The first cheese 2000 years ago!

According to legend, cheese was first made in the Middle East when a man travelled  across the desert with his saddlebag full of milk for the journey. After some time he stopped for a drink and found that the milk had soured. It had become solid lumps and watery liquid, or curds and whey.

The most popular kind of cheese is cheddar. It was named after a village called Cheddar in England where it was first made. The cheese was left in the nearby Cheddar Gorge caves to mature.

Making cheese is a four step process

The first step in cheese making is to separate the curds from the whey. Getty Images

The first step in cheese making is to separate the curds from the whey. Getty Images

The curds are the solid part of milk, and consist of protein, fat, water and a small amount of sugar and milk. The whey is the liquid that separates from the solid. It contains sugar.

To make cheese the curds must be separated from the whey. This first step is called curdling.

Cheddar is made by heating the curds sothey lose moisture, or whey, then pressing them so that even more moisture is lost. The last of the whey is then drained off.  This second step is called draining.

As cheese ripens it is inspected and turned. ©Getty Images

As cheese ripens it is inspected and turned. ©Getty Images

First the curd is cut into large blocks which are stacked on racks, then rotated so that different ones are on top. This is called 'cheddaring'. 

The next stage is to mill the curds into small pieces and add salt. The curd is then put into big hoops lined with cheesecloth and pressed. This is the third step and is called pressing.

After this the cheese is left to mature, kept at 12º C. Every few weeks the cheeses are turned and brushed so that they mature evenly. The longer it is stored, the more flavour a cheese develops. Tasty cheddar is usually stored for 4-8 months. This is the fourth and final step and is called ripening.

Modern methods of cheesemaking have made the cheese flavours more standard. Instead of using cheesecloth, large blocks of cheddar are pressed into blocks which are then vacuum-packed. This doesn't allow the cheese to breathe and form a rind like the traditional method, but it does make it cheaper to make cheese.

Watch a video showing how cheese is made in a factory

Why cheese is good to eat. 

Cheese is packed with the protein that we all need to grow. Hard cheese is source of calcium a mineral that is good for our bones and teeth. Cheese is a source of vitamin B12, which we need for red blood cells to form.

A small selection of cheeses. ©Getty Images

A small selection of cheeses. ©Getty Images

 

Other cheesy facts

  • Cows take about 60 hours to turn grass into milk. 
  • 10 litres of milk are needed to make 1 kg of cheese. 
  • The average Australian eats over 9kg of cheese a year!

Go here to read more information on a database of over 900 different cheese types.

This cheese is made from goat's milk.There are also cheeses made from sheep's milk. ©Getty Images

This cheese is made from goat's milk.There are also cheeses made from sheep's milk. ©Getty Images