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Cheese Products

Cheese is a food derived from milk that is produced in a wide range of flavours, textures, and forms by coagulation of the milk protein casein. It comprises proteins and fat from milk, usually the milk of cows, buffalo, goats, or sheep. During production, the milk is usually acidified, and adding the enzyme rennet causes coagulation. The solids are separated and pressed into final form. Some cheeses have molds on the rind or throughout. Most cheeses melt at cooking temperature.

Hundreds of types of cheese from various countries are produced. Their styles, textures and flavours depend on the origin of the milk (including the animal's diet), whether they have been pasteurised, the butterfat content, the bacteria and mold, the processing, and aging. Herbs, spices, or wood smoke may be used as flavouring agents. The yellow to red colour of many cheeses, such as Red Leicester, is produced by adding annatto. Other ingredients may be added to some cheeses, such as black pepper, garlic, chives or cranberries.

For a few cheeses, the milk is curdled by adding acids such as vinegar or lemon juice. Most cheeses are acidified to a lesser degree by bacteria, which turn milk sugars into lactic acid, then the addition of rennet completes the curdling. Vegetarian alternatives to rennet are available; most are produced by fermentation of the fungus Mucor miehei, but others have been extracted from various species of the Cynara thistle family. Cheesemakers near a dairy region may benefit from fresher, lower-priced milk, and lower shipping costs.

Cheese is valued for its portability, long life, and high content of fat, protein, calcium, and phosphorus. Cheese is more compact and has a longer shelf life than milk, although how long a cheese will keep depends on the type of cheese; labels on packets of cheese often claim that a cheese should be consumed within three to five days of opening. Generally speaking, hard cheeses, such as parmesan last longer than soft cheeses, such as Brie or goat's milk cheese. The long storage life of some cheeses, especially when encased in a protective rind, allows selling when markets are favourable.

There is some debate as to the best way to store cheese, but some experts say that wrapping it in cheese paper provides optimal results. Cheese paper is coated in a porous plastic on the inside, and the outside has a layer of wax. This specific combination of plastic on the inside and wax on the outside protects the cheese by allowing condensation on the cheese to be wicked away while preventing moisture from within the cheese escaping.

A specialist seller of cheese is sometimes known as a cheesemonger. Becoming an expert in this field requires some formal education and years of tasting and hands-on experience, much like becoming an expert in wine or cuisine. The cheesemonger is responsible for all aspects of the cheese inventory: selecting the cheese menu, purchasing, receiving, storage, and ripening.

History of Cheese

According to ancient records passed down through the centuries, the making of cheese dates back more than 4.000 years.

No one really knows who made the first cheese. According to an ancient legend, it was made accidentally by an Arabian merchant who put his supply of milk into a pouch made from a sheep's stomach, as he set out on a day's journey across the desert. The rennet in the lining of the pouch, combined with the heat of the sun, caused the milk to separate into curd and whey. That night he found that the whey satisfied his thirst, and the cheese (curd) had a delightful flavour which satisfied his hunger.

Travellers from Asia are believed to have brought the art of cheese making to Europe. In fact, cheese was made in many parts of the Roman Empire when it was at its height. The Romans, in turn, introduced cheese making to England. During the Middle Ages-from the decline of the Roman Empire until the discovery of America-cheese was made and improved by the monks in the monasteries of Europe. For example, Gorgonzola was made in the Po Valley in Italy in 879 A.D., and Italy became the cheese making centre of Europe during the 10th Century. Roquefort was also mentioned in the ancient records of the monastery at Conques, France as early as 1070.

Cheesemaking continued to flourish in Europe and became an established food. In fact, the Pilgrims included cheese in the Mayflower's supplies when they made their voyage to America in 1620. The making of cheese quickly spread in the New World, but until the 19th century it remained a local farm industry. It wasn't until 1851 that the first cheese factory in the United States was built by Jesse Williams in Oneida County, New York.

Below is just a small selection of cheese producing countries of Europe. There are many more cheese producing countries like Spain, Denmark, Belgium, Turkey, Balkan Countries, Greece and eastern European countries.
For your favoured cheese consult our extensive cheese list and in the rare case that your cheese is not included on our list, let us know and we will do all in our power to find it for you.

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French Cheeses

Traditionally, there are from 350 to 450 distinct types of French cheese grouped into eight categories 'les huit familles de fromage'. There can be many varieties within each type of cheese, leading some to claim closer to 1.000 different types of French cheese.

In 1962, French President Charles de Gaulle was famously quoted as saying 'Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux cent quarante-six variétés de fromage?' ('How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?').

France is the cheese 'capital' of the world, producing over 500 cheeses and we've sniffed out some of the weirdest, most wonderful quirky cheese facts to encourage you to discover the world of 'fromages'.

French Cheeses’ Chart

Highest - Mountain cheeses can be found at the highest altitudes. Le Beaufort, made in the Savoie region, where cows graze 6500ft to 8000ft above sea level.

Lowest - The Rhone Delta is the lowest part of France at -2m below sea level, where the Rhone enters the Mediterranean. The goat's cheeses made in this area such as Tomme d’Arles and bûchette de Provence.

Oldest - Comté, aged for 24 to 36 months.

Largest - French Emmental weighing in 60-130kg for a whole wheel.

Smallest - A tiny goat’s cheese, Barattes de Chèvre, 2cm high.

Smelliest - Vieux Boulogne as named by scientists at Cranfield University who used
a smellometer.

Most Expensive – Truffle stuffed Brie £45 per kilo

Wettest - Fromage frais with 85% water content is always sold in pots.

Crumbliest – Blue cheeses are the crumbliest cheese. Those with the largest veins such as Roquefort often crumble as you cut them!

Hardest - Mimolette Extra Vielle has a hard outer shell as tough as a coconut shell.
The cheese is best eaten shaved or grated.

Softest - Mont d’Or is the runniest, when ripe you must spoon it out of its box.

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