If you’re fancy, you’ve probably been to a wine and cheese party. Or if you’re like us, you’ve probably poured a hefty glass of wine and rummaged through the cheese drawer in the fridge to dig up some string cheese to pair with your Friday-night-Netflix extravaganza. Either way, you know that wine and cheese make the perfect pairing.
We’re not gonna lie, we know a lot about wine. And we’ve covered it’s impressive history quite a bit. But cheese? We realized we didn’t know a whole lot about this tasty snack, so we turned to the great world wide web to figure out exactly how cheese was first made.
Like wine, cheese is old. Like so old that it goes way back to when ruminants’ stomachs were being used as storage. (For reference, ruminant animals are basically your cows, sheep, etc that regurgitate their food to chew it twice. Yum.) Obviously, using the stomach of an animal to store your food predates refrigerators, so we know that cheese is not a new concept. The inside of the ruminant animal’s stomach lining contains rennet, an enzyme that hardens the milk. Put simply, the milk separates into curds. When the first curious soul was brave enough to try the new concoction, they found that it tasted best when sprinkled with salt or in something acidic, like fruit juice. Other cheese experts (where do we apply) think that cheese could’ve been created when milk was salted to preserve it.
No matter which of these methods was first used, we know for certain that it was perfected throughout Europe and the Middle East by the time of the Roman Empire. The Roman influence led to much experimentation and documentation that created hundreds of different varieties of cheese that were produced and traded.
Now let’s fast-forward a few hundred years to when cheese made its way across the sea to America, which didn’t happen by the way until the 1700s. We know, we also found it hard to believe that there was ever a time when we weren’t smothering cheese on every conceivable surface. We can thank the English Puritan dairy farmers for bringing the art of cheesemaking to the good ole US of A back when it was first being colonized. The practice slowly moved west until it arrived in Wisconsin (aka the great dairy state) in the 1830s and 40s.
Today, Wisconsin takes credit for over 25 percent of the United State’s domestic cheese production. With over 180 years of practice, Wisconsin has developed more than 500 different types of cheese. Now that’s a lot of cheddar. No wonder Wisconsin cheeses have won more awards than any other state (or country!).
If all this cheese talk has got you in the mood for some artisan, award-winning Wisconsin cheese, we’ve got you covered. Our favorite cheese subscription service, The Tasting Board, sources all their delicious cheese from Wisconsin (because, where else?). The service delivers 4 scrumptious kinds of cheese to your door each month, which are guaranteed to make your mouth water thanks to their 7-question quiz. The quiz pairs you perfectly with the right types of cheese each month, so you’ll never be disappointed. The only other thing you’ll need? Some wine to pair with it.
So the next time you’re enjoying a swanky cheese board, or craving some classic Wisconsin cheese, think back to the very first batch of cheese made in a cow’s stomach and thank your lucky stars that we use a fridge to store our cheese now.
Sources: National Historic Cheesemaking Center, International Dairy Foods Association, Forbes