The cheese encyclopedia
Definition of cheese
Cheese can be defined as a product, fermented or not, obtained from the following materials of exclusively dairy origin: milk, partially or totally skimmed milk, cream, buttermilk (e.g. Gaperon), used alone or in a mixture and coagulated in whole or in part before draining or after partial elimination of the aqueous part. The minimum dry matter content of the product thus defined must be 23 grams per 100 grams of cheese, except for cottage cheese.
The different varieties/types/categories of cheese
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, 46 French cheeses are recognized as Appellation d’Origine AOC and AOP. Among these cheese varieties, 29 are made with cow’s milk, 14 with goat’s milk and 3 with sheep’s milk. The National Interprofessional Center for the Dairy Economy (CNIEL) lists 1,200 French cheeses. They can be classified by type of cheese (blue-veined, soft, with a bloomy crust, etc.) but also by region or by size, shape and texture. Some cheeses are farmhouse, artisanal or dairy.
The quantity of milk needed for 1Kg of cheese for hard cheeses is 12 liters while the average is 10 liters per kilo of cheese (for example: 8-9L for 1Kg of Reblochon). To make cheese, everything starts with the curdling, which is done by introducing the rennet (so that the cheese becomes like a “flan”). It is a natural coagulant, made of 2 Enzymes (molecules) of animal origin: chymosin and pepsin. Rennet is created thanks to the “abomasum”: a small stomach lining that is dried before being introduced into the milk. Once the rennet is introduced, the milk will coagulate and curdle. The coagulation was created to preserve milk (5000 years BC). Once the milk has curdled, it is “cut” (into small pieces for more compact cheeses), in order to be able to move on to the moulding (transferring the curdled milk into the moulds), and then to be drained (in order to separate the curd and the whey). At this stage of the manufacturing process, the fresh cheeses and white cheeses can be consumed. The next steps in the cheese making process are Salting, after being removed from the molds, and Ripening. A distinction must be made between Farmhouse Cheese (cheeses made according to traditional methods, by a farmer who processes only the milk from his own herd, on the same site as his farm, and who then makes his own cheese (without mixing it with other milk)) and artisanal cheese.
As with most foods, it is possible to buy cheese in several places such as supermarkets, cheese artisans, or online cheese shops. Depending on the place, the prices of cheese are different but they often reflect a difference in quality. It’s up to you to choose according to your budget!
For a good conservation of cheese, it should normally be placed in the refrigerator, preferably in the crisper. But some cheeses can also be frozen. A few tips will also help you avoid the bad odors that can result from this.
It is important to know that the French eat about 26 kg of cheese per year. The most consumed cheeses are emmental, comté or camembert … As it is a good source of calcium, eating cheese can even be good for your health, as long as you respect the required daily dose.
You may not have thought of it, but giving cheese as a gift can be a great idea. Indeed, it is an original gift and will please most of your loved ones. Christmas, Father’s Day, all occasions are good to offer some… As long as it is of quality of course!