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There are many kinds of cheeses made in different parts of the world but the most known country is France which has more varieties of cheese. Cheese if you think is just curdled milk where the whey and curds are separated and the curds is used to make the cheese. But just with a minor variation in humidity, adding molds and preparation methods can resulting in this vast sea of cheeses. Did you know that of all the cheeses, the most fragile is the soft, spoonable fromage blanc. Casein has a molecular structure that is quite similar to that of gluten and the holes  in Swiss cheese are caused by expansion of gas within the cheese curd during the ripening period. Did you know that of all the cheeses, the most fragile is the soft, spoonable fromage blanc. Casein has a molecular structure that is quite similar to that of gluten and the holes in Swiss cheese are caused by expansion of gas within the cheese curd during the ripening period.



What is the history of Cheese?

The exact date  of when Cheese was invented is hard to say but one could say it could've been invented at any place where they were using milk. People observed that milk breaks into curds and whey (which is the watery part). And as a way to  preserve milk longer started doing research as to which agents made it taste better. There is the  story of the Arab, who took milk along with him on a trip. Typically Arabs used canteens to take water or milk on their trips.The canteens were made of intestines of cow, sheep or goat. When he opened the milk canteen to drink, he found the milk had curdled. He tried eating it and liked the taste. The animal's intestine has an enzyme called renin which acted on milk and changed it to cheese and that's how  probably the first cheese  was born. People were making cheeses as  early as 100A.D. Every culture had their own version of the cheese. The earliest version doesn't seem to involve fermentation. They were made by separating curds from the whey through a sieve and hardening the cheese. So most of them were fresh cheeses like the cottage cheese.



What is the chemistry behind Cheese?

Cheese can be classified based on pH and Calcium content. The differences between the various traditional cheese types are dependent on the basic structure of the cheese. This basic structure is determined by the properties of the protein matrix in the cheese which inturn is dependent on the pH of the whey at the point when the curds and whey are separated. The residual lactose is what influences a low pH and a higher level of acidity. Another factor is the buffering capacity of the curd. This has a bearing on the final pH. So they are about 4 factors which affect pH:

  • residual lactose
  • content of cheese
  • Buffering capacity
  • acidity level

pH of the Cheese: The pH at whey drainage determines the type of cheese. Casein is a phosphoprotein found in milkwhich accounts for 20% of the protein in the milk.Casein has a molecular structure that is quite similar to that of gluten.It is found in milk as casein micelles.The casein micelles are held together by calcium phosphate. As pH decreases acidity increases which affects the property of calcium phosphate to stick together so they become more soluble and this decreases the stickiness between  casein micelles so they disassemble easily. 

Mineral Content: The mineral content of cheese is largely determined by the quantity of calcium phosphate lost from the curd, which is mainly dependant upon the pH of the whey at drainage; the pH of the whey at this point is dependent on starter activity. The starter activity depends on several factors :

  • concentration of starter
  • starter type
  • time which has elapsed since starter addition
  • temperature

The loss of calcium phosphate affects the type of casein micelles formed. This affects the type of cheese formed. Swiss Cheese has a low acid (high pH) which has a high mineral content and more protein content because casein micelles can stick together. So this cheese will be more stretchable. Cheese such as Lancashire on the other hand has high acidity (low pH) is crumbly.



How are Cheeses classified?

  • Based on the composition or hardness, they are divided into

    • Hard:  less than 40% of watercontent, Hard cheeses are cooked, pressed and aged for long periods ranging from 2-6years until they become  hard and dry. Parmesan and pecorino fall in this catgory.
    • Semi hard:  About 45% water content,These are semi hard and cooked and not ages as long as the hard cheeses.Cheddar, Edam belong to this group.
    • Soft: It has 70-80% water content. These are not cooked or pressed. And are ripened by spraying with bacteria. Examples are Brie,Camembert.
  • Based on the ripening  they are divided into,

    • Ripened cheeses: Ripened cheeses are produced when there is additional growth required during maturation of the cheese. They are uncooked and unpressed,and as a result, are creamy, sometimes runny when fully ripe. They are sprayed with or dipped in various bacteria which makes the cheese ripen from the outside. Some soft-ripened cheeses ripen inside of a fluffy white rind. These become softer and creamier as they age. The rind is sprayed on the surface with Pencillium candidum and it is edible. Other soft cheeses may have a reddish washed rind or no rind. Some cheeses develop a rind that is either powdery white (as in BRIE) or golden orange (like PONT L'ÉVÊQUE). The consistency of soft-ripened cheese can range from semisoft to creamy and spreadable.
    • Unripened cheeses

      Unripened cheeses are produced by single-step fermentation. They have the mildest flavor,and are usually not salted.Some of the unripened cheeses are 

      • Brie
      • Boursin
      • Goat chevre cheese
      • Burrata 
      • Feta
      • Fetiri 
      • Mascarpone
      • Crottin 
      • Kajmak: Kajmak is a Serbian fresh, unripened or "new" cheese made from unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk. If left to ferment, aged kajmak has a stronger taste and is yellow in color, and is required for a pastry (pita) called gibanica.
  • Processed cheese: All processed cheese has its ripening process arrested at a given point by heat treatment. It is usually made from one or two cheese types blended together and can never develop the individuality of flavour of natural cheese because the micro-organisms that create such things are effectively killed off. 
External References


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Can a list be found dividing cheeses into two groups: 1) those made primarily from whey and 2) those made primarily from casein? Both whey and casein can trigger migraines in some people. In my case, I suspect it is either one or the other that is the culprit. Trying cheeses from one group or the other would significantly help me to both control my migraines and allow me to go on eating delicious cheese! I am a cheese lover and this is a major dilemma for me.