A lot of food is getting a bad name nowadays, and cheese stands tall in this category. Having a dish with cheese on it is considered as bad as a takeaway bag of fries from a fast food joint. So why do I believe that eating good cheese could very well be a part of a regular meal plan?
Cheese was traditionally made as a method to preserve milk. By coagulating milk and aging it, a dairy farmer could store milk for periods of time when it is not as easily available. This is also why products like ghee and butter came to be.
Traditional cheese is made with very few ingredients – milk, rennet and salt. Rennet is traditionally an animal product, which is used to coagulate milk to set it into curd – the first step towards making cheese. In India, rennet must be vegetarian so a vegetable extract is used instead to fulfill the same purpose.
The process of making cheese is essentially a method of fermentation, and various cultures of microbes are used to make different kinds of cheeses. In the old days, this was directly related to the geographic area where the cheese is made, as the local microbial activity varies according to culture. By controlling the culture, the temperatures, the storage conditions, etc. one can make different kinds of cheese.
Another factor that directly influences the taste and quality of cheese, is the milk that is used to make it. Cheese could be made using milk from different animals – but in addition to that, the health and diet of the animal plays a big factor in influencing the quality. Better cheese is made when the animals are healthy, allowed to pasture and fed natural diets.
Holistic animal farms play a vital role in maintaining the ecosystems of grazing grounds. They help in the process of growing organic food, and balance the soil with the microbes in the manure.
This entire process is diametrically opposite to the processed cheese industry. Processed cheese is loaded with chemicals, right from the way the animal is fed, to the process of cheese making itself. Instant coagulants, stabilising and binding agents, emulsifiers to maintain smoothness and texture, colours, preservatives, etc. are run of the mill ingredients in processed cheese. The evils of processed cheese are just as many as the evils of the fast food industry.
By subscribing to the culture of eating natural, artisan, locally made cheese, we support the entire production system. We ensure that we support happier animals, provide for the livelihoods for the farmers and artisan cheese makers, support the ecosystem and biodiversity of the farm, and finally get an excellent product that is worth being on your dining table!