The last time you broke open a package of cheddar; did you wonder where that cheese actually came from or how it came into existence? Chances are good that you were probably more interested in getting those slices on your bread or crackers than in the history of your cheese.
However, cheese has a long and interesting history that actually dates back much farther than Christ ? almost to the beginning of the world as we know it. It?s pretty amazing to think that the slice of cheddar you are eating has a longer history than almost every civilization on earth!
How did the History of Cheese Begin?
Ancient folklore states that the history of cheese originated with a nomadic traveler that had packed milk for his travel in a saddlebag that had been created from the stomach of a young animal. That bag contained rennet, which is a product found in animal stomachs and is an enzyme that helps to transform milk into cheese. When this weary traveler stopped for a refreshing drink of his milk, he realized that the liquid has been changed into curds and whey. Both were found to be very tasty, and the love of cheese was born.
The Old Testament of the Bible makes many references to cheese and cheese making, leading historians to believe that the history of cheese dates back much farther than the birth of Christ. There have been curdling vessels found that can date back as far as 5000 B.C. and written diagrams showing the process of milking cows and curdling the milk that go back to 3500 B.C.
It is thought that cheese was first made in the Middle East, but the popularity of the food quickly spread throughout much of Europe. By the thirteenth century, farm women realized the advantage of combining their resources to create cheese, and cooperative dairies were born. As more and more countries got into the cheese-making act, many different varieties of cheeses came into existence.
During the Middle Ages, monks got into the cheese-making arena as well, and we can credit them for many of the varieties of cheese that we have today. The history of cheese continued into the nineteenth century, when cheeses began to be made in factories instead of on farms. The variety of cheeses that we enjoy today can be attributed to the various regions in the world that tried their own hand at cheese making with great success and flavor contributions.