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Cheese shop in Paris
Different types of cheese
Different pieces of hard cheese on a cheese stand

Cheese is a solid milk product that - with a few exceptions - is obtained by curdling from a protein component of the milk , the casein . It is the oldest method of preserving milk and its products. The New High German word “cheese” goes back to mhd. Kæse , “cheese, quark”, ahd. Kāsi from Latin cāseus , actually: “fermented, soured”, a. also the engl. cheese and the span. queso .

Economical meaning

Dairy products are a staple food in Europe, North America and Australia . Cheese is particularly widespread in western cultures. It is assumed that there are up to 5000 types of cheese, with cheeses of the same type being different from cheese dairy to dairy. The country with the largest cheese production in the world is the USA .

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization FAO, around 19 million tons of cheese (made from cow's milk) were produced worldwide in 2014 .

The following table gives an overview of the 20 largest producers of cow's milk cheese worldwide, which produced a total of 86.3%.

Largest cheese producers (2014)
rank country Quantity
(in t )
  rank country Quantity
(in t)
1 United StatesUnited States United States 5,221,857 11 CanadaCanada Canada 382.060
2 GermanyGermany Germany 1,890,996 12 DenmarkDenmark Denmark 369.100
3 FranceFrance France 1,778,365 13 New ZealandNew Zealand New Zealand 325,000
4th ItalyItaly Italy 1,176,020 14th AustraliaAustralia Australia 311,460
5 NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 771.941 15th EgyptEgypt Egypt 286,250
6th PolandPoland Poland 744,000 16 IrelandIreland Ireland 188,400
7th ArgentinaArgentina Argentina 558.907 17th SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland 185.336
8th Czech RepublicCzech Republic Czech Republic 548,000 18th AustriaAustria Austria 177.202
9 RussiaRussia Russia 494,000 19th VenezuelaVenezuela Venezuela 172.863
10 United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 410,000 20th BelarusBelarus Belarus 168,299
world 18,735,578


It can be assumed that Stone Age hunters discovered whitish gelatinous lumps in the stomachs of captured young ruminants who had recently drunk milk . Such rennet quark, fermented from milk in the stomach of prey, is probably the original form of cheese.

With the beginning of the domestication of first probably goats , then sheep and finally cattle and the spreading pasture economy in the Mesolithic , between about the 10th and 8th millennium BC. BC, humans were the first to have larger amounts of animal milk. In order to be able to store these larger quantities of perishable milk longer, the people of that time gradually developed the art of cheese-making . The diverse traditions of cheese making suggest that cheese making developed at different times and in different places. Milk stored in clay vessels or animal bladders first turned sour in the sun or on a warming fire, only to curdle soon afterwards . Under favorable circumstances, this resulted in edible, storable food.

Such sour milk cheeses , which are relatively easy to produce, enriched the food supply and helped to bridge food supply bottlenecks. A little later, the effect of animal and vegetable coagulants ( rennet ) for the targeted production of rennet cheese was discovered. Cheese specifically made with rennet could, for example, have been created when milk was poured into calf stomachs for storage and recognized the amazing effect of rennet. In addition, the preserving and flavor-enhancing effect of some noble molds was noticed in prehistoric times when cheese was stored in caves with a corresponding flora. In contrast to noble mold, cheese is spoiled if it contains other molds , some of which are toxic, or microorganisms such as bacteria .

Fragment of a cheese dairy from the Bronze Age, Kelheim Archaeological Museum

The first archaeological evidence of cheese production dates back to the Neolithic around 5500 BC. In Kujawy (Polish: Kujawy ) in today's Poland. Remnants of colander made of clay were found there, which, due to the traces of milk fatty acids in holes, could be clearly identified as cheese colons for skimming off whey.

From around 5000 BC It is certain that the dairy in Mesopotamia , the Black Sea region , Asia Minor , Egypt and North Africa was known and developed further. The oldest pictorial and written representations and evidence of cheese production come from Mesopotamia (in the area of ​​present-day Iraq ) from around 3000 BC. Chr.

Cheese also had a firm place in the daily life of the Greeks . It was valued as a delicacy and a sought-after commodity, it was ascribed aphrodisiac properties and it was used as an offering to the gods . In the 10th song of his Odyssey, Homer describes the invigorating effect of enjoying cheese. From the 4th century BC The first technical treatise on milk processing that has come down to us comes from Aristotle's pragmatics written in the 2nd century BC .

Greek slaves refined the art of cheese-making in the Roman Empire , from there it spread to almost all parts of Europe. The Romans already created a variety of baked goods with cheese and all kinds of variations of cheese salad. In addition to raisins and olives, the Roman legionaries had cheese as provisions in their packs.

Celts have been making cheese since the beginning of the Iron Age . When they were in the 4th century BC When they crossed the Alps in BC , they knew the sieves for skimming the cream, which are still in use in the cheese dairy today, and refined the art of cheese in the more northern latitudes. The Teutons took over the Celtic traditions and improved the now extensive craft.

Hortus sanitatis , Mainz 1491 Fig. For the chapter Caseus - cheese

A documented source for the development of cheese making in Europe since the early Middle Ages are the records of the monasteries. In many monasteries, not only were their own cheeses made, the meticulous writings of the monks also make it possible to trace the history of some of the cheeses produced to this day back to around the year 1100. In 1115 the Gruyere , 1184 Gouda and Edam , 1200 Emmental and Bavarian hand cheeses and in 1282 the Appenzell were first mentioned in monastery manuscripts. The English Cheshire is mentioned in the Domesday Book , completed in 1086 .

The Savoyard expert on dairy products Pantaleone da Confienza (* around 1417) proves himself to be an expert on cheese production and regional cheeses in his work Summa lacticiniorum , published in Turin in 1477 . The work of the Pantaleon receives its relevance both through the presentation of the late medieval derivation of nutritional recommendations on the basis of ancient-medieval humoral pathology and through its description of cheese production, which is already modern.

Since the 19th century, many scientific discoveries and technical developments have facilitated and improved cheese-making. Ferdinand Cohn discovered that the ripening of cheese is related to microorganisms, Louis Pasteur , Justus von Liebig and Ilja Iljitsch Metschnikow researched the secrets of ripening, taste and aroma in the laboratory and developed methods to improve the shelf life of cheese. Engineers developed cutting frames, beaters, quark separators, electric cutting and stirring tools, huge kettles and tubs, cooling devices and other aids for cheese production on an industrial scale, in some cases in collaboration with cheese masters.

Recent developments in this area include rennet substitutes that can be produced on an industrial scale, such as microbial or genetically engineered rennet.

Cheese making

Vessels that were used to make cheese (from Aveyron , France )

Depending on the type of cheese, between 4 and 16 liters of milk are required to produce one kilogram of cheese. Based on the manufacturing process, six types can be distinguished:

Sour milk cheese is made when milk is acidified by lactic acid bacteria and the milk protein ( casein ) is precipitated as a result. This process is known as curling . The precipitated casein is separated from the liquid, the whey , and is known as cream cheese . This can be used to produce matured sour milk cheese, which can be refined with special bacterial cultures ( red smear ) or noble mold .

In the production of rennet cheese (also called sweet milk cheese), the milk protein casein is precipitated by rennet , an enzyme mixture of pepsin and chymosin . The ability of rennet to break down the milk protein casein in such a way that the milk thickens without becoming acidic was recognized in ancient times and made usable for cheese production. Most of the well-known hard or semi-hard cheeses come from curdling sweet milk. Fresh cheese, which is typically made by curdling sour milk with the help of lactic acid bacteria, can also be made using rennet.

Whey protein cheese is not made from milk, but from sweet whey , acid whey and whey cream produced. While rennet cheese and sour milk cheese get their firmness through coagulation of the milk protein casein by means of the enzymes contained in the rennet or through acidification, whey protein cheese and whey cheese gain their texture through heat-induced precipitation of the whey proteins albumin and globulin .

The bacterial breakdown of the carbohydrate lactose contained in milk leads to the formation of lactic acid and carbon dioxide (carbon dioxide). This gas is responsible for the formation of the holes in the cheese. In 1917 the American William Clark published a review article on the state of research on the holes in Emmentaler. This degradation can take place through propionibacteria as propionic acid fermentation . Swiss researchers researched the Emmentaler and Appenzeller varieties using computer tomography and found in 2015 that the number of holes is influenced by the number of hay particles present. Increasing hygiene, milking machines instead of manual milking in an open milking bucket reduced the amount of hay particles in the milk between 2000 and 2015. With the addition of micro-hay particles to "pure" milk, the number of holes (not their total volume) will be increased.

The water consumption is over 5,000 liters per kilo of cheese. According to the FAO, the production of dairy products caused 4 percent of the world's human-made greenhouse gas emissions ( CO 2 equivalents ) in 2010 .


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About this picture

Depending on the type of milk used (e.g. from sheep, goat or cow), its pretreatment (pasteurization, bacteria), the manufacturing process (temperature, size of the cheese curd), possible additives such as salt, spices, bacterial and fungal cultures, post-treatment with Brine or mold, the ripening conditions (temperature, humidity, film ripening) and the ripening period result in very different cheeses in terms of taste, firmness (consistency) and appearance.

Classification according to the origin of the milk

Cheese is mainly made from cow's milk , but there is still cheese made from sheep and goat milk . Mozzarella was originally only made from buffalo milk , however, for today's mass production, the cheaper cow's milk is often used. Exotic cheese products are in Asia, especially Nepal , cheese made from the milk of yaks , in Scandinavia , especially the Juustoleipa in Finland , which is also made from milk from reindeer . In Serbia is Pule donkey milk and in Afghanistan Kadchgall prepared from sheep or camel milk.

Cheese cannot be made from pig's milk because pig's milk contains too little casein .

Cheese platter

Cheese groups according to water content

The German Cheese Ordinance divides cheese into the following cheese groups (arranged in ascending order with the water content ), not according to the fat content, but according to the water content in the fat-free cheese mass : hard cheese (up to 56 %), semi-hard cheese (over 54% - 63%), semi-hard cheese Semi-hard cheese (over 61% to 69%), sour milk cheese (over 60% to 73%), soft cheese (over 67%) and cream cheese (over 73%). The more dry matter a cheese has, the harder it is regularly; the less dry matter, the more water it has and the softer it is.

Fat levels of cheese

Cheese consists of water and fat in different proportions. If it contains more water, it has less dry matter and is therefore less fat . The fat content of the cheese can be adjusted by adding or removing cream . The absolute fat content is obtained by evaluating the fat content of the dry matter with the following factors:

  • Quark x 0.25
  • Cream cheese × 0.30
  • Soft cheese × 0.50
  • semi-hard sliced ​​cheese × 0.60
  • Hard cheese × 0.70

As a semi-hard semi-hard cheese, butter cheese has 28.8 percent absolute fat: 48 percent fat content in the dry matter (fat in dry matter) × 0.6. A double cream cheese with 60 percent fat i. Tr. therefore has less fat than a hard cheese with 45 percent fat i. Tr.

Specification of the fat content

In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the fat content is not stated as a percentage of the total weight, but as a percentage of the dry matter. The reason is that cheese still loses moisture and thus weight during storage; the relative fat content can therefore increase during storage. However, the ratio of fat to dry matter in a piece of cheese remains the same throughout the entire time.

In Germany, which are by the regulations on cheese fat content levels for designation of the food after the fat content in the dry matter is defined as Doppelrahm- (60-87%), cream (below 60-50%), full-fat (below 50-45%), fat - (below 45-40%), three-quarter fat (below 40-30%), half-fat (below 30-20%), quarter-fat (below 20-10%) and lean (below 10%).

In many other countries, specifying a fat level is unusual or, as in France, no longer practiced; here, for example, the fat content in relation to 100 g cheese is mentioned ( teneur en matière grasse pour 100 grammes de produit fini )

Cheeses by cultures

The cultures can be divided into molds and bacteria. Cheese made from animal cheese mites ( Tyroglyphus casei ) occupies a special position .

In the case of fine mold cheese, the curd or the cheese wheel is inoculated with mold fungi.

During the ripening period from a few weeks to three months, red smear cheeses are washed with salt water and the surface treated with red smear bacteria. This removes water from the surface. In combination with red smear, these cheeses have a brownish, waxy, semi-soft rind that is permeable to air. The air permeability allows the cheese to mature properly. The cheese's batter is fine, soft and creamy. The mild taste becomes more pronounced and strong with age.

Classification in Switzerland

In Switzerland, the classification is based on the following names:

Hard cheese is a raw milk cheese. The raw milk is thickened with rennet to make hard cheese . Hard cheese is exclusively full-fat cheese with at least 45% fat.

There are two types of semi-hard cheese. They are made either from raw milk or pasteurized milk. They are also sweet milk cheeses. Sliced ​​cheese and semi-hard sliced ​​cheese come in different fat levels, from skimmed cheese to cream cheese.

Soft cheese, on the other hand, is usually made from pasteurized milk. But there are exceptions such as the Camembert de Normandie . Even with soft cheese, the milk is curdled by adding rennet. The surface of soft cheeses is often treated with red smear bacteria , or the curd or loaf of soft cheese is inoculated with noble molds . With red smear cheese, the orange-reddish rind is not consumed except for very young varieties. It develops an aroma that is too pungent, reminiscent of ammonia, and gives wines a bitter aftertaste. The white rind of blue cheese is also eaten.

Cream cheese is sour milk cheese. Little or no rennet is added to curdle the milk. Pasteurized milk is used to make cream cheese. Cream cheeses have no rind.

Other categories

Scalded cheeses are made by treating the curd mass with hot water, hot salt water or hot whey and kneading, pulling the plastic mass into ribbons or strands and shapes.

A distinction is also made between cheese preparations and processed cheese preparations (they contain other dairy products, such as cream, or other foods such as pieces of mushrooms or fruit) and cheese compositions (products made up of two or more types of cheese). Many types of cheese are also refined by adding spices , nuts or herbs , such as the French mimolette , which contains annatto (a coloring agent made from the seeds of the Orléans shrub). Some types of cheese are also wrapped in vine or chestnut leaves or rolled in pure wood ash.

From the point of view of the end consumer, a distinction is also made between the cheese spread that is spread on the bread and the sliced ​​or sliced cheese that is placed on the bread.


Baked pasta bake with cheese in the oven

Cheese is used in many dishes and preparation methods in the kitchen, the best known today are probably the cheese fondue and raclette as well as the cheese spaetzle . A selection of good cheeses belongs to every well-tended round table as a dessert course , starting with the mild cheeses and - often in connection with suitable wines - "tasting" the more flavorful ones.

Storage and maturation

Camembert is a soft cheese

The taste of cheese depends on storage temperature, humidity and ripening . The room temperature can reach 20 to 23 degrees Celsius without any problems for the cheese, as long as the humidity is high enough and the cheese is ideally still in the whole loaf.

Too little humidity (below 60%) allows the cheese to dry out too quickly and prevents it from maturing. Thus, Roquefort stored in caves with a humidity of 95%.

See also


  • Judy Bidgeway: Cheese . Taschen, Cologne 2000, ISBN 3-8228-6382-3 .
  • Odette Teubner: The big book about cheese . Teubner, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-7742-5803-1 .
  • Susanne Hofmann: Fine cheese and its secrets . Media Service, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-937939-09-1 .
  • Kazuko Masui: French cheese. Dorling Kindersley, Munich 2007, 288 pp., 375 color images, ISBN 978-3-8310-1097-4 .
  • Ursula Heinzelmann: Experience cheese and wine. A journey of discovery through new German pleasure landscapes. Scherz, Frankfurt am Main 2009, hardback, ISBN 978-3-502-15139-5 , table of contents .
  • Wolfgang Fassbender: Cheese guide Switzerland. Traditional varieties, best producers, exciting new inventions. Orell Füssli , Zurich 2010, ISBN 978-3-280-05390-4 .
  • Madeleine Jakits (Red.): The great cheese guide. The 400 best cheese addresses in Germany: dealers, counters, producers. International product knowledge, large cheese encyclopedia, creative recipes, reports, wine and beer as a companion, country portraits, accessories for everything to do with cheese. Edited by Der Feinschmecker , Jahreszeiten-Verlag, Hamburg 2010, 258 p., Numerous. Ill., ISBN 978-3-8342-0938-2 , table of contents .
  • Juliet Harbutt (ed.): Cheese of the world. Over 750 varieties. Dorling Kindersley, Munich 2011, 352 pages, around 2,000 color photos, bound, ISBN 978-3-8310-1733-1 .


  • All about cheese. Documentary series in eight episodes, Germany, 1998, script and director: Werner Teufl , production: Halo Filmproduktion, Bayerischer Rundfunk , series: Schlemmerreise, 1. France - Route des Fromages I; 2. France - Routes des Fromages II; 3. Austria - K u. K is for cow and cheese; 4. Germany; 5. Switzerland; 6. Denmark; 7. Italy; 8. Holland - in the land of Kaaskunst, film dates .
  • All cheese. Deliciousness made from milk. Documentary film, Germany, 2002, 42 min., Script and director: Jürgen Vogt, production: Telefilm Saar, ZDF , arte , film information from ARD , a. a. with Affineur Philippe Olivier.
  • Well get it. Cheese, loaf and life. Documentary series, Austria / Germany, 2009 ff., 25 min., Production: megaherz , ServusTV and website of the “Documentary series on the art of cheese making”.

Web links

Wiktionary: cheese  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Cheese  - Collection of Images
Wikibooks: Recipes with Cheese  - Learning and Teaching Materials

Individual evidence

  1. Cheese Ordinance, § 1 Definitions (1) : Cheeses are fresh products or products that are in various degrees of ripeness and are made from thick cheese milk.
  2. a b Livestock Processed> Cheese, whole cow milk. In: Official FAO production statistics for 2014., accessed on February 11, 2019 . (More recent figures are not available.)
  3. ^ Mélanie Salque et al .: Earliest evidence for cheese making in the sixth millennium bc in northern Europe. Nature, Volume 493, 2012, pp. 522-525, doi: 10.1038 / nature11698 , December 12, 2012, accessed on December 13, 2012 (English).
  4. 7,500 year old cheese. Der Standard, December 12, 2012, accessed December 13, 2012 .
  5. Archeology in Germany 04/2016, p. 5.
  6. ^ Website of the CMA History of Cheese ( Memento of February 12, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  7. Panthaleonis de Conflentia Summa lacticiniorum - sum of milk products. Translation of the original text from 1477, Turin, from Latin by Siegfried Kratzch. Edited by Carl-Ludwig Riedel and Dieter Hansen, Carl-Ludwig Riedel Verlag, Krefeld 2002, ISBN 3-00-009908-5 .
  8. Dominik Groß : on Panthaleonis de Conflentia Summa lacticiniorum - sum of milk products [...]. In: Würzburg medical history reports 23, 2004, p. 593 f.
  9. Section 1, Paragraph 2, No. 2 of the Cheese Ordinance
  10. Lebensmittelchemie: Hay causes holes in cheese,, May 28, 2015.
  11. Jürgen Rösemeier-Buhmann: These are the 6 biggest climate sinners among food. In: Sustainable Retrieved October 26, 2019 .
  12. ^ Dairy sector adds 4 percent to man-made emissions: FAO . In: Reuters . April 20, 2010 ( [accessed May 12, 2019]).
  13. Beef only in second place: These foods are the worst climate killers - ÖKO-TEST. Retrieved on May 12, 2019 (German).
  14. Swissmilk: Mozzarella ( archived copy ( memento of the original dated August 29, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this note. ) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  15. Why is there no cheese made from pig's milk? ( Memento from September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  16. § 6 Cheese Ordinance
  17. ^ Hans-Dieter Belitz, Werner Grosch, Peter Schieberle: Textbook of Food Chemistry (6th edition), Springer (2007), ISBN 978-3-540-73201-3
  18. Milchland NRW: Fett i. Tr. - What does that mean? ( Memento of the original from March 24, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , accessed February 27, 2014 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  19. § 5 Cheese Ordinance
  20. Etiquetage du fromage: note d'information. In: Process Alimentaire. June 5, 2007, accessed July 8, 2014 .
  21. French cheese decree (decree no. 2007–628 of April 27, 2007 regarding cheeses and cheese specialties - Décret n ° 2007-628 du 27 avril 2007 relatif aux fromages et spécialités fromagères )
  22. Fromashop: Classification of Swiss cheeses ( [1] )