Cheese is literally THE MOST fascinating food. It comes from such humble origins. Milk. Curdled maybe intentionally maybe not. How our ancestors have discovered all the different ways and through which you can curdle milk … not a clue. During it’s aging process it literally grows mold.
All this for the bizarre chewy white substance we call cheese.
I’m going to be honest, I am no cheese connoisseur or even an expert on the cheese making process. But the fact that cheese comes in so many different varieties truly fascinates me. And of course, every combination of delectable goods you could combine with cheese to serve on a platter makes my mouth water.
So let’s wade real quick, into what makes each cheese hold its own.
It all starts with the milk. There are many sources of milk you can choose from, cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, and in the case of true mozzarella, water buffalo milk. The quality of milk and which cows its sourced from has the ability to change the texture and the taste.
Which means, unfortunately, what us American’s call Mozzarella … isn’t technically mozzarella… and nor is most parmesan the true parmeggiano reggiano. If you’re in Europe you are lucky and most cheese’s have name protection, meaning only true forms of the item, some locked by region and others by production steps, can be sold under the official names.
Then we have the rind. Each type of cheese gets its own distinct rind. In some cases, there are cloth rinds, maybe wood rinds, and in many cases mold rinds. Within these categories lie entire flavor profiles, with the most bizarre in my opinion, being cave cheese’s with cave mold rind, and coupole with it’s very distinct wrinkled mold rind.
Some cheeses even get mold inside them, the infamous blue cheese. And some cheese gets maggots O>O. Yes this is real. My coworkers … have tried this. No you cannot import it, it’s definitely an illegal import. In fact it’s illegal even in Italy where it’s produced due to laws against foods infected with parasites. But if you do get a chance to try it, I’ve heard it’s good.
Clearly, there’s a lot going on with cheese, and I’ve barely scratched the charcuterie board. I didn’t write this post with the intention of addressing everything. It’s just a testament to my newfound curiosity about cheese.
And in fact, a good part was inspired by recent gathering where I’ve eaten cheese, and by this wonderful YouTube video by Anne Saxelby who is unfortunately no longer with us.
If you ever want to break bread and chew on some cheese, now you know I’m always interested.
Till next time.