As we all know, Cheese has played an integral part of history, serving as sustenance through the ages for the human race since before the common era (before the time of Christ). From its infancy to the present day, although the processes have been slightly changed, adjusted and tweaked over thousands of years, the basic ideas and methodologies for cheese-making has not really changed all that much.
Cheese can come in many forms, from bricks to wheels to larger blocks. If you’d like to see a large block of cheese, stop by Shisler’s Cheese House and take a gander at our 50-pound block of Pearl Valley Swiss Cheese. One of the more unique traits to cheese is that it is one of the few foods that are more sought after for when aged, than when made fresh. Some cheese can age several months, while some can age for several years.
As we are most accustomed to cheese for its use as a means of sustenance, cheese also has served a number of purposes through the ages, many of which are entirely “unrealized” by present-day society.
If you sit down and talk to anyone involved in the meticulous process of cheese-making, while it has its variations, the most simple answer for cheese making is: warming up some fresh milk, adding a solution that would increase the acidity content that would enable the milk to become curdled. As it cools down, the extra liquid called “whey” is extracted and the resulting product is cheese. While this becoming a known fact across society and while we are aware of this process, overall, how and where did this process become the standardized way of cheese-making?
It is noted in the publication in a journal called, Nature, cheese-making process established its primitive roots some 7,000 years ago, while other sources place the first cheese-making processes around 8,000 years. Nonetheless, we are still looking thousands of years of cheese-making, and the incredible part of it all is that, for the most part, the cheese-making process has experienced very little change,aside from a number of tweaks and modifications, due in large part to ever-changing technology and machines that cut down on the process time.
Noted in the journal’s article was that the first insights leading to the belief of Neolithic cheese-making were a number of foreign vessels in which archaeologists extracted across Northern Europe over 40 years ago. What was odd with these extracted vessels was that there were holes in them, which could suggest evidence of a primitive cheese-making container.
Unfortunately, at the time, this was only one workable theory as there was no certainty behind the claim, nor a way to a prove such. As the times changes, so did the technology and with the age of mass movements in technology, this theory would finally be proven as forensics would allow scientists to discover traces of cow’s milk within these hole-riddled containers.
Cheese has been a staple for millennia as the availability and life of dairy products ultimately causing hunters to stray more away from the killing of cattle and livestock to a life more focused on dairy and dairy processes, including cheese making. While hunterss did not stray completely away from the use of cattle and livestock as sustenance, dairy and dairy process were now more favorable as hunters now had the option of now putting down their “prized” cattle for food.
Noted again in the journal, a geneticist out of University College London did tremendous research on these primitive cheese-makers only to discover that most Europeans of the Neolithic period would have been lactose intolerant, meaning, digesting the lactose sugar from milk would have been very problematic. However, during the cheese-making process, any lactose from the milk would be extracted and removed through the holes in the primitive, cheese-making containers. A chemist out of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom discovered traces of milk buildup in pottery fragments across parts of Southwest Libya which dates back to prehistoric times.
As you can see, the evidence is quite revealing and has been scientifically proven. Cheese-making has been around for ages, dating back the some 7-8,000 years ago, essentially a world and time that has been all but forgotten of, but thanks in large part to technology, researchers, archaeologists and other scientist who dedicate their life’s work to such research, we can now begin to paint a picture of cheese-making, through the ages, even to a time before Jesus Christ, which is truly remarkable!