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Cheese and Culture – A History of Cheese and Its Place in Western Culture
Paul S. Kindstedt

The storage of milk protein through the separation of curds and whey was the vital technological development. Rennet, extracted from the stomachs of weaning animals, was discovered later on and the first cheese-makers found other ways, notably wild fig sap to coagulate milk. Once separated, the curds could be salted and sun-dried for grating; or stored in brine, much like some Turkish or Balkan cheeses today. Indeed, if you want a good idea of what ancient cheese was about, try feta.

Another practice vital to cheese-making in the warmer parts of the world was also soon discovered: transhumance. Sheep, goats and, much later, cows were taken up the mountain in the summer months where the pastures were richer and the milk would be less likely to spoil prior to renneting.

Once renneting was mastered, sophistication increased. Cheesemakers learned to press or not to press, to mix milkings, to cut or cook the curds, to age in damp or dry places, to wax, bind or rub the surfaces and a whole plethora of styles was born. The best were exported and soon there was a notion of good and bad: for example, a discerning Greek public went to markets to buy the products of Chios (also famous for wine), just as later the Dutch would make handsome profits by making durable, export-style cheeses in Edam and Gouda.