General Terms and Definitions
Technically, "cheddaring" is the process of pressing the curds
and standing them for a few minutes to a couple hours after separating
from the whey. This develops a desired texture. Although many cheeses
are "cheddared", in trade the name is applied to certain aged cheeses
resembling those originally made in England. Cheddaring develops a
fibrous texture, but "Cheddar" cheeses are ground after cheddaring to
make them smooth.
"Cheddar" cheeses are now made in many countries, in a very wide
range of versions and an even wider range of quality.
- Natural Cheddar: These cheeses are made by traditional
processes and properly aged. They are generally dense, firm, and tangy.
They may be in "Mild", "Medium", "Sharp" and "Extra Sharp" versions,
the designation depending on aging. The longer the age, the sharper
the flavor and the firmer and more crumbly the texture. Natural
cheddar melts well and is smooth and not rubbery when melted. It can
be white to orange depending on how much annatto is added for color.
- Industrial Cheddar: This is a product of large factories
and resembles real cheese - to an extent. It is almost always a "mild"
grade. It melts into a rubbery mess, making it totally unsuitable
for uses like Welsh Rabbit. For this reason it is usually grated before
adding to anything that will be cooked. Ingredients are often various
milk extractions with chemical stabilizers and artificial color.
Generically, any freshly made unsalted or very lightly salted,
unaged whole milk or part skim milk cheese. These are made in every
region where cheese is made, often in households or on farms, but also
in factories, particularly here in Southern California where the demand
is very high and safety controls are very tight.
Fresh cheeses are subject to rapid spoiling (5 days or so
refrigerated) and can easily become contaminated with pathogens if due
care is not taken. These cheeses are predominantly soft, but can be
firm, and are white unless dyed.
Goat cheese is a generic term for a fresh white cheese made from the
milk of goats. American goat cheese tends to be made up into logs about
1-1/2 inches diameter and can be quite soft while Greek goat cheese is
often firmer and made up into blocks or packed in plastic tubs.
Goat cheese becomes very soft when heated but does not become runny.
How Cheese is Made
The full process listed here would be for an aged and ripened cheese. The
process is varied for different types of cheeses and some cheeses don't go
through all the steps, particularly fresh cheeses will not be aged and
loose cheeses will not be pressed.
Major Cheese Making Regions
- First you milk your beast - cow, goat, sheep, buffalo, camel or
whatever. The milk may be used as is, or it may be skimmed, or enhanced
with extra cream, or you may pasteurize it, even homogenize it, depending
on the cheese you are making. Some, like Swiss, can't be made from
pasteurized milk and some soft cheeses just don't taste the same if not
made from raw milk.
- You warm the milk and add a starter bacteria culture to increase the
acidity of the milk so it will curdle properly.
- At a particular point you add a curdling agent. For simple farmhouse
cheeses like Paneer or some recipes
for Farmer Cheese, lemon juice is both acidifier and does the curdling,
no starter being used. More elaborate cheeses will use rennet (extracted
from the fourth stomach of a suckling calf (some disassembly required))
or now more commonly produced by genetically engineered bacteria
(vegetable - microbial rennet) in large factory vats. Other curdling
agents are also used.
- You cut the congealed mass with a long knife to allow the whey (watery
part) to drain off the curds (gel part).
- The curds are gently cooked to further coagulate them and make them
more firm. Most cheeses are cooked in the whey, but for "washed curd"
cheeses like colby the whey is replaced with water to produce a milder
- The curds are then "cheddared" for a few minutes
to a couple of hours by piling them up in a mass. The weight produces a
fibrous texture. Some milder cheeses like Colby are not cheddared.
- You then "mill" the cheese which may be stretching and kneading to
enhance the fibrousness (Mozzarella),
or grind it up to make it smooth
- The cheese is then salted and pressed to remove the last of the whey
and slow further fermentation.
- You can now age the cheese and further develop it with special molds
(blue cheeses) or bacteria. "Fresh" cheeses are not aged and some are
pickled in brine (Feta, Nabulsi).
Anatolia & Caucasus
- Armenia doesn't
need to export a lot of cheese to the U.S. because tons of Armenian
cheeses are made every day here in California. Georgian cheeses are
also made here.
- Turkey is a
major cheese producer and exporter, particularly of white goat and
sheep cheeses preserved with salt or brine. Semi-hard cheeses are also
made and some foreign style cheeses for export. Many other types are
made all over Turkey, but these are the major varieties.
is the second largest cheese producer in North America but is first
in producing many ethnic cheeses to satisfy our diverse population.
California is also a hotbed of artisanal cheese makers producing
very high quality products - and has plenty of yuppies to buy them.
- Mexico / California
. Mexican cooking uses a lot of cheese, and Mexican cheeses
are unique, so California churns out Mexican cheeses in vast tonnage
to satisfy our large Mexican population.
is the largest cheese producer in North America, and guilty of many
tons of "industrial" cheeses. Lacking the ethnic diversity of
California, they produce fewer types of cheese, but do make some
very fine cheddar and hard Italian style cheeses. Some Near Eastern
cheeses are also made there.
- famous for Danish Blue cheese and for a feta which can't be called
feta anymore due to a lawsuit by Greece. Many other cheeses are
- France -
the Mecca of cheese - France produces a bewildering array of cheese
types, and many of the highest quality cheeses found anywhere in the
- Greece, Balkans, Southeast
Europe This is the region where cheese was probably
invented. It is much known for goat and sheep cheeses.
- Holland became
famous hundreds of years ago for excellent cheeses that stood up
well to shipment by sailing ships. These cheeses are still popular.
- Italy makes
almost as many different cheeses as France and has a similar attitude
regarding quality. Unlike French cheeses, the Italian cheeses are
used much more in cooking than on cheese plates.
is well known for the bubble riddled "Swiss Cheese" (Emmentaler) that
is imitated worldwide with various degrees of success, but the
country makes a number of other aged cheeses, mostly hard but some
India has a long
dairy tradition in the north, but also has customs forbidding food to
be held overnight and strictures on using animal rennet for coagulation.
For these reason the only cheese much used there is Paneer, an acid
coagulated cheese that can be used the day it is made. Paneer is not
much used in southern India because the population there is largely
Near & Middle East:
While not widely known as a
cheese producing region, the Near and Middle East (and we'll toss in
North Africa, including Egypt here too) do make some unique cheeses.
Health & Nutrition
Cheese is very high in protein, and often turned to by Ovo-Lacto
vegetarians to help them get adequate protein. This is also complete
protein which needs no supplementation. Cheese, however, is also high
in fats, so must be used with discretion.
Lactose Intolerance: All cheeses contain
some lactose, a milk sugar, but the amount varies greatly. Lactose
intolerant people can often eat cheeses that are aged more than three
months because the lactose is turned into easily digestible lactic acid
Process cheeses like Velveeta have the most lactose, as much as fresh
milk, followed by Mexican Queso Fresco and other fresh, unaged cheeses.
A lactose intolerant person can often build up a tolerance by starting
with aged cheeses and gradually moving to the less aged.
Protein Intolerance: The main protein milk
contributes to cheese is casein, which is precipitated out in the
curdling process. This leaves several other proteins still dissolved in
the whey. These can be used to make some other cheeses, like Ricotta.
Some people can be allergic to casein, or whey proteins, or both. This
is called "Dairy Allergies", which is entirely different from Lactose