The story of cheese

History

No one really knows who made the first cheese and when. According to an ancient legend, it happened accidentally when an Arabian merchant who had put his supply of milk into a pouch made from a sheep’s stomach, set out on a longer journey across the desert. The rennet in the lining of the milk container, combined with the heat of the sun, caused the milk to separate into quite solid curd and whey. To his disappointment, that night he had no milk to drink, but he found that the whey satisfied his thirst, and the cheese (curd) had a delightful flavour, which satisfied his hunger. The microbes contained in milk together with the bioactive substances in the sheep stomach combined with the heating effect of the sun together with the swaying movement of the pouch, and the pressure onto it turned the milk into curd. It is probable that the process of cheese making was discovered accidentally first in Asia and Arabia from where it later on spread to Europe. The earliest cheeses were probably made 6000-7000 years ago.

Making and eating cheese was popular in ancient Rome: there were even special cheese kitchens in the households of wealthy Romans. The contribution of Romans into cheese making is considerable: they initiated aging and smoking of cheese which both prolong the preservation time of cheese. The Latin word “caseus” meaning cheese and having reference to casein – a family of milk proteins, has been inspiration for the English word “cheese”, German “Käse”, Italian “queso”, and Dutch “kaas”.

In Estonia, cheese has been known for centuries; first written records of cheese are from the 14thcentury. Back then cheese was enjoyed as a dessert by wealthy city freemen and landlords. In the Middle Ages, local people were suspicious of eating cheese: according to them cheese was food that had gone off: cheese kept aging for a long time and it had a peculiar smell. Cheese making started spreading in the dairies of Estonia’s country estates during the 19th century and it gained popularity with founding of co-operative dairies in the first half of the 20th century.

Today there are about 4000 different varieties of cheese. Many of them are world-famous, such as the Swiss-style, Italian, or French cheeses.

 

Types of cheese

Cheese can be grouped according to their firmness (“hard”, “semi-hard”, “semi-soft” and  “soft”), method of ripening (surface/external ripening, internal ripening, fresh/unripened cheese), or source of milk used.

We have selected four varieties of cheese that are in our production.

Gouda – semi-hard traditional Dutch cheese is one of the most popular cheeses in the world. It has a mild, even slightly sweet flavour and soft texture easy to grate, slice, dice, or process. Matured Gouda has an intense aroma and pairs well with good-quality full-bodied red wine, such as Pinor Noir from Burgundy. Gouda cheeses go perfectly both into savoury and sweet dishes.

Edam is a well sliceable semi-hard Dutch cheese, but a bit softer than Gouda, with a pale yellow interior and a very mild clear flavour. The cheese has a coat, or rind, of red film, wax or paraffin wax. It is ideal for casseroles and tastes good on sandwiches.

Tilsit or Tilsiter cheese is a light yellow semi-hard mild tasting cheese with a slightly acidic flavour and an open, lace-like texture. Tilsiter is a complement to rye breads and dark beers.

The Swiss-type cheese is light yellow and slightly glossy; with exquisite sweet and nutty flavour. Swiss cheese goes well with fruit – apples, pears, and grapes, but also with thinly sliced prosciutto and salami. Serve Tilsiter paired with white or red wine, or even tomato juice.

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Tips for preservation and serving

  • To keep its aroma and flavour, unpasteurised cheese should be sliced immediately before serving.
  • Cheese has to be kept at approximately the same temperature as it ripens. For instance, hard, semi-hard, and semi-soft cheese should be preserved at 8-13º C.
  • Wrap cheese into waxed paper and put it into a bag before storing, so that the cheese would not lose its humidity.
  • Blue and white mould-cured cheeses must be carefully wrapped up into paper to avoid the mould from spreading to other foods.
  • In order to intensify the flavour and aroma of the cheese, keep it at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or even up to two hours before serving. The taste of refrigerated cheese is not as intense as that of the cheese kept at room temperature.
  • Cheese should not be kept next to other food products with intense aromas, as that can easily affect its flavour and quality.
  • Soft cheeses need to be gently wrapped into waxed or fat-proof paper.

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Benefits of cheese

  • Cheese is a good source of protein, magnesium and calcium. It contains proteins of high biological value, various milk fats, minerals, and vitamins.
  • Cheese is nutritious. It contains substances strengthening hair and teeth.
  • Cheese is a non-cariogenic food.
  • Cheese proteins are considerably more processed compared to milk proteins thanks to which they do not cause lactose intolerance. If a product is completely lactose-free, the text on the packaging includes the following: carbohydrates – 0 g
  • Cheese has always been valued for its nutrition, long shelf-life and delicious taste. In addition to that cheese is rich in substances that stimulate our metabolism: proteins of high biological value, various milk fats, minerals, and vitamins.
  • Proteins form the most valuable part of cheese. Cheese as such is a dry matter of milk (mainly proteins and fats), processed and enriched by the micro-organisms of the leavening in the process of cheese making.
  • Fats contained in cheese form another significant group of essential nutrients shaping the flavour of cheese. Cheese is rich in fats and calories, and people watching their weight should be careful about their consumption of dairy products.
  • People with very high cholesterol should prefer light low-fat cheeses that are also lower in cholesterol.