The Complete Book of Cheese by Bob Brown Illustrations by Eric
Blegvad Includes the A- Z of Cheese Cheese is a food derived from
milk that is produced in a wide range of flavors, textures, and
forms by coagulation of the milk protein casein. It comprises
proteins and fat from milk, usually the milk of cows, buffalo,
goats, or sheep. During production, the milk is usually acidified,
and adding the enzyme rennet causes coagulation. The solids are
separated and pressed into final form. Some cheeses have molds on
the rind or throughout. Most cheeses melt at cooking temperature.
Hundreds of types of cheese from various countries are produced.
Their styles, textures and flavors depend on the origin of the milk
(including the animal's diet), whether they have been pasteurized,
the butterfat content, the bacteria and mold, the processing, and
aging. Herbs, spices, or wood smoke may be used as flavoring
agents. The yellow to red color of many cheeses, such as Red
Leicester, is produced by adding annatto. For a few cheeses, the
milk is curdled by adding acids such as vinegar or lemon juice.
Most cheeses are acidified to a lesser degree by bacteria, which
turn milk sugars into lactic acid, then the addition of rennet
completes the curdling. Vegetarian alternatives to rennet are
available; most are produced by fermentation of the fungus Mucor
miehei, but others have been extracted from various species of the
Cynara thistle family. Cheese market day in a town in the north of
Holland. All the cheese-fanciers are out, thumping the cannon-ball
Edams and the millstone Goudas with their bare red knuckles,
plugging in with a hollow steel tool for samples. In Holland the
business of judging a crumb of cheese has been taken with great
seriousness for centuries. The abracadabra is comparable to that of
the wine-taster or tea-taster. These Edamers have the trained ear
of music-masters and, merely by knuckle-rapping, can tell down to
an air pocket left by a gas bubble just how mature the interior is.
The connoisseurs use gingerbread as a mouth-freshener; and I, too,
that sunny day among the Edams, kept my gingerbread handy and made
my way from one fine cheese to another, trying out generous plugs
from the heaped cannon balls that looked like the ammunition dump
at Antietam. I remember another market day, this time in Lucerne.
All morning I stocked up on good Schweizerkase and better Gruyere.
For lunch I had cheese salad. All around me the farmers were
rolling two-hundred-pound Emmentalers, bigger than oxcart wheels. I
sat in a little cafe, absorbing cheese and cheese lore in equal
quantities. I learned that a prize cheese must be chock-full of
equal-sized eyes, the gas holes produced during fermentation. They
must glisten like polished bar glass. The cheese itself must be of
a light, lemonish yellow. Its flavor must be nutlike. (Nuts and
Swiss cheese complement each other as subtly as Gorgonzola and a
ripe banana.) There are, I learned, "blind" Swiss cheeses as well,
but the million-eyed ones are better.
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