A slice of history: the 4,000 year love affair with cheese
Grab a wheel of your favorite cheese and get ready to travel back in time to the birth of cheese-making. It all started around 4,200 years ago when some clever nomadic tribes in the Middle East and Central Asia discovered that animal stomachs or bladders could be used to store milk for longer periods. Who knew that the key to preserving milk was in a cow's stomach?
These organs contained rennet, which naturally curdled the milk and separated the solids from the liquid. The solids were then drained and formed into cheese. It was a dairy miracle!
As cheese-making became more popular, different regions started to develop their own unique techniques and recipes. The ancient Egyptians were especially fond of cheese-making and produced a variety of cheeses, including a soft, spreadable cheese similar to modern-day cream cheese, as well as a hard, salty cheese similar to feta. The Egyptians even believed that the god of agriculture, Osiris, taught them how to make cheese. That's one divine dairy connection!
One of the earliest references to cheese in literature can be found in the Bible. The book of Job mentions cheese, describing it as a food fit for kings. In Job 10:10, Job laments his current state and says, "Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese?"
During the Middle Ages, cheese-making became a major industry in Europe, with monasteries and convents producing large quantities of cheese. These religious folks were serious about their cheese and had their own unique recipes, some of which have been passed down through the generations and are still used today. Imagine being in a monastery surrounded by wheels of cheese, it's like heaven on earth!
One of the most famous cheeses with a long history is Parmigiano Reggiano, or Parmesan cheese. This hard, aged cheese has been produced in Italy for over 800 years using a traditional process that has remained largely unchanged. The milk is heated and curdled, then the curds are pressed into large wheels and aged for up to 36 months. It's a cheese that has stood the test of time and tastes just as delicious now as it did centuries ago.
Another iconic cheese with a rich history is Roquefort cheese. This blue cheese has been produced in France since at least the 11th century using the Penicillium roqueforti mold, which is found naturally in the caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. The cheese is aged for several months in the caves, where the cool, damp conditions promote the growth of the mold and give the cheese its distinctive blue veins. Who knew that moldy caves could be so delicious?
The Amish, a religious group known for their traditional way of life, have been making cheese for several centuries. Their cheese-making secrets are believed to have been brought to America by Swiss-German immigrants in the 18th century.
For the Amish, who are known for their commitment to simple living and self-sufficiency, cheese-making is an important part of their way of life and a way to preserve surplus milk. They have become famous for their varieties of cheese, including cheddar, Colby, Swiss, and pepper jack.
Simply Cheese is proud to offer authentic Amish cheese from small family farms in Ohio and Pennsylvania. So the next time you take a bite of one of our delicious pieces of Amish cheese, remember the ingenuity and commitment to tradition that went into making it - it's a taste of history and a cheesy delight that you won't want to miss!