Hope everyone had a relaxing, delicious Easter break – I sure did. Along with hot cross buns and chocolate eggs I treated myself to a decent slice of Le Marquis, a beautiful surface-ripened goat milk cheese from the Rhone Valley in south-eastern France.
While munching on it, I was contemplating on a cheese masterclass I attended earlier this month at the Calendar Cheese Company.
During the afternoon I learnt all the essentials about cheese, and suddenly there was a whole new side to enjoying it. Not only did I experience the texture and taste, but also knew how the cheese had been made. So if you’d like to take your cheese tasting experience to a new level, I have outlined five things everyone should know about cheese.
1. Cheese is basically milk without water, invented for storing perishable milk in a better-keeping form. Milk is 87 % water, and cheesemaking involves a lot of steps for getting rid of it, such as cooking, pressing and aging.
2. Bacteria is a good thing because without it milk wouldn’t turn into cheese. In addition to removing moisture, cheesemaking is about acidifying the milk. This is done by creating bacteria that eat the lactose of the milk and turn it into lactic acid. The bacteria used in cheesemaking are called starter cultures, and the strain of cultures greatly affect the taste and texture of the cheese.
3 .Cheese only contains four main ingredients. In addition to milk and starter cultures, cheese typically contains only coagulant and salt. The most common coagulant in cheese is rennet, an enzyme that also turns lactose into lactic acid.
4. Many great cheeses were born by coincidence. Nowadays cheesemakers know exactly what strains of cultures they want to use, but originally different types of cheeses were created by a coincidental encounter of milk and local, natural microbes. Legend has it that Roquefort was born when a young shepherd in southern France saw a beautiful girl in the distance and left his lunch in a nearby cave. When he returned, the unique bacteria in the cave (Penicillium Roqueforti) had created blue veins in his plain cheese.
5. Milk matters.The type and quality of the milk used will greatly impact the flavour of the cheese. Cow’s milk provides a mild, neutral base for cheese, whereas goat and sheep’s milk have a distinctive flavour. Buffalo milk is again milder in taste, but a lot creamier than cow’s milk as it has twice as much fat.
Next time when you’re enjoying a piece of cheese, take a moment to think about its’ origin. And don’t hesitate to ask us about more than 100 types of cheese when you’re next visiting us at 'the Farm'! Jaana