Cheese is one of the world's oldest food products. For thousands of years, people have raised animals for milk, turning their surplus milk into cheese. It is a nutritious food and can be made from the milk of cows, as well as other mammals, including sheep, goats, and others.
More than 1,000 varieties of cheese exist, making it one of the most versatile foods in the world. Cheese comes in hundreds of different shapes, sizes, textures, flavors, and aromas and is used in as many different ways. Enjoyed with bread, crackers, and fruit, used as an ingredient in cooked foods, or grated on salads and pastas, cheese is a healthy component of cuisines all over the world.
Cheese is a concentrated source of almost all the valuable nutrients found in milk, such as protein, vitamins and minerals. The fat content in cheese varies depending on the milk used. Cheese made with whole milk, or milk enriched with cream, has the highest amount of fat, cholesterol, and calories. Cheese made with skim milk has the lowest. Because of its high protein and calcium content, cheese in moderation is an important component of a balanced diet. Many vegetarians, who do not eat meat, rely on cheese as a source of protein in their diets.
Although hundreds of specialized techniques lend different types of cheese their distinct flavors and characteristics, there are basic steps common to all cheese making. First, proteins in milk are transformed into solid lumps called curds. Second, the curds are separated from the milky liquid, called whey, and shaped or pressed into molds. Finally, the shaped curds are ripened using a variety of different aging and curing techniques.
While there are many techniques to modern cheese making. However, Shullsburg Cheese takes the extra time and effort to constantly grade our cheeses to ensure quality and consistency of flavors inherent in all our great varieties.
See all the steps here
This is finished, ripened cheeses which have not been further processed by blending and pasteurizing. It is a living product, and it will age, change flavors, ripen, etc.
This made by grinding natural cheeses into a mixture and then heating (pasteurization) it so that the organisms are killed. The resulting fluid mixture is poured into molds to form the processed cheese items. The shelf life in this kind of product is almost unlimited. Plus, many companies take this style of cheese and add other ingredients to its forming, cheese food, specialties, imitation cheese, etc.
Cheeses are usually categorized based upon their type of milk, processing method, texture, shape, color and rind. Here are the basics:
Soft Cheeses include:
Brie, with a cream to yellow interior and thin white edible crust; Camembert, also with a cream to yellow interior and thin white edible crust; Ricotta, a spoonable cheese that resembles cottage cheese with a very fine curd; Cream Cheese, a smooth and sometimes flavored, spreadable cheese; and Neufchatel, which is similar to Cream Cheese with less fat.
Semi-Soft Cheeses include:
Brick, a white cheese with a mild to pungent flavor; Monterey Jack, a creamy white cheese with tiny cracks; Muenster, with an orange exterior and white interior; Bluea white cheese with a blue-veined interior with a tangy, piquant flavor; and Mozzarella, the "pizza cheese" with a mild, delicate flavor;
Semi-soft to Hard Cheeses include:
Edam, with a mild, nut-like flavor and red-paraffin coating; Gouda, which is similar to Edam and available smoked or with caraway seeds; Feta, a crumbly cheese with a salty, "pickled" flavor; and Baby Swiss, with a slightly nutty, buttery flavor and a sweet and creamy texture.
Hard Cheeses include:
Swiss, with a firmer texture than Baby Swiss and a nut-like flavor; Cheddar, with an orange or white interior and a mild to sharp flavor depending on the aging; Colby, with a light yellow to orange interior often sold in a longhorn shape; Colby Jack, a combination of Monterey Jack and Colby Cheese; and Provolone, which has a mild to smoky flavor made in round, pear and sausage shapes.
Very Hard Cheeses include: Parmesan, a granular textured, easy-to-grate cheese with robust flavor; and Romano, which is similar, yet slightly richer than Parmesan.
Specialty Cheeses include:
Pasteurized Processed Cheeses, which area blend of natural cheeses that have been processed using heat, and include American Cheese, cheese spreads and cheese food; and Cold Pack Cheeses, which are natural cheeses blended without heat and oftentimes with added flavorings and/or seasonings.
All cheeses are best served at room temperature. Remove cheeses from the refrigerator at least one hour before serving. Hard cheeses take longer to reach room temperature.
A great way to serve cheese is displayed on wood, marble or stone boards, surrounded by fruits (can be as simple as a bunch of grapes), nuts, crusty bread and wine. Try to avoid cubing or slicing in advance, and put out one cheese knife or cheese plane per cheese. For a big crowd, where self-service is key, you may pre-slice or cube, but the cheese will dry out quickly and, as a display technique, it's fairly cheesy. If you must precut cheese, use a covered cheese dome.
Shullsburg Cheese should be eaten by the 'use by' date on the packaging, and once opened must be properly stored to retain flavor and moisture. To prevent hard cheeses and soft mould ripened cheeses from drying, wrap in foil, greaseproof paper or waxed paper. Ideally, the wrapped cheese should be placed in a polythene box with a lid to avoid flavors being transferred from foods stored nearby. Soft cheeses such as cottage and cream cheese are best stored in the container in which they were purchased. These cheeses do not keep as well as hard cheese and should be eaten within a few days of purchase. Keep all types of cheese in a refrigerator at about 42°F (about 5°C.) For the best results, cheese to be used on a cheeseboard should be removed from the refrigerator and unwrapped about one hour before serving, to allow it to come to room temperature and to develop its full flavor and texture.
We do not recommend freezing our cheeses. Freezing does not affect flavor, but tends to create a crumbly texture that can be difficult to slice.
However, if you need to store it for longer periods, Shullsburg Cheese can be frozen for up to three months. For best results, the cheese should be wrapped in foil, then placed in a clearly labeled, sealed freezer bag. Ideally, it should be thawed in a refrigerator for 24 hours before use and should not be re-frozen once thawed. Our grated cheese freezes well and can be added to hot sauces and soups straight from the freezer. The medium fat soft cheese (e.g. curd cheese) can be frozen for up to three months and full fat soft cheese (e.g. cream cheese) can be frozen for up to one month. Both types can be frozen in the carton in which they were purchased. Thaw soft cheeses overnight in the refrigerator. Cottage cheese is unsuitable for freezing.
Lactose and Cheesemaking:
Lactose is milk sugar, the main carbohydrate in milk. Cow sheep and goat milk are roughly the same amounts, about 4 to 5%.
The bacteria present in milk or added in the form of cultures use lactose for their energy. As they feed, they ferment lactose into lactic acid. This starts in the cheese vat, with acid levels rising and pH dropping, creating the conditions for milk proteins to coagulate and curd to form. This conversion to lactic acid enhances flavor in the finished cheese. Without sufficient acidity the cheese would taste bland.
Most of the unfermented lactose is drained away from the curd with the whey. A little lactose remains in the curds, especially in higher-moisture curds like cottage cheese. So many unaged cheeses do have some measurable lactose-about 3 grams per serving of cottage cheese, compared to about 12 grams in an 8-ounce glass of milk. However, as cheese ages, bacteria continue to feed on the lactose until, after only 3 or 4 weeks, there is virtually no lactose left.
Lactose Intolerance Defined:
Most humans produce the enzyme lactase, which helps them digest milk sugar. This is how infants can tolerate their mother's milk. But many people lose the ability to make lactase, or make enough of it, as they age. Eating say, a bowl of pasta in cream sauce, can cause distress in the intestinal tract in the form of general discomfort, bloating or gas.
The National Institutes of Health estimates around 30 to 50 million Americans produce low levels of lactase, although they may have few or no symptoms at all. Several research studies have shown that many people with the disorder are not even aware of it. Consequently, some people who claim intolerance frequently are not, and have never been tested. If you think you might be lactose intolerant, there are tests available to find out.
Cheese and the Lactose Intolerant:
Food intolerance is very individualized. Generally, however, cheese is not a problem for lactose-intolerant people unless they're extremely sensitive. Most lactose-intolerant people can manage a glass of milk a day without any symptoms at all, and so should be able to enjoy a few ounces of any cheese-especially aged cheese such as Cheddar or Parmesan-without difficulty. Even moist cheeses, such as Brie, contain only trace (barely detectable) levels of lactose.
In fact, many people are unaware that most cheeses have little or no lactose. Through the fermentation and the aging process, much of the milk sugars are consumed, and therefore should present virtually no problems. If you are unsure, you can always sample some favorite varieties slowly at home, just to check if small amounts cause any reaction. If you've been avoiding cheese altogether, you may find out that you've been missing out.
If you still have questions, more information about lactose intolerance is available from organizations like the National Institutes for Health and the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), as well as many others.