Cheese is a food produced by separating milk solids from whey by curdling or coagu-lation.This curdling is brought about by introducing selected bacteria or an enzyme called rennet into the milk.The resulting curds are drained, processed, and cured or aged in a variety of ways.
Processing techniques are so numerous that from a single basic ingredient (milk from cows, sheep, or goats) it is possible to produce hundreds of kinds of cheese, from cottage cheese to parmesan, from cheddar to Swiss, from blue to Limburger.Variables that produce these differences include the type of milk used, the method of curdling and the temperatures during curdling, the method of cutting and draining the curd, the way the curds are heated, pressed, or handled, and all the conditions of ripening or curing.
Ripening is the process that converts freshly made curds into distinctive, flavorful cheeses. Ripening is brought about by certain bacteria or molds that are introduced during manufacture. Much of a cheese's final character is determined by the kind of ripening agent and the way it acts on the cheese.
Cheeses can be classified by the way in which they are ripened. Bacteria ripened from inside, such as cheddar, Swiss, Gouda, and parmesan.This category includes most hard-ripened and hard grating cheeses.These ripen uniformly throughout the interior.
Washed-rind cheeses, such as Limburger and Liederkranz.These are called washed-rind cheeses because the surface of each cheese is periodically washed with a salt brine solution during the first stages of aging and ripening.Washed-rind cheeses usually have an orange or reddish rind that is thinner than the mold rind of mold-ripened cheeses. They usually become softer as they ripen. Many washed-rind cheeses have a pungent aroma when ripe.
Blue-veined cheeses, such as Roquefort and Stilton.These contain mold cultures that spread through the interior of the cheese.
Mold-rind cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert, and St. André. These have a mold crust or rind that is white and velvety when the cheese is young but that may darken or become mottled with orange or brown as the cheese ages.
Unripened cheeses, such as cottage,cream,and baker s cheese.
The three major components of cheese are water, fat, and protein.The water content of cheese ranges from about 80 percent for a fresh, soft cheese like cottage cheese to about 30 percent for a very hard, aged cheese like parmesan.
The fat content of cheese, when it is listed on a label, generally refers to the percentage of solids. In other words, if a cheddar cheese has a 50 percent fat content, this means that the cheese would be 50 percent fat if all the moisture were removed. In fact, the cheese may have a moisture content of about 40 percent, and its actual fat content may be about 30 percent of the total.
Double-crème (at least 60 percent fat) and triple-crème (at least 75 percent fat, dry weight) are very rich cheeses. Most of these styles of cheese originated in France, but they have become popular and are now made in many countries. Most of them fall into the unripened, soft-ripened, or blue-veined categories, discussed below.
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