Milk becomes a fully reliable resource when it can be converted into a product that will keep; until that was possible farmers needed to rely extensively on slaughtering to maintain a supply of protein through the year.
It is generally believed that cheese was first made in the Middle East. Legend has it that a nomadic Arab accidentally made cheese when a saddlebag filled with milk fermented due to the hot sun and the galloping of his horse.
Early cheeses were not the solid products known today. They were simple curds and whey. The curd is the solid part while the whey is liquid.
The earliest direct evidence for cheese comes from Egypt. The strange substance found in two jars from a tomb of the Egyptian First Dynasty (1300 to 29000 BC), with inscription that were read as rwt of the north’ and ‘rwt of the south’ was eventually pronounced to be cheese. Workmen making cheese are depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics. In ancient times, the whey was eaten immediately while the curd was salted or dried for preservation.
Attempts at heating partly soured milk, or whey that remained after cheese making, eventually would have produced the right combination of acidity and temperature to cause the coagulation of milk proteins, hence the discovery of acid/heat-coagulated cheeses, which to this day are widely produced in the Near East.
The Roman Legion helped spread the art of cheesemaking throughout Europe and England. The monasteries and feudal estates of Europe made great improvements in cheesemaking during the middle ages.
Many of the classic varieties of cheese enjoyed today were developed by monks. During the Renaissance, cheese dropped in popularity because it was considered unhealthy. By the nineteenth century, sentiment had changed and cheese production moved from farm to factory.
While most cheeses are mass produced today, some artisanal cheeses are still made by hand using old-fashioned techniques.
History of cheese