( Originally Published 1917 )
One of our oldest industries. Cheese making is one of the world's oldest industries, and cheese has been used as food from a very early date. It is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. There is found Job's complaining inquiry: "Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?" and David carried "ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand."
Climate a factor in cheese making. Few manufactured foods are so dependent upon natural conditions—such as location, soil, water, and climate—as cheese, for cheese making is an agricultural as well as a manufacturing industry. This fact, together with its wonderful history, makes cheese one of the most fascinating subjects in the study of food geography.
But the two elements which have most to do with determining the qualities of cheese-are locality and climate. A little later, when. you read about the cheese makers of the Old World, you will learn why cheese making with them is not only a community craft but an inherited occupation. But now let us see how sensitive cheese is to the influences of climate.
The climate of one locality may differ only a little from that of another region near by, and yet that slight variation in temperature and rainfall—for these are the chief characteristics of climate—may be enough to fix borders within which a certain kind of cheese can be made and beyond which it cannot be made with assured success. In cheese production climate draws geographical boundaries both narrow and exact. All cheese is made from milk, and nearly'all domesticated animals which give milk in considerable quantities have a share in cheese production. Of these animals cows, goats, sheep, camels, and horses are the principal ones.
Because cheese is made from milk, good pasturage is necessary. This can be had only where there is an abundant rainfall, or where irrigation supplies the necessary moisture. Most of our domestic cheese is made in Wisconsin and New York. In those states all the cheese factories are in localities which during the cheese-making season—May to September, inclusive—have a mean temperature of about 65°F. Experiments conducted by the United States government; have established the fact that nearly all these factories are in districts which have a growing season of about one hundred and fifty days.
Two great cheese-producing states. Since Wisconsin now produces more cheese than any other state, let us study the work of the cheese makers of that state and also the cheese they produce.
There are about 2,000,000 dairy cows in Wisconsin and more than 2,000 cheese factories. About one fourth of the factories are engaged in making "foreign style" cheese. In one year the great cheese-making district of southwestern Wisconsin. produced about 30,000,000 pounds of "foreign style" cheese.
New York produces almost as much cheese as Wisconsin and both states make many kinds of "foreign style" cheeses. Brick and domestic Swiss cheese are the principal products of the Wisconsin cheese makers, while New York stands unrivaled in the quantity of high-grade Limburger produced.
Coming of the Swiss cheese makers. In his admirable work on the Wisconsin cheese industry Professor O. E. Baker, of the United States Department of Agriculture, says:
"The coming of the Swiss to southwestern Wisconsin commenced in 1845, when 140 immigrants arrived from Glarus, the Canton authorities having appropriated 1500 Gulden to send them over to relieve the labor surplus at home, caused by de-pressed financial conditions at that time. The immigrants settled in the northwestern portion of Green County, and named the town New Glarus in memory of their old home. This portion of Green County is rough to rolling in topography, and although these early pioneers did not find anything here to compare with their beloved Alps, they did find an abundance of hills, with cool springs and ever-flowing streams between, and a soil similar to that of their native land.
"Other Swiss followed in 1846 and 1847, among them also a few cheese makers, and although they were poor, they were industrious and frugal, and were soon able to purchase a cow. After a while they would buy another cow, and a few years later a third. Thus the industry grew slowly, under the domestic system of production, for about thirty years, keeping time to the tinkling of the cowbells, which every sentimental Swiss even to-day insists upon attaching to his favorite cow."
It was not until about 1870 that the supply of cheese made by these thrifty Swiss folk exceeded the local demand. But before that time a little cheese had been sold to the German people of Milwaukee and Madison, who were already familiar with the excellent qualities of Swiss cheese, or "Schweitzerkase," as they called it.
Today Wisconsin is producing annually many million pounds of cheese which is being sent to all parts of our country. Yet there are Swiss families in the state still making cheese after the manner of their forefathers in the Old World. In fact, there is to-day one little cheese factory where three generations of the same family are working, side by side, producing cheese closely resembling that which their forbears made on the grassy slopes of the beautiful Alps.
From father to son. No one knows how long the people of Europe have been making cheese, for this food dates back beyond written history. It is not unlikely that cheese making began in an effort to utilize the surplus milk to insure a food supply in times of scarcity. Cheese making is an art that is handed down from generation to generation—and the knowledge of how to make the particular cheeses for which they are famous- is perhaps the richest possession of the people in certain districts.
As soon as he is capable of learning anything, a boy in the cheese-making section of Switzerland is taught that he is to follow the trade of his father. Of course there may be exceptions to this rule, but in the cheese-making districts they are rare. The Swiss children raised in the cheese-making communities understand that they are to make the same kind of cheese as their fathers, mothers, grandparents, and great grandparents made—and make it in the same place. The same thing is true of France and Norway. This is one of the best examples of inherited callings and of home craftsmanship, and vocational education at the hands of parents to be found anywhere in the world.
"Foreign style" and imported cheeses. In practically every important cheese-making district in the United States one will find little factories where experts from the Old World, either German, Swiss, French, Italian, Dutch, or Swedish, using the same care make a product much like that made by their forefathers.
However, we must not forget that certain European cheeses cannot be successfully imitated in this country and that the "foreign style" cheeses made here are not identical with those of the Old World upon which they are modeled. But each year the foreign style cheeses made by experts who have inherited the skill of European makers are becoming more popular. This is true even with consumers who are familiar with the imported article.
While our domestic, or American-made, cheese is both nourishing and "tasty," there are many Americans who are satisfied with nothing less than genuine imported cheeses. It is for these people that the European countries each year send many thousand pounds of cheese across the sea. From Italy alone we receive a dozen different kinds.
England and France also contribute a large variety, as do Holland, Belgium, and Denmark.
The following descriptions cover the various cheeses carried by high-grade grocery stores and delicatessen shops in a large city. There are many more kinds of cheeses—one authority describes two hundred and forty-six different kinds—but these will be enough to enable you to learn what countries help supply the cheese for our. tables.
Norwegian cheese. From the high mountain sides of Norway we receive gedost (goat's milk) cheese. This is a combination of certain grains, sweetening, and goat's milk curd. It has a sweetish taste, and is the color of maple sugar. From Nor-way we also get garnmal ost (old cheese) which is made of cow's milk and packed in straw until properly cured.
Edam cheese. Edam is the great cheese of the Netherlands. It comes in balls, almost as large as your head. It is often done up in tinfoil and is usually painted red with a vegetable coloring, and then coated with paraffin. Edam varies a great deal in quality because of the differing percentages of butter fat taken out of the milk before the cheese is made. When no butter fat has been removed from the milk, the cheese contains from 45 to 50 per cent of butter fat. Another grade of Edam cheese contains from 20 to 30 per cent, or even less, of butter fat.
Most of this cheese is made by the peasant women on the farms in the Netherlands and brought to market, where it is sold to the consumer as many farmers of this country sell eggs and butter.
Roquefort, Camembert, and Brie. The best-known French cheese is Roquefort, which comes from the town of Roquefort, perched high on a mountain in the Department of Aveyron. French historians tell us that, as far back as "Bible times," cheese was carried from Roquefort to the Mediterranean Sea. This was due to the fact that Roquefort is ideally located for the making of cheese. The peasant people used to carry cheese to the top of the mountain and hide it in the limestone caves, which were found to be especially fitted by nature for the storing of cheese. The cool temperature of the caves made them excellent storehouses.
Finally, a knowledge and appreciation of this famous cheese began to extend beyond the Roque-fort district. Then men of keen business sense started to buy and sell it to meet a growing demand. And that was the beginning of the famous Roquefort cheese industry. As the business grew the caves were enlarged. Now each cave cut out of the limestone has an air shaft coming out of the top of the mountain and is well lighted.
The chief occupation of the peasants around Roquefort is making cheese, which they bring to the caves to sell. Every family within miles of Roque-fort brings cheese to the various caves. This cheese is made of sheep's milk. Great flocks of sheep, raised especially for their milk, graze on the mountain side about this quaint old town. So great is the demand for Roquefort cheese that there are more than 600,000 milch sheep on these hills and mountains.
The shepherds wear dark, gownlike coats which reach almost to the ground and give them a most picturesque appearance. Most of the clothing of the shepherds and their families is made from wool taken from the backs of their own sheep and carded, spun, and woven in their little stone cottages. Besides the shepherd, each flock is also tended by two dogs. These dogs move the sheep about over the. grazing grounds or "commons" with a quietness and care that astonish visitors. Usually the sheep are brought into the fold each night for milking and shelter. The southern slopes of the mountains and foothills, fresh and green in winter, become burned and browned in summer. Therefore winter grazing is on the southern slopes, while in summer the flocks feed from the northern exposures.
Among pastoral people in Europe there are none, perhaps, more interesting and picturesque than the shepherds of Roquefort. The habits and dress of these people have altered but little since the commercial world, centuries ago, first heard of Roquefort cheese. Grandfather, father, and son are shepherds; grandmother, mother, and daughter are milkmaids and all are cheese makers. In many instances, however, the shepherds milk their flocks.
Every morning the milk is skimmed, strained, and warmed almost to the boiling point. It is then put into pans and stirred with willow wythes.' A little rennet is used to curdle the milk. After the curds have formed they are mixed with a specially pre-pared barley bread, which starts the green mold always to be seen in Roquefort cheese and helps to give it its distinctive flavor.
The cheese is allowed to remain in the press for several days and is then taken to the caves and sold. There it is cured with salt. Girls employed in the caves rub the outside of the cheese with salt until all the pores are closed. This forms the rind. The cheeses are cured in the caves for about four months, when they are shipped to nearly all parts of the world.
One legend as to the origin of the Roquefort cheese tells us that one rainy day a shepherd sought shelter in one of the limestone caves near the present city of Roquefort and that, in hurrying away after his flock, he left his lunch of sheep's milk cheese and bread behind.
Some weeks later he was again driven to seek shelter in the cave and found his cheese thickly molded. He tasted it and liked it so much that he formed the habit of leaving cheese in the cave to mold. Later he gave some to the village cure, who was enthusiastic over its flavor and began experiments in producing a quantity of it for the other priests, who were finally responsible for making it a popular favorite.
While the peasant life about Roquefort has not changed in the least, the caves represent the most advanced and modern methods of handling cheese. They are electric lighted throughout and equipped with every mechanical convenience. Enormous motor trucks haul the cheese from the caves to the various shipping points. The whole industry is run on an efficient, business-like basis.
Camembert is another famous French cheese. It is made from cow's milk and is a soft, rich, creamy cheese hailing from Normandy. A small cheese, it is put up in round wooden boxes, making a package that weighs about ten ounces. Like Roquefort, it has a world-wide popularity. It was first made about 1790. Its flavor is as distinctive as it is pleasing, which makes it a favorite wherever rich table delicacies are in .demand. This style of cheese is successfully made in the United States.
Imported Brie cheese, mention of which is made as early as 1407, comes largely from the region of Brie in the district of the Marne in France. This cheese is made from cow's milk in the homes of the farmers and is put up in the shape of a pie. It is usually cured in cool basements. The packer and shipper of this cheese sends his wagon around to the homes of the makers, picks up the cheeses, and brings them to a central place where they are cured and packed. In taste Brie cheese is quite similar to Camembert — which is paying it a high compliment. A good many imported Brie cheeses come from Fontainebleau, a place intimately connected with the life of Napoleon.
Italian cheeses. Perhaps the most familiar Italian cheese is the Parmesan, which is used mostly by chefs for flavoring spaghetti, macaroni, and other dishes. It is thus used because it is so hard that it can be grated and produce an even mixture, and also because it has strength enough to give the required flavor. Parmesan cheese is made from skimmed cow's milk and, under proper conditions, may be kept for several years.
Gorgonzola is the aristocrat of Italian cheeses. It is very widely used and is somewhat similar to Roquefort, but not so expensive. Like Roquefort it is made of sheep's milk, but is milder in flavor. Gorgonzola is put up in twenty-pound baskets, one cheese to a basket. The outside of this cheese is covered with a preparation made chiefly from gypsum and tallow. This coating makes it possible to keep the cheese for a year or more. Much of this cheese comes from the province of Lombardy.
Genuine Swiss cheeses. Most of us are familiar with the rich, delicate flavor of Swiss cheese. There are a good many kinds of "Swiss style" cheeses made in America. While this cheese is rich and of pleasant flavor, it lacks a certain quality, not easily described, although detected at once by the sensitive taste of the cheese lover. It is the product of an inherited art, together with climatic conditions which do not exist in this country. It is also possible to tell by sight the difference between the genuine imported Swiss and the "Swiss style" American-made cheese. The real Alpine article has very large "eyes" and is fine in texture.
The Swiss cheese known as Emmenthaler is made of cow's milk, and is put up in wheels of about two hundred pounds each. Its manufacture is said to require more labor than that of any other cheese. This is because it must be washed and rubbed with salt each alternate day for the first week or so and then a little less frequently until it is fully cured.
You will surely wish to know the history of Emmenthaler cheese, which dates back many centuries. Long ago the thal or valley of the Emme in the Alps became a great cheese center; hence the name Emmenthaler. Ever since the conquests of Caesar, and probably before the peasants of Switzerland have pastured their cows on the grassy slopes of the Alps.
Emmenthaler cheese is made in small, immaculately clean factories, or cheese dairies, scattered throughout the numerous valleys which lie between the beautiful foothills and mountains of Switzerland. A factory is usually run by one family. This family may consist .of a mother and father, some children, and perhaps the grandparents, all engaged in making cheese. Often a family factory will include only a man and his wife. There is a basement cheese depot in the city of Bern where, for fifteen generations, members of one family have cured and handled Emmenthaler cheese.
Emmenthaler like Brie cheese is cured in basements or cool cellars. It is repeatedly treated with the amount of moisture and salt necessary to give it the desired flavor. This treatment consists of first washing the cheese with pure, cool water which bubbles from a mountain spring, and then rubbing the "loaf" or "wheel" with salt. The salt soon dissolves and great beads of water are left standing all over the loaves. For this reason it is often called "weeping Emmenthaler." The salt strikes into the cheese, giving it a peculiar flavor. The frequency with which this process is repeated largely determines the quality of the cheese.
The average Alpine factory will make 200 to 400 pounds of cheese a day. Occasionally one of the co-operative factories will make four loaves, or 800 pounds, a day—two loaves from the morning's and two from the evening's milk.
As a rule the family which does the cheese making has no part in producing the milk. Experts at their trade, these cheese makers are paid for their labor by those who own and tend the herds. The cheese factories are neighborhood affairs and nearly all of them are co-operative, the profits or losses from the enterprise being shared by those farmers who send milk to it. Usually the cans of milk are hauled to the creamery in small, two-wheeled carts drawn by dogs. When the grade is steep or the pulling hard the peasant often takes hold of an extra strap or rope and gives the dog team a little friendly help.
The Alpine pastures are indescribably rich and green, and are given a watchful care seldom bestowed upon meadows in America. They are much more like velvety lawns than pastures. In the lower districts about 80 per cent of the Swiss cheese is made where the cattle remain the year round. The cows are not allowed their freedom in a fenced pasture as in this country, but are staked out. No cow is moved on to a fresh grazing spot until she has made a clean job of cropping the grass within the circle of her tether. This practice prevents the trampling and wasting of grass that is not eaten.
The problem of plowing fields and doing other heavy farm work is often solved by the thrifty Swiss in a way almost unknown in this country. The milch cows are yoked and worked as we work oxen in America. But great care and judgment are required in order that this work shall not check or injure the cows' yield of milk. So the careful Swiss farmer, instead of working one pair of cows all day, uses three or four pairs in the course of a day's plowing and drives them so slowly that they chew their cuds contentedly while pulling the plow.
But not all Swiss cheese is made under the co-operative plan. There is another kind of cheese making that is as picturesque as the scenes among which it is practiced. It might be called "following the snow line."
Before Switzerland became a republic, certain lords and nobles received grants of lands or "alps."
These alps were leased and released to one generation after another of the same peasant families. The word "alp" means not only a very high mountain but also a high mountain pasture and this is the meaning of the term when used in connection with the leased rights of pasturage.
As soon as the snow begins to melt in the spring, the Swiss peasant having a pasture right of this kind starts with his herd and a portable cheese-making outfit on a slow ascent of the slope. Of course the snow begins melting from the lower edge of the great drift. Then only a few hours after the sun has banished it from a stretch of mountain side a green carpet of grass appears.
The herdsmen who "follow the snow line" and graze their cows on these lofty Alpine pastures are usually their own cheese makers. They remain on the high slopes making cheeses until forced down by the coming of cold weather. Sometimes they and their cheese-making outfits are sheltered in rude stone huts, but very often in tents. When eating a piece of genuine imported Swiss cheese you may well say to yourself: "Quite possibly this was made by a wandering herdsman high up in the great Alps and cured in a rough hut or in a grotto built over a mountain spring. Probably he. took his older boys and girls with him to watch the cows and `keep house' while he made the cheese and washed and rubbed it until it was cured."
The prospect of a summer vacation of this kind would make many an American boy or girl almost wild with delight.
English cheeses. From England we receive Stilton cheese, which is made in Leicestershire. It is made from the whole milk of cows, to which cream has been added, and is put up in twelve-pound cases of cheddar shape. Some Stilton cheese is cured by putting it in a bladder and smothering it in Burgundy wine. Although this is often done, it is by no means the usual method of curing.
Stilton is a very rich cheese and has a sharp tang which suggests a family resemblance to Roquefort and Gorgonzola. It is said to have been made, for the first time, about the middle of the eighteenth century.
Although few Cheshire cheeses find their way to America this cheese is probably the favorite with the English public. It might be called the mother of all English cheese from the fact that it is the oldest type made in the United Kingdom. It is made from cow's milk, unskimmed, and has a rich color and taste. A peculiarity of Cheshire cheese making is the use of a heated wooden box called an "oven." There is a cheese called the Cheshire-Stilton which combines the main characteristics of these two famous English cheeses.
Another celebrated English cheese is the Cheddar. It takes its name from the quaint little hamlet of Cheddar in Somersetshire. Although this is considered a good cheese it is especially important from the fact that it has given its name not only to a style of cheese but also to a shape, which suggests a tall, round bandbox. This form has become the standard in America for the regular domestic "cream cheese" of commerce. The peculiarity of the English Cheddar in point of quality is its decided acidity. It is made from the sweet milk of cows.
Canada makes large quantities of Cheddar cheese, but of a type more closely resembling the Cheddars of the United States than those of England. This is virtually the only kind of cheese made in Canada; which in a normal year produces about 200,000,000 pounds, of which it exports 180,000,000 pounds.
Other foreign cheeses. Germany is famed for its brick cheese, as well as for its Limburger. Limburger cheese, however, originated in Limbourg, Belgium, and not in Germany.
Caerphilly is a hard Welsh cheese made from cow's milk; it is put up in eight-pound packages. Bohemia sends us Liptau cheese, which is made from goat's milk and is usually seasoned with red pepper and spices. It is packed in tinfoil.
Odd types of cheese. There are many curious developments in cheese making — or at least they so appear to the boy or girl of the United States — caused by the kind of material available for curd. These oddities teach us that man is determined to have cheese and that he will make it of whatever kind of milk is most convenient for him to use. For example, in Lapland the most common cheese is made from the milk of reindeer. In certain parts of Italy, where the tame buffalo is much used as a work animal, a cheese called Latticini is made from buffalo's milk.
Several kinds of cheese are made by mixing the milk of different kinds of animals. The Montasio cheese of Carinthia, in Austria, is a blend of milk from cows and goats. In curing it is rubbed with olive oil. There are several styles of cheese made by mixing the milk of goats and sheep.
One of the most remarkable of what might be called cheese confections is the "flower" cheese of England —a delicious soft cheese in which are imprisoned the petals of roses or marigolds, or other fragrant blooms which give their bouquet to the cheese. Venezuela has a curious cheese called Queso de Cincho made in the form of balls pressed in palm leaves. The queer Gouda cheese of Holland packed in bladders occasionally reaches the American market.
Sources of our cheese supply. In a normal year we import about 50,000,000 pounds, or about $10,000,000 worth, of cheese. Of this Italy furnishes over 40 per cent, Switzerland 35 per cent, France about 9 per cent, the Netherlands 7 per cent, and Greece contributes about 5 per cent.
In one year we imported more than $11,000,000 worth of cheese. Of this we bought $5,024,270 worth from Italy, $3,617,651 worth from Switzer-land, $1,032,817 worth from France, $455,159 worth from the Netherlands, and $447,124 worth from Greece. We also bought cheese from several other countries of Europe, Asia, Oceania, and South America and from Canada.
It is well to remember, however, that about 95 per cent of the cheese eaten in the United States is made in this country.