All About Cheese
( Originally Published 1904 )
Human ingenuity has addressed itself with rare success to the preparation of the different varieties of cheese known to the modern gourmet, and with which the palate, jaded by a long course of delicate viands, is again sharpened for that final taste which lends completeness to the feast. Of the varieties of cheese there is practically no end; each nation having more or less distinguished itself in this line of manufacture and perfected genie specific brand for which a universal demand seems to have arisen.
To refer to first principles:
Cheese is generally obtained by coagulating _milk with rennet, and the curds which result contain the greater part of the butter. The 'mass is then treated in a variety of ways; salted or spiced, and more or less compressed. In those ways cheeses of different sorts are obtained. From a nutritious point of view cheese may be classed as follows
1. Cream, or very fat cheese, .which is made from cream and rich milk, contains more butter than caseine. Gervais cheese is an example.
2. Fat cheese. This is made from rich milk and contains very little more butter than caseine. Brie and Camembert are examples.
3. Semi-fat cheese. This is made from partly skimmed milk and fresh milk mixed. It contains much less butter than caseine. Dutch cheese is an example.
4. Thin cheese. This is made from skimmed milk and is very poor in fats.
The digestibility of cheese is very good. When it is taken in moderation it is considered to aid the digestion of other foods. On ac-count of its richness in albumen it is of the highest class of foods.
The varieties of cheese one has the choice of nowadays are so diversified and extensive that a description of the leading kinds becomes a necessary feature of any volume dealing with the question of eating. The public taste in regard to cheese differs so widely that it would scarcely be safe to mention any particular make as being the favorite. To one Brie, to another Gorgonzola, to another Camembert, are welcome, whilst another will prefer Stilton, Neufchatel, Gruyere, or Roquefort.
Each of these famous makes has its especial flavor and hold upon the public palate, and whilst the product of various countries, under modern systems of dairying can be made in any country, although as yet the sophistry of modern commerce has not succeeded in diverting much of the manufacture of favorite kinds from the original seats of the industry.
The making of good cheese depends upon good milk; which gets us back to the breed of cattle most suitable for the purposes of a dairy farm. It is a proven fact that the breed of a cow has more to do with the quality of the cheese than the food taken, although rich pastures are essential to the production of the highest grade of cheese. Mnch advantage in the quality of the milk, and-consequently that-of the cheese, is gained from the possession of rich pasturages for the stock. These pasturages should be devoid of flowers, particularly garlic, whilst the dairy must be constructed with the object of - providing perfect ventilation, the maintenance of an even temperature, and the exclusion of every possible means of conveying a taint to the milk.
A great deal depends. upon the first part of the process of manufacture in the dairy—that of the coagulation of the milk. Curd is produced in accordance with the variety of the cheese required. In the case of soft cheese the formation of .the curd is prolonged, sometimes for a considerable time, whilst in the production of pressed cheese only a short time elapses. The time occupied in coagulation is determined by the quality of the milk, the condition when the rennet is added, temperature, and the strength and quantity of the rennet used. According to theoretical calculation the time of coagulation is in inverse ratio to the .quantity of rennet employed; yet, in practice, this is not entirely borne out, although its truth is more or less obvious.
Among the popular kinds of soft cheese made in France, Brie has probably the largest number of patrons in this country. In France consumers of Brie prefer it in an advanced stage of ripeness, in consequence of which the blue cheese is taken to an underground cave, where it becomes so soft and creamy that it runs, upon the breaking of the crust, and in this condition fetches considerably more than the twenty-five cents per pound paid for it, on the average, in Paris. The Brie is a large, flat, round cheese, a little less than an inch in thickness, and aver-aging ten inches in diameter. Brie is never considered thoroughly ripe until the white, solid curd has become yellow and creamy. The ripening process commences from the outside.
Camembert is another of the French cheeses which have become popular in all civilized countries. It is chiefly made in the county of Calvados. Camembert was invented during the revolution of 1791, by the ancestress of a late manufacturer of Calvados.
Gorgonzola is an Italian product, and it is made from the ordinary cow's milk in northern Italy, particularly Lombardy. The milk, as a rule, is produced by small owners of cows who manufacture the cheese, and do not perfect or ripen it, but dispose of it to merchants who finish the process in caves of their own.
Gorgonzola is produced from two curds, or, more properly speaking, from two lots of curd made at different times. The large quantity of inferior Gorgonzola found upon the market is due to the quality of the rennet used in Italy, it being scarcely anything but the actual macerated stomach of the calf. The curd, when fit for cutting or breaking, is gently manipulated with a paumarilo.
The mould-running process is an important one in connection with the finest varieties of cheese. In the part of France where Roque-fort cheese is made from the ewe's milk, much pains is taken to get this properly moulded. A kind of bread is prepared, which is crumbled, and upon which mould is induced to grow, as it will readily do when exposed to a rather warm, humid atmosphere. These mouldy crumbs are mixed with the curd, and in that way amalgamate with the cheese. There is quite a system of turning the Gorgonzola cheese in the mould, and of changing the cloth upon it. The cheese is sold in its green condition in Lombardy, and when taken out of the mould is ready for the salting-room, where it stays until covered with a fine growth of white fungus, which shows that it is ready for. the salting. This process continues daily until it has been done upwards of a dozen times.
The texture of the cheese is then examined. If found too close, there is a probability that the blue mould will not grow freely. The cheese is then pierced with metal skewers to admit the air, particularly the oxygen, which is much needed by the fungi.
The best Gorgonzola is seldom seen in this country. The process of ripening it is con-ducted in caves specially designed for the purpose. In these caves the cheese is placed upon shelves and covered with rye-straw. The temperature is also regulated. The slower process of ripening produces the finest cheese. The 'ripening process takes about five months, during which the crust becomes covered with different varieties of fungi.
The leading blue-moulded cheese of England is the Stilton. The process of its manufacture varies little from that of Gorgonzola in Italy, or Roquefort in France. The Wensleydale and Cotherstone are perfect varieties of Stilton, and can scarcely be equalled for mildness and mellowness by the choicest Gorgonzola. Leicester-shire, owing to its pasture, cattle and climate, is supposed to be the most favored spot for the production of fine Stilton. Stilton cheese was formerly a most expensive article, but of late years so many have entered into the manufacture of it that the price has been much reduced.
Parmesan cheese is another expensive variety of the article, manufactured extensively in Emilia and Parma. There are also the Bon-don, Gervais, Coulommiers, Pont 1'Eveque, Neufchatel, and Port du Salut hailing from France.
Port du Salut cheese is not unlike a variety known as Caerphilly. In form it is circular, flat, being an inch in thickness, and it is partially pressed. The pate of the cheese is deliciously mellow, yet firm and tasty, the flavor being somewhat dependent upon the number of holes in the cheese. Port du Salut is a growing favorite with connoisseurs both in this country and abroad. '
Pont 1'Eveque cheese is a product of one of the leading dairy departments of France. Its name is derived from a village in the vicinity of Havre, and it is much in demand at Trouville, and Deauville, the famous French watering places. The process of manufacturing Pont 1'Eveque is an elaborate one.
Gervais cheese is another delectable morsel for the epicurean. Gervais is a mixture of cream and milk; 1/3 of the former to 2/3 of the latter. Coagulation is often delayed for twenty-four hours. After the whey has been removed by the curd, the firm curd is laid in a cloth, which is placed in a slatted wooden frame, from six to nine inches in depth. A heavy wooden block is then placed upon it.
Bondon cheese is produced chiefly in the rural districts around Rouen. It is made entirely from milk, about seven or eight cheeses being made from a gallon of milk.
Coulommiers cheese is made in the Brie district. It is one of the favorites of the frequenters of Parisian cafes.
In addition to the Stilton cheese, for which English makers are famed, there are many other varieties of cheese manufactured in England. The Cheddar cheese is a product of Somersetshire; Cheshire cheese bespeaks its origin. It is a rich, cream-colored variety. Leicester cheese is of a reddish color with a slightly bitter taste, added to a very rich and mellow flavor. Derby cheese is white, Wilton is pink, and Gloucester of the same hue. Cheddar cheese is another red-hued cheese, the result of the use of coloring, undoubtedly.
Next to Cheddar come the two Dutch varieties, Edam and Gouda, the former round, the latter. flat, and neither of which, in the way of quality, has any room for boasting.
The Swiss cheese is made from goat's milk, and for this there is always a large market, both in Europe and America.
Limburger is a cheese which is approached with fear and trembling by people unacquainted with it. It is claimed that this almost putrid German product is quite healthy, and that the prejudice against it is based upon ignorance.
The manufacture of cheese in the United States is an important industry. Not alone is there an excellent domestic product made in most States, which is palpably American, but there are few varieties of foreign cheese which are not produced in American factories to meet .the demand of price. Gruyere is imitated in Wisconsin, and Schweitzerkase is made in many States. Attempts to imitate the French Roque-fort and English Stilton have not been very successful, although a certain factory in Maine. did at one time produce a fine grade of Stilton.
As Parmesan takes three years in the curing, an attempt to make it here is not to be expected. Limburger made in this country is considerably inferior to that brought from the Netherlands. Schabdeiger is also imitated here, as well as imported. Brie and D'Isigny are imitated New York and Pennsylvania. Dainty little Camemberts, soft and white, with blue pencilling, and sometimes reddish on the outside, are made here also. The much plainer form of curd fresh-made, and sold cheaply in nearly all Our markets in little cylinders wrapped in tinfoil, under the name of Neufchatel, has been made in large and increasing quantities for fifteen years or more in New York and Pennsylvania. The same localities place in the market a soft, fresh curd, very much enriched; which is called cream cheese. This does not exhaust the list of varieties of cheese found in all good markets in this country. The standard American Factory, or Cheddar, cheese also appears in many more or less disguised fancy forms. The Canadian and American " Club-house " cheese, " Meadow Sweet," " Saratoga," and " Delicatesse," sold in one- and two-pound jars, and in smaller packages, neatly prepared, are merely good selections of common factory-make, taken at a stage of ripeness, mild or strong, to suit the taste, then worked over, pressed into suitable packages, and sufficiently enriched to make a uniform smoothness. Flavor is increased in some instances by adding a little wine or brandy. " Cheese Food " is also standard cheese, into which has been incorporated the natural whey, reduced to a syrup. This gives a sweet taste to the cheese, which some like, and restores the original equilibrium of the original milk components. All of these rich and fancy forms of cheese are recognized as relishes, to be used in small quantity, rather than as a substitute for food. If buyers would take a little trouble to properly care for the cheese they purchase, there would be less loss, it would be more enjoyable, and .housekeepers would be more inclined to invest in such articles. A stone jar with a tight-fitting cover is a fitting receptacle. This should be placed in a storeroom or dry cellar where the temperature is maintained at between fifty and sixty degrees. This jar should be thoroughly cleansed and well aired before a new lot of cheese is put in.
Epicures advise cutting cheese like the Stilton and " Young America " across one end of the cylinder, and keeping them with the cut surface downward in a soup-plate filled with old ale. An Edam may be similarly cut and pre-served. Cheeses, of the shapes last mentioned, may be cut directly in two, and then used from the cut surfaces, leaving these smooth, so they will fit closely together; the air may thus be excluded and rapid drying prevented. If cheese in large pieces or fragments becomes dry and hard, it may be used for cooking purposes, either grated or melted, or for Welsh rare-bits.
Cheese becomes a much more easily digestible and desirable article of food when cooked, as it can be in a hundred tasty and attractive ways, for which we refer the reader to our recipes here and in another volume.
Cheese is considered, from a scientific point of view, a most nutritious article of food, although, owing to the absence of potash salts, it is not suitable for a continuous diet. In comparison with meat, cheese is extremely economical from a pound-to-pound point of view.
In the selected parts of meat, i. e., muscular fibre without bone, there is, in beef, an average of 721/2 per cent. of water; in mutton, 73 1/2; in veal, 74½; in pork, 69%, and in fowl 73%. In Cheshire cheese, and other popular brands, there is but 301/3 per cent. of water. We, therefore, have in every pound of cheese more than twice the amount of solid food that is found in a pound of the best meat, or comparing with the average of the entire carcass, inclusive of bone, tendons, and other waste, cheese will show an advantage of three to one.
One of the most remarkable facts about the manufacture of cheese is the way in which the coagulation is produced. As stated in an earlier part of the article, it is achieved by means of the rennet. This rennet is a part of the stomach of the calf, the mucous membrane usually salted and dried for the purpose, in the milk, and warmed for a few hours previous to using.
The most eminent authorities assume that the rennet acts primarily as a ferment, and converts the sugar of milk into lactic acid, which latter coagulates the caseine. A weak infusion made from a small piece of rennet will coagulate three thousand. times its own quantity of milk. There is a coagulation which takes place in the living stomach when milk is taken as food, which appears to be due to the lactic acid of the gastric juice. Hence the plausibility. of the foregoing theory.