The Cheese Slice: Welcome Cheese Lovers!

Here is Nora S., our resident cheesemonger, with an introduction to her new column on the intricacies of our most beloved dairy product. Welcome back Nora!

Welcome back, cheese lovers. And welcome to The Kitchn's newest section dedicated to the joys of all things cheese. Every Tuesday, expect new information on cheese-making trends, principles on pairing wine, beer, and food with cheese, cheese world news, and more. And of course we are open to all ideas and requests from readers.

In so doing, our goal is to make cheese accessible, while still covering obscure topics that will heighten your cheese knowledge and make it easier to impress your local cheesemonger. Week after week. Allow us an uber-brief introduction to cheese...

As one of the world’s oldest fermented foods, cheese can be made just about anywhere you find milk. Key to keep in mind is cheese history, which supports the notion that cheese is a commodity first, a luxury second (if at all). Milk turns sour after a few days, but many cheeses can last for years, and its origin illustrates how cheese is, above all, a preservation method.

Ancient cheese lore dates back to the Middle East, where animal organs, such as stomachs, were commonly used as containers to store food across the long journeys through the desert. (Think of that the next time you pack your lunch in a Tupperware container.) Imagine the surprise of the nomadic Arab farmer when he took out the stomach that was holding his precious supply of milk. Instead of liquid milk, he found a coagulated mass of curd and liquid whey. A key discovery was made of the enzymatic capabilities of rennet, the agent found in young animals’ stomach linings and which we now know transforms liquid milk into solid cheese.

More on this next week, when we discuss cheesemaking.

-Nora S.

(Image: Fox & Obel - an excellent gourmet shop in Chicago)

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Faith is the executive editor of The Kitchn and the author of three cookbooks. They include Bakeless Sweets (Spring 2013) as well as The Kitchn's first cookbook, which will be published in Fall 2014. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Mike.