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Cheese | An International Star

Cheese is one of the oldest and most widely used foods. It can be served alone or incorporated into a prepared dish as a principle ingredient or it can be used to accompany a wide array of presentations.

Cheese is a food product made from the pressed curd of milk and/or cream. It is believed that goat and sheep milk were the first milks used to prepare cheese. This assumption is drawn from the idea that these were the first milk-producing animals that were domesticated. Today, cow's milk is the basis for most cheeses, which are produced. It is followed in turn by sheep's milk, goat's milk and water buffalo's milk. Yaks, camels and Llama are also milk-producing animals whose milk are utilized to prepare cheeses.

Cheeses are a product of their environment. Certain cheeses, which are produced in France or Italy, cannot be reproduced in other parts of the world because the environment isn't the same. The milk derived from the animals in France is being exposed to foods, nutrients, wild spores and climate changes, which are distinct to France. There are even cheeses prepared in certain regions of France which cannot be replicated in other regions because of climate differences. All this information should lead to the realization that there are thousands of different kinds of cheese found throughout the world.

The basic principles behind the preparation of natural cheese are pretty much the same today as they were hundreds of years ago. Today, many of the steps have been mechanized.

To begin the process, an enzyme (usually rennet) is added to the milk causing the proteins to coagulate. Rennet is a natural enzyme, which is extracted from a calf's stomach. As the milk coagulates, it separates into solid curds and liquid whey. After the whey is drained away, the curd can be utilized to create fresh cheese such as Ricotta or Cottage cheese. Many people refer to the cheese at this stage as green cheese. It doesn't refer to the cheese's color, but instead refers to the cheese's age. It is still very young.

From here, the green cheese is packed into molds where it is allowed to naturally drain even further or it is pressed to forcibly remove the moisture. Salt and different bacteria can be added to these molded cheeses. They are then allowed to age or ripen under controlled conditions to develop the desired color, texture and flavor.

Some cheeses are aged in technologically advanced climate controlled systems. Others, like Stilton, are allowed to age in specific caves where crosswinds of cool, moist air bring a distinct flavor and fragrance to the cheese. These characteristics cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the world. Stilton is a true example of a cheese that's a product of its environment. For most cheeses, the aging process can last from 3 months to one year or longer, depending on the final product that is desired.

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