Salut. It is a good snack and dessert cheese and is made in small wheel shapes.
Tilsit A firm textured cow’s milk cheese, originally from East Prussia, but now produced all over Europe. It has a tangy taste, and is a good cheese for desserts and sandwiches. It can be made either wheel or block shapes.
Gjetost A Norwegian whey cheese which can be made from either cow’s or goat’s milk. Rather fudge-like in appearance and taste. It is used in sauces, desserts and snacks.
Double Gloucester This cow’s milk cheese has a full flavour and is considered one of the great English cheeses. It is good for desserts and snacks and is made in cylinder shapes.
Cheddar England’s most famous cheese; this is made from cow’s milk and varies from mild to very sharp. It is packaged in many shapes.
Gruyere This famous cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland is similar to Emmental in appearance and nut like taste. Apart from being a good table cheese, it is much used in fondues, sauces and quiches. It is made in large wheel shapes.
Cantal A cow’s milk cheese from France; it is often referred to as French cheddar. Made in cylinder shapes. It is used in several regional dishes and is also a good all-purpose table cheese.
Lancashire A mild tasting cow’s milk cheese from England. It melts well and thus lends itself well to cooking (particularly toasting). It is made in cylinder or blocks shapes and can be sold as wedges.
Red Cheshire A cow’s milk cheese from England. It has a crumbly texture and is coloured with annatto dye. Its slightly salty taste makes it good snack cheese.
Fontina A cow’s milk cheese from the Piedmont region of Italy. It has a delicate nutty, slightly smokey taste and is much used fro fonduta (an Italian version of Spanish fondue) Bel Paese is also a very famous semi-soft cheese from Italy.
Leyden/ Leiden A Dutch semi-hard cheese covered with a dark yellow rind and then with red wax. It is made from whole or skimmed cow’s milk and contains caraway and cumin seeds. It is made in cylinder shapes. It goes well with gin and cocktails and makes a good snack cheese.
Gouda A world famous Dutch cheese made from cow’s milk, which can be eaten “fresh” or matured. It is made in wheel shapes.
Jarlsberg A Norwegian cheese ranging from white to light yellow, with large holes scattered throughout. It is made from cow’s milk and has a firm, buttery interior and a mild, nutty taste. It is covered with a thick rind and then with a yellow wax. It is used in landgang (the Norwegian version of a hero sandwich).
Edam A famous Dutch cheese made from cow’s milk and sold in ball shapes, coated with red wax.
Raolette A cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland with a mild, nutty taste. It gives its name to a traditional toasted cheese dish.
Leicester An English cheese made from cow’s milk and coloured with annatto dye. Made in cylinder shapes, it is a good snack cheese.
Emmental This famous Swiss cheese made from cow’s milk has a fairly sweet, nutty taste and can be used as a basis for fondues and toasted snacks.
Caerphilly A cow’s milk cheese from Wales with a mild, slightly sour taste. Usually made in cylinder shapes. It is a good snack and dessert cheese.
Wensleydale An English cheese made from cow’s milk. This is also made as a blue-veined type. White Wensleydale is traditionally eaten with apple pie and is made in cylinder and block shapes.
Hard, Blue and Smoked Cheese
Provolone An Italian curd cheese made from cow’s milk. A popular cooking cheese, it is often used in cannelloni and ravioli.
Parmesan/ Parmigiano One of Italy’s best known cheeses. Parmesan is one of the grana or granular types. It is cow’s milk cheese, made in large wheel shapes. When fully matured, it is used for grating and cooking. The very best of all granas is called Parmigiano Reggiano. It is the true Parmesan, is aged at least 2 years and is very expensive.
Schabziger A Swiss cheese made from soured skimmed milk and whole milk. Sapsago is pale green due to the presence of clover which is added to the curd. It is a hard cheese which is normally grated before use, and makes a good all-purpose cooking cheese.
Pecorino A hard Italian grana cheese made from sheep’s milk. Pecorino, when fully matured, is used for grating in many pasta style dishes.
Sbrinz A Swiss grating cheese made from cow’s milk, this is a good all-purpose cooking cheese, made in large wheel shapes.
Gorgonzola Italy’s most famous blue-veined cheese, gorgonzola is considered as one of the best blue cheeses in the world. It has a strong and rich taste. It is good for desserts, snacks and salad dressings and when grated and grilled, can be used as a topping fro several foods.
Smoked Emmental Traditionally, made in long sausage shapes, it is used mainly as a snack cheese.
Roquefort Considered by many to be the king of cheeses, Roquefort is a sheep’s milk cheese from the Causes area in France. It is made in cylinder shapes and has a rich, strong taste. It is used as a table cheese, and also in salad dressings.
Mycella A Danish cheese made from cow’s milk, Mycella has blue-green veins. It is mainly used as a table cheese, but can also be used in salads and salad dressings
Bleu de Bresse A French creamy blue-veined cheese made from cow’s milk. It is soft-textured and has a rich taste. It is a good dessert cheese and is also used in fromage cardinal, a blend of cheese and paprika.
Dolcelatte A Gorgonzola-type cow’s milk cheese from Italy. Made in cylinder shapes.
Blue Castello A Danish double cream soft textured cheese made from cow’s milk.
Pipo crem A popular French blue-veined cow’s milk cheese made in long cylinder shapes.
Fourme d’ Ambert A French blue-veined cow’s milk cheese made in tall cylinder shapes.
Danish Blue (Danablu) A Danish cheese made from homogenized cow’s milk, it is soft textured and creamy with a fairly strong taste, and makes a good dessert cheese. It is made in wheel shapes.
Blue Stilton A semi-hard English blue-veined cheese made from cow’s milk, it comes in tall cylinder shapes.
Blue Cheshire A worthy rival to Stilton, Blue Cheshire is an English semi-hard cheese made from cow’s milk. It has a rich taste and is best served as a dessert cheese. It is made in cylinder shapes.
Bavarian Blue A double cream, soft textured blue-veined cheese from West Germany. Made from cow’s milk, it has a creamy texture and spreads well, making it good for sandwiches. It is made in small wheel shapes.
Blue Shropshire A new arrival amongst blue cheeses and made, not in Shropshire, England, rather in Scotland. It comes in cylinder shapes