Cheese is a solid food made from the curdled milk of various animals—most commonly cows but sometimes goats, sheep, reindeer, and water buffalo. There are hundreds of types of cheese. Rennet is often used to induce coagulation in the milk, although some cheeses are curdled with acids like vinegar or lemon juice or with extracts of various species of Cynara (sometimes called vegetable rennet). Rennet is an enzyme traditionally obtained from the stomach lining of bovine calves or a microbiological (laboratory-produced) substitute is used. Bacteria are added to cheese to reduce the pH, alter texture, and develop flavor, and some cheeses also have molds, either on the outer skin or throughout.

The natural colour of cheeses range from off-white to yellow. In some parts of the world, such as Wisconsin in the United States, the milk fat is low in beta-carotene, making the cheese a paler yellow than normal. In this case, it is common to add annatto plant dye as a coloring agent. Some cheeses are made with the addition of herbs and spices.

As a response to the loss of diversity in mass-produced cheeses, a cottage industry has grown up around home cheesemaking in some locations. In many European countries this has historically been the normal means of cheesemaking.

Different styles and flavors of cheese are the results of using different species of bacteria and molds, different levels of milk fat, variations in length of aging, differing processing treatments (cheddaring, pulling, brining, mold wash) and different breeds of cows, sheep, or other mammals. Other factors include milk, animal diet, and the addition of herbs and spices to some cheeses.

Some controversy exists regarding the safety of cheese made by the traditional methods of using unpasteurized milk and regarding how pasteurization affects flavor.


Styles of cheese

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Cheese on display at a supermarket.

Main article: List of cheeses

Major classes of cheese include:

In addition, there is a class of cheese known as processed cheese or cheese food. Cheese food slices are commonly found on cheeseburgers; although it is also sold in blocks or as a thick liquid. Processed cheese is similar to cheese, but also contains emulsifying salts acting as stabilizers. Heat treatment during the manufacturing process gives processed cheese a mild flavor, such as American cheese.

Cheese trivia

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Cheese selection on market stand in Basel, Switzerland.
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A cheese platter with many types of cheese.

In 1546, John Heywood wrote in his Proverbes that "The moon is made of a greene cheese." Variations on this sentiment were long repeated. Some people have assumed that this was a serious belief in the era before space exploration, but Heywood was probably being sarcastic and others enjoyed repeating this as silly nonsense.

Because of the way saying the word makes one's mouth form a smile, in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries, the word cheese is said just before someone takes a picture.

Toasted cheese is called Welsh rabbit (or, incorrectly, rarebit), but has nothing to do with rabbits.

The word "cheese" comes from Latin caseus and, later, West Germanic kasjus. Note that cheese in Modern German is Kse.

The first factory for the industrial production of cheese opened in Switzerland on February 3, 1815. France and Italy are the nations with the most diversity in locally made cheeses - with approximately 400 each. According to a French proverb, there is a different French cheese for every day of the year.

The love of cheese is called turophilia; fear of cheese is turophobia.

Certain kinds of hard cheese like cheddar have been found to help fight tooth decay if eaten soon after eating foods that promote it.

In his Histoire de ma vie Giacomo Casanova confessed that he planned and even wrote some chapter of a great book about cheeses; in the preface he said that he was mad for cheeses full of worms.

see Casanova's Histoire de ma vie

Cheese expressions and quotes

  • "Like chalk and cheese." — (An expression meaning completely different.)
  • "A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman who has lost an eye." — Brillat-Savarin.
  • "A slice of pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze." — Anonymous
  • "Say cheese!" — said during photo-taking to encourage those posing to smile
  • "How can you govern a country where there are 246 different types of cheese?" — attributed to Charles de Gaulle
  • "There's always free cheese in a mousetrap."
  • To "cut the cheese" — a euphemism for flatulence.


  • 'cheesy' can describe something of overblown, poorly-done quality.
  • "The Big Cheese" - an expression meaning "head honcho"

Cheese humor

Cheese is also a slang which refers to body odor (e.g. toe cheese).

Head cheese is not cheese at all but a preparation made from heads and other perhaps undesirable meats.

Also when used out of context, it is seen as random.

Further reading

  • Cheese Primer, Steven Jenkins, Workman Publishing Company, 1996, hardcover, ISBN 0894807625

See also

External links

Template:Commonscat Template:Cookbook

ca:Formatge cy:Caws da:Ost de:Kse eo:Fromaĝo es:Queso fi:Juusto fr:Fromage he:גבינה id:Keju io:Fromajo it:Formaggio ja:チーズ nl:Kaas no:Ost pl:Ser pt:Queijo ro:Brânză simple:Cheese sl:Sir sv:Ost zh:奶酪


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