Cheese is a generic term for a diverse group of milk-based food products. Cheese is produced in wide-ranging flavors, textures, and forms.
Cheese consists of proteins and fat from milk, usually the milk of cows, buffalo, goats, or sheep. It is produced by coagulation of the milk protein casein. Typically, the milk is acidified and addition of the enzyme rennet causes coagulation. The solids are separated and pressed into final form. Some cheeses have molds on the rind or throughout. Most cheeses melt at cooking temperature.
Hundreds of types of cheese are produced. Their styles, textures and flavors depend on the origin of the milk (including the animal's diet), whether they have been pasteurized, the butterfat content, the bacteria and mold, the processing, and aging. Herbs, spices, or wood smoke may be used as flavoring agents. The yellow to red color of many cheeses, such as Red Leicester, is formed from adding annatto.
For a few cheeses, the milk is curdled by adding acids such as vinegar or lemon juice. Most cheeses are acidified to a lesser degree by bacteria, which turn milk sugars into lactic acid, then the addition of rennet completes the curdling. Vegetarian alternatives to rennet are available; most are produced by fermentation of the fungus Mucor miehei, but others have been extracted from various species of the Cynara thistle family.
Cheese is valued for its portability, long life, and high content of fat, protein, calcium, and phosphorus. Cheese is more compact and has a longer shelf life than milk, although how long a cheese will keep may depend on the type of cheese; labels on packets of cheese often claim that a cheese should be consumed within three to five days of opening. Generally speaking, hard cheeses last longer than soft cheeses, such as Brie or goat's milk cheese. Cheesemakers near a dairy region may benefit from fresher, lower-priced milk, and lower shipping costs. The long storage life of some cheese, especially if it is encased in a protective rind, allows selling when markets are favorable. Additional ingredients may be added to some cheeses, such as black peppers, garlic, chives or cranberries.
A specialist seller of cheese is sometimes known as a cheesemonger. To become an expert in this field, like wine or cooking, requires some formal education and years of tasting and hands-on experience. This position is typically responsible for all aspects of the cheese inventory; selecting the cheese menu, purchasing, receiving, storage, and ripening.
Famous quotes containing the word cheese:
“I may be able to spot arrowheads on the desert but a refrigerator is a jungle in which I am easily lost. My wife, however, will unerringly point out that the cheese or the leftover roast is hiding right in front of my eyes. Hundreds of such experiences convince me that men and women often inhabit quite different visual worlds. These are differences which cannot be attributed to variations in visual acuity. Man and women simply have learned to use their eyes in very different ways.”
—Edward T. Hall (b. 1914)
“A cheese may disappoint. It may be dull, it may be naive, it may be oversophisticated. Yet it remains cheese, milks leap toward immortality.”
—Clifton Fadiman (b. 1904)
“Upscale people are fixated with food simply because they are now able to eat so much of it without getting fat, and the reason they dont get fat is that they maintain a profligate level of calorie expenditure. The very same people whose evenings begin with melted goats cheese ... get up at dawn to run, break for a mid-morning aerobics class, and watch the evening news while racing on a stationary bicycle.”
—Barbara Ehrenreich (b. 1941)