Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How to Make Homemade Cheese

Whether your favorite cheese is cheddar, Edam, Mozzarella, Gouda or Swiss cheese, everyone can enjoy cheese as part of their diet. Cheese can be found in different types; hard, soft, mature, tangy, mellow, creamy or ripe. There are other types such as sheep’s milk cheese, goat’s cheese or buffalo cheese for people with lactose intolerance but each cheese has a distinctive and rich flavor. For most of us cheese is the backbone of many a dish or even a light meal. Although it does get knocked down for its fat content it is high in calcium and should be eaten moderately. Eating good quality cheese will also ensure that you only need a reasonable sized portion to be satisfied.

Can Cheese Be Made At Home?

Yes, cheese can most definitely be made at home.

Making cheese at home ensures that you have control over the ingredients that go into your cheese. This means you will not have to resort to using additives and preservatives used in commercial cheese. You can also choose to use organic ingredients such as the milk. It also means that young calves can actually stay with their mothers longer and are allowed to be part of a sociable herd and that there is no routine use of antibiotics nor are they fed with stimulants. When you make cheese at home, there is also a degree of quality control in your finished product. Not only this, you will get a great sense of satisfaction from mastering the recipe as it is one that requires time and patience. It will take a few tries to get the recipe right but you will learn through trial and error and the rewards will be worth it. Here is a simple and easy recipe to follow to make your own cheese.

Method Of Making Home Made Cheese

Add either yogurt or crème fraiche (this depends on preference) into a large pan and leave for half an hour. This allows the milk to develop a rich flavor and encourages it to acidify. Next, place the pan over the heat and bring the milk to 28oC/82.4F slowly without scalding, keep it at this temperature. Then take rennet (4 drops) and dissolve in a small cup of water that was already boiled and then mix it into the milk. After the ingredients are mixed well, take the milk off of the heat and allow it to cool for about thirty minutes. This will cause the milk to set and the curd will separate. Line a colander with a piece of sterilized muslin then collect the curds by cutting them into small cubes and placing them on the muslin. Bring together the corners of the muslin and it will make a ‘pouch.’ This will allow the curds to drain which you should do for about 8 hours or you can leave overnight. After the cheese has drained, open the muslin and add in salt. Store the cheese in you fridge and consume within a few days as it will go off quicker than other hard cheeses.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

How Did Cheddar Cheese Get Its Name?

Like the famous cartoon mice we see on television, we too love our cheese. Whether its cheddar cheese on bread, mozzarella on pizza, smoked Gouda on a quiche or Swiss cheese and biscuits, we all have made cheese part of our diet. Cheese is considered to be one of the most wildly varied foods you can get. A visit to the local grocery store will reveal that there are various different types of cheese each with a different taste and smell to enjoy. The taste of the cheeses can be mild, rich, spicy, creamy, salty or sharp while the aroma can either be mild or intense. Produced all over the globe, cheese serves as a perfect pair for wine and an excellent way to finish a rich meal or just as a basic snack as part of our daily diet.

One of the most popular cheeses in the world is cheddar cheese. With different varieties available it is enjoyed by many of us.  Originating in England, it is now manufactured in large quantities in the United States, Australia and many other countries. Most of us are unaware of the history behind this cheese and how its name originated.

What Is Cheddar Cheese?

Cheddar cheese has a sharp taste and is a smooth and creamy cheese. It is usually made with cow’s milk and the unique feature of this type of cheese is that it undergoes a process called ‘cheddaring’. This is not common in other types of cheese. The natural color of the cheese is a sort of white color and then ‘annato’ is added which comes from an achiote tree or oil that is produced from paprika is added which produces the orange color. Sometimes different food colors are added too. The sharpness of this type of cheese depends on the ageing period of the cheese. The longer you leave it to age, the sharper the taste is and more crumbly. Cheddar is available in extra aged, aged, medium or mild.

Origin Of Cheddar Cheese

Cheddar cheese was developed by the village of Cheddar (Somerset, England). Somerset is believed to be rich in pastures and it was considered to be the center of the dairy industry in England. The local tale of how this cheese got its name is that a milkmaid had kept a bucket full of milk in the Cheddar caves and she had forgotten about getting it. It was later found that the milk was changed into a different item, but it tasted quite good. It was an incident that the villagers tried again to develop this product. Although there is no evidence to prove the exact time of invention of this type of cheese, it is believed to date back to the 12th century. There was no mass production at the time but through the years this cheese has become to be one of the popular types that undergo mass production with over 250 varieties of Cheddar available.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Brief History of Cheese

Cheese has a very long history dating back thousands of years. Egyptian murals from 2000 BCE show depictions of cheese making from the milk of goats and sheep. It is believed that these early Egyptian cheeses likely resembled the salty feta cheese we are familiar with today. Since sheep and goats were domesticated as early as 8000 BCE, the history of cheese could predate the ancient Egyptians, but there is no documented proof.

Throughout the world, cheeses have been made for centuries; however, many of the cheeses that we are most familiar with today weren’t documented until the Middle Ages. Although it is believed that the first cheeses were made in Asia, Europe became most known for its cheese making. Some of the origins of these cheeses came from unlikely sources. For example, monks in northern Italy first made the delicious Parmigiano-Reggiano. The delicious taste was credited to the monks’ cows being fed clover and lucerne. Monks are also credited with perfecting the techniques used to make Brie and Camembert in northern France. The Pilgrims brought cheese to America in 1620, and cheese making was first industrialized in the U.S. in New York in 1851.

Accidental Discovery?

It is believed that the origins of the first cheeses may have been the result of chance. After the domestication of these animals, milk from sheep and goats was commonly transported in the intestines of a slaughtered animal. In the stomachs of animals that are still nursing and have never eaten any kind of grass is a chemical called chymosin. This chemical is a natural coagulant, and it helps the young animal digest its mother’s milk. When added to acidified milk, it causes the milk to form curds that separate from the liquid whey. If is theorized that someone long ago was transporting milk in the intestines of a young animal, and the chymosin caused the formation of cheese curds in the milk. Salt may have been used to then cure the cheese curds. Many traditional cheeses today are still made using animal rennet, derived from the chymosin from the stomachs of young animals.

The Transformation From Milk Into Cheese

Once the basics about cheese making were learned throughout various regions of the world, the procedures and techniques used in cheese making were experimented with to produce different types of cheeses. Although the first cheeses were produced from the milk from goats and sheep, cow’s milk soon became a popular choice for cheese making. In some countries, the milk from a yak, buffalo, or other animal was used.
Each cheese begins with the addition of acid to the milk, followed by the addition of rennet. Although traditional rennet is derived from chymosin, plants such as nettles, thistle, and fig bark also contain coagulant enzymes that can be used instead of animal rennet. More recently, the enzymes of certain yeasts and bacteria have been used to make rennet; in the late 1980s, a method was created for injecting cow DNA into microbes to make rennet that closely resembled animal rennet without the need to slaughter a calf. After the curds are separated from the whey, the curds undergo various processes, such as additional cooking, smoking, curing, or aging to form the various varieties of cheeses. The unique process for each cheese gives the cheese its flavor and texture.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What Is The Best Cheese For A Salad Topping?

The best cheese for a salad topping depends both on the other ingredients in the salad and your own personal tastes. With the variety of cheeses available, any number of them makes a great topping for salads served on the side of a meal or as main dish salads. There are classic pairings as well as innovative combinations that you may never have tried.

Cheeses Used As Salad Toppings

Bleu cheese, such as stilton and Roquefort, are creamy, strong flavored cheeses that add a nice touch to simple greens. They are also a nice complement to salads contain sweet elements, such as apples, pears, or berries. Greek Feta cheese has a salty flavor that pairs well with many different salad ingredients. Parmesan cheese, with its nutty, salty flavor, is commonly used on pasta dishes as a topping, but is equally good when topping a salad. Cheddar cheese, with its rich, buttery flavor is another excellent choice for pairing with salad greens. Mild, savory Swiss cheese shredded on top of greens is also a delicious choice of salad toppings. Goat cheese, often served warm on top of salads, has a tangy taste that also complements a number of salads.

Green Salad

A simple green salad made with mixed lettuces, tomato, and cucumber can be topped with several different types of cheeses. Grated cheddar is a traditional pairing, but you can experiment with a combination of cheeses to add some variety. For example, some shredded Swiss cheese in addition to shredded cheddar make a nice combination. Depending on the type of dressing you use, you may want to try another cheese, such as feta with a simple vinaigrette dressing. Warm goat cheese or flavored feta is delicious on its own as well, so you can eliminate any dressing at all.

Spinach Salad

Spinach salad is also quite versatile and is delicious with a variety of cheese toppings. Paired with walnuts and a drizzle of olive oil, goat cheese is an excellent topping. A bit of crumbled bacon, along with a red wine vinaigrette and goat cheese is another delicious combination. Feta cheese can be used as well. Berries can also be added to a spinach salad with goat or feta cheese for a delicious touch.

Greek Salad

Feta cheese is traditionally used in this Mediterranean delight. Tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives, red onion, green pepper, seasoning, red wine vinegar, and olive oil topped with squares of feta cheese make up this classic treat. You can add or eliminate ingredients to suit your tastes, as the feta will complement variations.

Chicken Salad

Fresh grilled chicken strips over a bed of greens are delicious when topped with nonfat yogurt, tarragon, and crumbled bleu cheese, such as stilton, Roquefort, or gorgonzola. The strong flavor of the bleu cheese complements the simple flavors of the chicken and yogurt. It lso goes very well with aged Cheddar or Swiss.

Steak Salad

Thinly sliced steak over a bed of spinach or lettuces, along with some tomatoes and cucumbers is another salad that pairs well with bleu cheese. The bleu cheese brings out the richness of the meat for a delicious main dish salad.

Friday, August 2, 2013

What Is String Cheese?

String cheese is cheese that pulls off in strips, as opposed to breaking or crumbling typical of most cheeses. String cheese is most commonly sold as a snack item in the U.S., and it is especially popular with children. In other nations, such as Eastern Europe and the Middle East, braided cheese and string cheese are traditional products that are used in many ways.

How String Cheese Is Made

Typically, when cheeses are made, an acid is added to milk, and then rennet is added that causes curds to form in the milk. The curds are separated from the whey, the liquid that remains. Then the curds are shaped into blocks, stacked, and pressed. The curds undergo assorted processes dependent upon the type of cheese being produced.

The process for making string cheese is the same as with regular cheeses until the curds are formed. After allowing the curds to rest, they are placed in a vat of hot water or whey. Once they begin to float, the excess liquid is drained. The curds are then mixed together and kneaded until they become elastic. The pieces of the large strand of cheese are then separated into smaller chunks; each chunk will pull apart in strips or strings.

Types of String Cheese

Most string cheese sold in U.S. grocery stores is made from mozzarella cheese or a combination of mozzarella with another cheese, such as cheddar or Monterey Jack. Just as with many packaged cheeses, they are available in regular or part-skim milk varieties. They are usually packaged as small, cylindrical sticks and are used primarily for snacking. In specialty shops, you may be able to find string cheese produced in other countries as well.

Armenian String Cheese

Armenian string cheese is a handmade, braided cheese produced from sheep’s milk. When purchased from a shop, it is usually soaking in saltwater brine. The salt is rinsed from the cheese before using it; the amount of salt you leave in the cheese is dependent upon your personal tastes. Armenian string cheese can be used in dishes, as salad topping, or to just eat as a snack. Some Armenian string cheese is flavored, including cumin and mahleb.

Slovakian String Cheese

In Slovakia, a type of string cheese called Korbáčiky is made into small braids, or whips. The cheese is produced from sheep’s milk. It comes in its natural, slightly salty state, but it can also be smoked. Other varieties use flavor enhancers, such as garlic. This is a traditional cheese in this region, and it has many uses in cooking, such as in dish preparation, on salads, or pulled apart and eaten plain.

Queso Oaxaca

This Mexican string cheese originates from southern Mexico. It is produced from cow’s milk. The taste is similar to Monterey Jack, but it has the elasticity of mozzarella. It is typically sold in a ball, from which strands can be used for cooking dishes such as empanadas and quesadillas. It can also be used as a topping or eaten as a snack.

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