What ever happened to the ‘power of cheese’ commercials? In my opinion, cheese is underrated! It is high in nutrition, a complete protein, low in carbs, and high in calcium! Yes, it is also high in fat, but every thing in moderation, right? A few weekends ago, my dad made homemade cheese. It was so yummy and I was actually surprised at how easy it was (recipe to follow).
When making cheese, you are striving to coagulate casein – one of two main proteins found in milk, the other being whey. There are a few ways to coagulate the protein, one of the most popular is to enzymatically coagulate it by using enzymes. You can use renin from cows rumens, or other enzymes from bacteria and molds (these can add flavors to the cheese – stinky cheeses as I called them when I was little). The enzymes will work to break apart the casein protein, which will further trap water, fats, and minerals to make the curd. Post curd, the leftover liquid is whey, which is mainly water and vitamins. The curd is further treated; it can be salted, cut, heated, or knitted to form a solid mass. After the curd is treated, the cheese can be ripened, aged, or cured. These methods allow the cheeses to develop their unique flavors and characteristics.
Ripening and curing are especially important in defining the type of cheese. The types created by ripening and/or curing are: fresh/young, soft, semisoft, firm, and hard. Cheeses that have no ripening or curing are fresh (sometimes called young) cheeses. These cheeses have a high moisture content and include: mozzarella, cream cheese, ricotta, and feta. Soft cheeses are quick to ripen, have a thin skin and a creamy center. Two examples of soft cheeses are brie and boursin. Semisoft cheeses are smooth and sliceable and include: gorgonzola, fontina, gouda, havarti, and stilton. Firm cheeses are not brittle, but only contain 30-40% moisture. These are your cheddar, monterey jack, and manchego cheeses. The hard and very hard cheeses are aged for a long time and are best for grating. The most popular types of these are your Italian cheeses, including asiago, pecorino romano (my personal favorite), and parmigiano reggiano (better known as parmesan).
There you have it! A short and sweet explanation of one of my favorite foods – CHEESE!