The History of Cheese Making

The history of cheese making reflects a combination of ingenuity and necessity. Knowing how various cheeses were made will make you appreciate this food even more.

While there is no proven date for when cheese was first made, it is known that cheese making most likely originated in the Middle East, Europe or Central Asia before Roman times. Some believe that cheese making was around at the time sheep were first domesticated (8000 BCE), but other sources say cheese making came to be around 3000 BCE.

Cheese may have resulted from a method of storing milk, especially since many items in the past were stored in containers made from the stomachs of animals. Stomachs contain rennet, which would have curdled the milk and turned it to curds and whey.

When the pilgrims came to America, they brought cheese with them, and it soon became a staple of the American diet. Over the years, local farms began producing cheese in larger quantities. The first cheese factory was built in 1851 in Oneida County, NY by Jesse Williams.

Cheese makers in the United States came from all over the world, bringing with them their local cheese recipes. Some of the popular cheeses include Swiss cheese (from Switzerland), Mozzarella, Provolone and Gorgonzola (from Italy), Cheddar (from England), Gouda and Edam (from the Netherlands) and Muenster and Limburger (from Germany).

There are also American cheeses, such as Colby, first made in Wisconsin. Three of America's early cheese makers still operate in Vermont: Crowley Cheese, which was established in 1824, Grafton Cheese Company, which was established in 1892 and Cabot Creamery, which was established in 1893.

Today, we have a plethora of cheese making supplies, but anyone can make cheese with the basics: a stainless steel double boiler, stainless steel spoons, a stainless steel long-bladed knife (for cutting curds) and cheesecloth. 

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When it comes to making cheese at home, you need to be prepared, have the proper equipment and know what you are getting into. Cheese making kits are available to help the process along, but care must be taken for each step.

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Cheese making equipment does not have to be complex, but the one rule you should remember is that cheese is very acidic. All utensils should be stainless steel or plastic, as the acid will eat aluminum cooking implements.

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