Origin and history of cheese

The production of cheese was probably discovered at the same time by several communities. Sheep were domesticated 12000 years ago, and in ancient Egypt cows were looked after and milked so it is logical to think that cheese would also have been made. The milk was preserved in skin, porous ceramic or wooden bags but it was hard to keep it clean and the milk quickly fermented. The next step was to separate the curd from the whey and to produce some sort of fresh cheese without rennet and this had a strong and acidic taste. Legend has it that an Arab shepherd was returning to his home with the sheeps' milk in a bag made from the innards of one of his sheep, and after walking in the heat of the sun, he opened the bag and the milk had set solid, and had turned into cheese.

The Romans included it in their diet, and seasoned it with thyme, pepper, pine nuts and other nuts, and when their soldiers were settled in their campsites, they made cheese. Ancient times were littered with references to fresh and curd cheese. In ancient Greece it was not eaten on its own but was mixed with flour, honey, oil, raisins and almonds, and it can be found in ancient recipes of valued dishes and sweets.

The name of the product comes from the Greek word "fornos" which was the name for a cheese basket, and from it derives the French word "fromage", the Catalan word "formatge" and the Italian word "formaggio", and the Latin word "caseus" from which originates the Spanish word "queso" , the Anglo-Saxon word "cheese", and the principal casein starch in milk and cheese. In the Middle Ages, religious orders became important areas for agricultural activities, and cheese took on special importance during the many days of fasting when it was forbidden to eat meat. Subsequently, different types of cheese were created and brought variety to a limited diet.

The boom in business and the increase in the urban population meant that cheese became an important product for the economy, and it began to be marketed outside its areas and borders of production, and when the New World was colonised, the traditional cheese production methods were also taken there.

At first, raw milk was always used, but in the 1850's, the microbiologist Louis Pasteur discovered pasteurisation which changed the way in which cheese was produced. It started to be mixed with milk from different sources and animals in order to obtain a homogenous product and it greatly reduced the risk of organisms which might damage the process.

Source: www.mundoquesos.com

In Spain, cheese made from sheeps and goats milk was made much later than cow's milk cheese , but in other countries both reindeer and buffalos were used, the example being mozzarella.

According to data in 2007 provided by USDA/FAS & Eurostat (Department of Agriculture in the United States /Federation of American Scientists and European Statistics) , the main consumption of cheese by countries was headed by Greece with 37,4 Kg per person per year, followed by the French with 23,6 Kg, then the Maltese with 22,5 Kg, the Germans with 20,6 Kg followed by the Austrians with 18Kg, the Cypriots with 16,6 Kg, the Americans 14,9 Kg, the Argentinians with 11,1 Kg, the Australians with 10,4 Kg, and the last on the list of the first ten are the inhabitants of the United Kingdom with 10,1 Kg. This data may quickly change as there are countries where the consumption remains stable for many years whereas others, such as the United States, are fast increasing and has practially tripled in the last 30 years.

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Carrer Es Banyer, 64 | 07730 - Alaior (Minorca) | Tel +34 971 371 072
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