Cheese is a generic term for a diverse
group of milk-based food products. Cheese is produced
throughout the world in wide-ranging flavors, textures,
Cheese consists of proteins and fat from milk, usually
the milk of cows, buffalo, goats, or sheep. It is
produced by coagulation of the milk protein casein.
Typically, the milk is acidified and addition of
the enzyme rennet causes coagulation. The solids
are separated and pressed into final form. Some
cheeses have molds on the rind or throughout. Most
cheeses melt at cooking temperature.
Hundreds of types of cheese are produced. Their
styles, textures and flavors depend on the origin
of the milk (including the animal's diet), whether
they have been pasteurized, the butterfat content,
the bacteria and mold, the processing, and aging.
Herbs, spices, or wood smoke may be used as flavoring
agents. The yellow to red color of many cheeses
is from adding annatto.
For a few cheeses, the milk is curdled by adding
acids such as vinegar or lemon juice. Most cheeses
are acidified to a lesser degree by bacteria, which
turn milk sugars into lactic acid, then the addition
of rennet completes the curdling. Vegetarian alternatives
to rennet are available; most are produced by fermentation
of the fungus Mucor miehei, but others have been
extracted from various species of the Cynara thistle
Cheese is valued for its portability, long life,
and high content of fat, protein, calcium, and phosphorus.
Cheese is more compact and has a longer shelf life
than milk. Cheesemakers near a dairy region may
benefit from fresher, lower-priced milk, and lower
shipping costs. The long storage life of some cheese,
especially if it is encased in a protective rind,
allows selling when markets are favorable.