Ten Things You Always Wanted to Know About Cheese

Cheese, I think most people would agree, is one of the finer things in life!  On August 1 – 4, I had the good fortune to attend the American Cheese Society’s Annual Conference in Madison, WI.  Three days of eating cheese and going to cheese classes–does it get any better than that?

Cheese Sampling at the American Cheese Society Converence

Cheese Sampling at the American Cheese Society Converence

Held at the beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright designed Monona Terrace in Madison, WI, the conference provided the opportunity to learn many new things and eat myself (nearly) into a food coma.  Since I can’t share the cheese, I at least wanted to pass along some of the information and pictures to you.

Eating Cheese on the Scenic Monona Terrace Rooftop

Eating Cheese on the Scenic Monona Terrace Rooftop

Ten Things You Always Wanted to Know About Cheese (or milk) But Never Thought to Ask

 

  1. Good quality milk has little flavor and aroma  Any defects in the milk are multiplied 10 times if it is made into cheese and 20 times if used for butter; aging magnifies this even more.  Sunlight (and the lights in retail displays) can damage the flavor of milk in as little as 10 minutes, via oxidation.

    Milk Bottles

    Evaluating “Off” Flavors in Milk

  2. Requirements (e.g. leaching) for the stainless steel that is used by dairy producers are higher than those in the pharmaceutical industry.
  3. Many people feel that cheese pairs even better with beer than wine.

    American Cheese Society Wisconsin Beer and Cheese Pairings

    American Cheese Society Wisconsin Beer and Cheese Pairings

  4. A cow must give birth to a calf annually to keep producing milk.  Cows are typically milked for 305 days/year and the milk changes in fat and protein levels through this period, impacting the yield and flavor of cheese.
  5. Today the average herd size is 120-130, up from 11 in the 1960’s.

    Cheddar in the "Old World" Barrel Shape

    Cheddar in the “Old World” Barrel Shape

  6. Approximately 10 lbs of milk goes into 1 lb of cheese.
  7. Most early cheese production used a piece of calf stomach for coagulation but today liquid rennet is more popular.  A notable exception is in the Swiss Alps where the lighter weight, dried calf stomach is still carried up the mountains to produce cheese there.

    Enjoying Cheese at the Meet the Cheesemaker Event

    Enjoying Cheese at the Meet the Cheesemaker Event

  8. When cheese is judged in competition the room is set to 65-68 degrees and cheese is set out early to warm to the proper temperature before tasting.
  9. Cottage cheese is actually 0% milk fat; the “juice” surrounding the cheese is what gives it its fat content.

    Learning the art and science of cheesemaking

    Learning the art and science of cheesemaking

  10. Descriptions for “off” flavors in cheese include “wet dog,” “Elmer’s glue” and “cow’s breath”
  11. Cheese is awesome!  (But you probably already knew that)

    Partying on the Roof Terrace with the UW Band

    Partying on the Roof Terrace with the UW Band

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22 thoughts on “Ten Things You Always Wanted to Know About Cheese

  1. Louise

    What an enjoyable post, Inger. I’ve been trying to get to Wisconsin for ages. How wonderful that you were able to make the Cheese Conference.

    Thank you so much for sharing your visit with us…

  2. Freeda Baker Nichols

    Enjoyed this. My mother used to make a type of cheese and I don’t even know how she made it, but I remember how good it tasted. She made it only occasionally, but it was a special treat for the family. I think she used a cheesecloth to maybe strain the milk. Wish I knew more about it.

    1. Inger

      I have made cheese at home a couple times. The easier cheeses (like fresh mozzarella and feta) are not as hard as you might think. Perhaps I’ll have to do a post on that sometime–thanks for the idea Freeda!

    1. Inger

      THanks Kathy. I have been to this conference a few times and it’s always great. Every year I check the location to see if I might be able to fit in attending.

  3. Kathy

    I’m not sure I knew much of anything about cheese before this post. This was very informative, Inger. Thank you. (Feta is the only cheese in our frig right now.)

    1. Inger

      I wish I had feta in my fridge now Kathy–love it with basil and tomatoes! Seems kind of funny to go out and buy cheese after bringing a ton back 😉

  4. lena

    hi inger, what a privilege to attend a cheese conference! i am not aware of most of the info that you shared except for point 11. I just bought gruyere cheese and it’s my first time trying it out..soon!

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