Cheese facts from 500 Cheeses … Did you know

I have ‘pinched’ this from Roberta Muir’s new book: 500 Cheeses coming out in October 2010.

We feature on page 190 -191 with our original Sheep cheese.

–         Greece has the highest per capita cheese consumption in Europe and Feta accounts for 70% of all cheese eaten in Greece.

–         Though first made in New York, “Philadelphia” cream cheese was so named because Philadelphia was famous for premium foodstuffs at that time (1880s).

–         Earthenware pots found in a pharaoh’s tomb suggest that Egyptians made cheese over 5,000 years ago.

–         In Finland, fresh reindeer’s milk curds were traditionally baked in front of an open fire to preserve them (Leipäjuusto), then later put into coffee to soften.

–         Indian water buffalo were introduced as draft animals to the plains around Naples in the 6th century, their milk is now used for the famous Mozzarella di Bufala.

–         Caciocavallo, means “cheese (cacio) on horseback (cavallo),” because the cheeses are aged dangling in pairs on either side of a rod, as if astride a horse.

–         Traditional brie and camembert differ in region of production and size; larger, thinner brie comes from around Paris; smaller, thicker camembert from Normandy.

–         French goat cheeses were traditionally coated in salt mixed with ash from burnt grapevine clippings to preserve them through winter.

–         Arabs from Spain introduced goats to France (now famous for its chèvre/goat cheese) in the early Middle Ages.

–         Early church codes had many meat-free days, so flavourful washed rind cheeses were developed in monasteries as a meaty-tasting alternative protein source.

–         French Reblochon derives its name from ‘reblocher’ (“re-pinch the udders”) because farmers would partially milk their cows, declare that milking to landlords for tax purposes, then make their cheese from a secret second milking.

–         Ireland has more cattle than people (6 million cattle, 4.2 million people in 2006) and the southern county of Cork has been a cradle for the renaissance of Irish farmhouse cheesemaking.

–         Morbier was originally produced with surplus curds with soot from the base of the cheesemaker’s cauldron scattered over the morning’s excess curds to prevent a skin forming before the evening’s leftover curds were layered on top.

–         Processed cheese, was invented in Switzerland in 1908 to utilize excess cheese.

–         J.L. Kraft applied for an American patent for making processed cheese in the early 1900s and launched processed cheese slices on the American market in 1950.

–         The Laughing Cow brand was born in 1921 when Léon Bel (founder of what is now the multinational Bel Group) registered the trademark for La Vache Qui Rit (“the cow who laughs”).

–         Legend says that a French shepherd, distracted by a pretty shepherdess, left his meal of fresh sheep’s cheese and bread in a cave in Roquefort; weeks later when he rediscovered it, it had turned blue but tasted wonderful.

–         Almost all blue-veined cheeses today are made using laboratory-grown moulds related to Penicillium roqueforti, the mould discovered in the famous caves of Roquefort in France.

–         Stilton has never actually been produced in Stilton. First made in Leicestershire in early 1700s, it was sold at the Bell Inn in Stilton, an important stagecoach stop on the London-Edinburgh road and so the fame of the cheese “from Stilton” spread.

–         Over half the cheese consumed in English-speaking countries is called “cheddar,”, but authentic cheddar (marketed as West Country Farmhouse Cheddar) is made by “cheddaring,” a process of stacking blocks of curd atop one another to drain.

–         Colby was invented by Joseph Steinwand in 1855 in his father’s cheese factory near Colby, Wisconsin.

–         The development of jack cheese is generally attributed to Monterey business man David Jacks, who started producing and distributing it in the 1890s.

–         Emmental ages in warm maturing rooms where heat-loving bacteria in the cheese ferment and give off bubbles of carbon dioxide, producing the holes characteristic of ‘Swiss cheese’.

–         In Portugal, curds are traditionally set with a vegetarian ‘rennet’ from cardoon thistles (the ancestor of modern artichokes).

–         In medieval times, Parmesan-style cheeses were sometimes used as currency, as they kept well and could be easily transported due to their low moisture content.

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