When people say the wheel is the most important
invention in human history, I like to think they’re talking about cheese.
[MUSIC] After bread, cheese might represent mankind’s
oldest produced by science. Maybe even predating beer.
Problem is, there are so many different cheeses made in so many different ways that figuring
out the science behind this ancient food is enough to turn your brain into a gooey gooey
melty mess. So today, I’m heading over to my favorite
cheese shop in Austin to see if we can eat our way to some knowledge.
I’m here with Kara, our friendly neighborhood cheese expert to find out a little bit more
about the science of cheese. How’s it going?
Feeling fantastic how are you doing? I’m so happy to brie here.
Well it seems like for as long as people have been drinking milk, they’ve been eating cheese.
So, where did cheese start? Documentation, kinda doesn’t go as far back
as cheese does. But the original recipe, as legend has it, is actually an accident, as
some of the great food discoveries tend to be, right?
Middle eastern goat herder who was traveling across this kind of dry airy desert tried
to store his milk in the stomach sack of actually one of the animals they had butchered, like
a canteen. Unfortunately when he went to drink it later,
it was solid. I say unfortunately for him. For us, obviously
it was very fortunate because that’s how we kind of learned that milk can turn solid and
start to discover how. Yeah, I think that worked out pretty well
for us. Yeah, I’d say so, yeah.
Is there something special about an animal stomach that turns milk into cheese?
Rennet. Rennet is one of the four core ingredients in making cheese. And is really what gives
body to the milk. So the stomach lining serves kind of as a,
sort of akin to gelatin. Let’s say I’ve got a glass of milk, and I
want to turn it into cheese. What’s the first step?
So four ingredients are necessary in making any cheese. You already got your first one
if you got your milk. You want to heat up the milk. And then you add in cultures.
And cultures are essentially going to start that lacto-fermentation process. The same
way that yeast derives that fermentation process of the bread base, those cultures do the same
for the milk. And then you start to add in that rennet.
And the rennet is what’s going to give you the solids versus liquids. So it’s going to
separate the curds from the whey. As soon as you have that texture, you’re cutting
the curds. And that’s the first big decision. How big do you cut them? Because the more
surface area on each curd, the more its going to kind of wash out that whey. So if you want
a softer cheese, you’re going to cut the curds a bit larger.
If you want to make something like a parmesan or parmigiano or something you’re going to
really age out, you want it to be dry, you’re going to go small.
And then you’re going to kind of, as soon as it’s sturdy enough, season your cheese.
And that’s the salt. And those are really the four ingredients
you need to make any cheese. Alright so here we have our seven styles of
cheese. And this is just how we talk about cheese here, it’s our vocabulary so people
kind of feel at ease with chattin’ cheese, right?
So we’re going to start fresh with fresh cheeses. Color and rinds develop with age, so you just
have a perfectly white cheese right here that’s really just a beautiful example of a feta
or a fresh cheese. Alright, so down here we have kind of the
middle grouping of cheeses. The semi-soft cheese, those are the ones that
are really going to bend before they break. Lower melting points, so these are your grilled
cheese cheeses. Firm cheeses, those are going to definitely
break, not bend, but they may still have a nice melt-in-your-mouth quality here. So these
are going to include a lot of the cheddars out there, a lot of the gruyeres, swiss cheeses,
things like that. And then we have our hard cheeses, often considered
recipe cheeses or grating cheeses. If you ask me, all cheese is great.
Cheesy jokes. So then once you’ve got your cheese and you’re
setting it to age, there are certain molds and bacteria in any environment, there are
millions and trillions around us right now right, that are going to affect this very
pore surface that is cheese. These are the cheeses that really use molds
and bacteria in the make process itself. So starting towards the younger end of things
we have these bloomy rinded cheeses. What’s happening here is there is this one strain
of mold called penicillium candidum. And the cheesemaker is either mixing it in with a
milk or actually spraying the exterior of the formed cheese with this mold.
So next here we’ll go over to these washed rinds. Now this is where you’re using bacteria
instead of mold. The trappist monks were kind of the first people making washed rind cheeses.
During the lent where they were abstaining from eating meat, they would take their beers
and use them to wash their cheeses. Bacteria that lived in the beer itself called
brevibacterium linens gives you a very very meaty sort of flavor.
So this one’s really soft. Mhm, and definitely smell this one. So this
is where you’re going to get those funky flavors there. Funky aromas.
I can smell the beer in this. It’s like… Totally.
The environment in which you’re aging has a huge deal to do with what the cheese is
going to end up tasting like and feeling like. You can make roquefort cheese in the caves
of France, and if you try to make the same recipe with your cheese from over in California,
it’s going to be wildly different because you just don’t have the same aging environment.
There aren’t the same native sort of molds and bacteria.
So that’s what we see in blue cheese? Is it a fungus that’s in there?
It’s a mold. It’s a penicillium. This type of penicillium needs oxygen in order to bloom
into blue. So what they’re doing is creating these passageways.
These lines you see here are where they needled the cheese and you can see these little dots
on top too. And you can see they actually poked holes in the cheese during the aging
process. You should sell this as a perfume. Just like
a little bit under… Just like, a little ode to blue cheese.
This smells so good. Okay. So there you have it, an 8,000 year old food.
Our first biotechnology. Nature’s most delicious accident. It’s half science, half art, half
microbial magic. But cheese is all delicious. You have the best job ever.
It’s a pretty good job, I’m not going to lie. Cheesemonger, fun word, fun job.