Cheese is a food obtained from coagulated milk or dairy products, such as cream (milk very rich in fat), then a draining followed or not fermentation and possibly refining (ripened cheese). The cheese is made from cow’s milk mainly, but also sheep, goat, buffalo and other mammals. The milk is acidified, usually using a bacterial culture. An enzyme, rennet or a substitute such as acetic acid or vinegar, is then added to cause coagulation and form curd and whey (whey). Lactose is then partially converted into lactic acid. Some cheeses contain mold, on the outer crust and or inside the cheese. The whey can be reused for another serac-type cheese.


The cheese family:

Thousands of types of cheese are produced worldwide. Their different styles, tastes and textures depend on the origin of the milk, including the animal’s diet, its heat treatment (raw, thermised or pasteurized milk) or mechanical (microfiltration, ultrafiltration), the percentage of fat, selected bacterial and mold species, the processing method, and the ripening time. Herbs, spices, or smoking can be used to vary the taste.


For some cheeses, the milk is curdled with an acidic agent, such as vinegar or lemon juice. Most cheeses are acidified with bacteria that convert lactose into lactic acid, with curdling being provided by the addition of rennet, or exceptionally milk kefir grains.


Cheese is a complete staple, rich in fat, protein, calcium and long-life phosphorus compared to the shelf life of the milk from which it is made.


Cheeses are usually distinguished according to their method of production:


Cooked pasta cheeses.

Uncooked pressed cheese.

Half-cooked pressed cheese.

Cheeses with soft pasta, seeded on the surface with a mold that causes by ripening in the cellar the appearance of a crust, and which are divided into:

Soft cheeses with a flowery crust.

Soft cheeses with washed crust.

Soft cheeses with mixed crust.

Fresh pasta:

Fresh cheeses

Spun cheese

Processed cheese, manufactured according to an industrial process.

Cheeses with marbled paste or internal mold paste. The curd is seeded and pierced for the fungus to grow.

Cheese from whey: this is the case of serac.

Cheese can also be distinguished according to: milk used from different animal species; the use of raw milk; its farmer, artisanal or industrial character (the French administration indistinctly classifies the last two as dairy cheese).


Farm cheese

A farm cheese (or farm cheese or any other appointment that might suggest that the cheese is made by the dairy farmer) can only be described as farm-made cheese by farmers. It will come exclusively from the milk produced by the animals of this farm.

The interest of such cheeses lies in the fact that they result from a single and unique know-how (generally family and sometimes ancestral) in various fields that can be decisive as to the quality of the cheese: the choice of the breeds of animals; the management of the flora covering the grasslands; the good behavior of the cattle in the pastures and their well-being; the « knack », the recipe for cheese and its ripening; the farm-specific microbiota installed in the milk processing equipment (woodwork, seedlings, etc.).

For the most part, farmer farmers process their milk raw and whole. Every day, the cheese processing begins just after the morning milking. This hot milk will be mixed with the one from the evening milking (processed the day before) and which will have matured during the night.

Artisanal cheese

A cottage cheese comes from a relatively small and unmechanized processing workshop where the artisan transforms the milk he buys to one or more farmers. In this type of relationship between two trades, the commercial relationship is contractual. The milk (s) will reach the artisanal dairy in the raw and refrigerated state. The craftsman will leave it raw or apply a possible pasteurization, thermization or microfiltration and then turn it into cheese. Procurement processes are sometimes old.



The origin of the cheese probably dates back to the beginning of agriculture and breeding in the Fertile Crescent. There is no tangible evidence of the earliest cheese making locations in Europe or Central Asia rather than in the Middle East, but the practice spread to Europe before the period of ancient Rome. According to Pliny the Elder, the practice was sophisticated during the period of ancient Rome.

Hypotheses place the origins of cheese making around 8000 BC. J. – C., with the domestication of the sheep. The first cheeses were probably made by people from the Middle East or Turkish nomadic tribes in Central Asia. Since animal skins and internal organs are therefore used for the storage and transport of foodstuffs, it is likely that the cheese-making process was accidentally discovered by storing milk in a container made from a belly stomach. animal, resulting in the transformation of milk into curd and whey due to the natural presence of rennet (lactase enzyme) in the stomach.


According to another hypothesis, the manufacture of the cheese would have started independently, the consequences of the salting and the pressing of the milk to ensure its conservation. The observation of curdled milk in the stomach of a suckling animal (calf) probably led to the addition of rennet in the form of caillette strips as was still done in the Alps at the beginning of the 20th century.


Finally, the latest hypothesis comes from the Taklamakan desert. The mummies of Tarim, took in their last journey of the cheese in the form of small cubes of the order of the cm. They were identified by scientists from the Max Planck Institute in Dresden and the Beijing Institute of Science on the mummies of De Xiaohe Cemetery. These are cheeses from milk kefirs that do not require the slaughter of calves. The first grains of kefirs would be lumps of sugar and curd, the amalgam of polysaccharides over the uses of the bottles as containing milk.


Kefir grains are a symbiont of bacteria and yeasts, here lactobacillus and saccharomyces which form 80% of the mass and would have formed spontaneously from those present in milk and the environment. The result was a low lactose cheese suitable for those populations that did not yet have the gene for digesting lactose, a slightly alcoholic fermented cheese. Protein analysis of these cheeses showed that most milks were from cow and two from sheep and goat. They would be 3,500 years old.


On the other hand, a team of researchers (Melanie Roffet-Salque, Richard Evershedest) is currently in the forefront analyzing and dating fats on pottery funds in Poland and Turkey. The earliest archaeological evidence of cheese making is over 7,000 years old: fragments of ceramic faisselles were discovered and characterized in Poland, in the Kuyavian region, 150 kilometers south of Gdańsk (ribbon culture ). It could also be kefir cheese. It is not strictly speaking fragments of cheese but trace.

Another « older cheese » directly discovered would be 3,200 years old. It was in the archaeological excavation of a tomb of the ancient capital of the first nome of Lower Egypt Memphis that it was discovered. It would have been made from a mixture of milk half cow, half goat (or sheep). Traces of deadly bacteria were also detected, including those causing brucellosis.


Exceptional archaic texts from the Uruk and Warka periods were discovered by H.J. Nissen and colleagues (1990), who mention cheese (GA’AR), butter and yoghurt (KISIM). These texts dated 3,200 years BC. J. – C., are written on tablets of clays, in archaic characters which will later become the cuneiform writing. These are books of accounts that indicate the number of dairy products and animals (cows, ewes, goats) that shepherds must provide.


Other traces, on wall paintings in tombs from the time of ancient Egypt, date from 2000 BC. These first cheeses had to be sour and salty, similar in texture to cottage or feta cheese.


Cheeses produced in Europe, where the climate is colder than in the Middle East, required less salting for their preservation. Less salty and less acidic, these varieties of cheese have become an environment conducive to the development of bacteria and molds, giving them a particular taste and texture.


Ancient Greece and Roman period

Greek mythology attributes the discovery of cheese to Aristea. Homer’s Odyssey describes the Cyclops making and storing sheep’s and goat’s milk cheese.


At the time of ancient Rome, cheese was an everyday dish, and its making an art whose technique remains similar to that used today. The Libri treatise of Re rustica de Columelle (around 65 AD) details a manufacturing process using coagulation of milk with rennet, pressing of curd, salting and aging.


Pliny the Elder dedicated in his work Natural History (77 AD) a chapter (XI, 97) describing the variety of types of cheese appreciated by the Romans of the First Empire. He writes as follows: « The most esteemed cheese in Rome, where the productions of all the countries are judged in the presence of each other, is, among the cheeses of the provinces, that which comes from the country of Nimes, Lozere and Gevaudan. However, it specifies that these cheeses do not keep well in time and must be eaten fresh. In addition, cheeses from the Alps and the Apennines were as much noticed for their variety as now. Pliny also reports a variety of cheese made by Ligurians, mainly from sheep’s milk, some of which could reach a weight of about one hundred pounds each. Goat’s milk cheeses brought a new and appreciated taste to Rome. The taste was notably improved by the smoking process inspired by Gallic practices and rendering a medicinal taste. Pliny also referred to cheeses from more distant origins, beyond the seas, like those of Bithynia in Asia Minor.


In Europe

If Pliny praises Nîmes cheeses, the Romans disdain the cheeses of the peoples of the North, who only produce curdled milk, in favor of the hard cheeses whose production they introduce, notably to the Burgundians settled in the Alps and in Franche-Comté. County.


Cheese becomes the staple food for Benedictines. It is still monks, this time the Cistercians, who will maintain the growth of cheese making, much consumed during the Middle Ages, especially among the poor and peasants. The cheese will not really win the palace of the rich until the end of the Ancien Régime. The cheese platter, which appeared in the 19th century, becomes a habit at the end of the meal. The appearance of the railway contributes to the distribution of regional cheeses. Finally, pasteurization paves the way for the industrial production of cheese, a path that will be followed by the first, Léon Bel, in 1919.

End of meal meal, cheese has also become one of the major ingredients of cooking thanks to a French master-cheese maker, Pierre Androuet. Robert Courtine, a food critic, explained: « Pierre Androuet is Monsieur Fromage, his historian and his poet. The man without whom cheese would be just what he is. Without the cheese cuisine and the hundreds of recipes he has developed. It was Androuet who brought the cheese to our plate … through the kitchen « . Its recipes have come out of the domestic environment where pies and cheese puddings have been known since the medieval period and, a fortiori, « the use of grated Gruyère on macaroni ». He discovered that cheese cooking covers everything from simple and easy recipes to « rich, generous, varied recipes with countless combinations of flavors ».


The term « cheese » is attested as early as 1135 in this form.


More precisely, it comes directly from a low Latin formāticum « cheese », derived by ellipse from cāseus formaticus « molded cheese », whose caesus element has been erased. Formaticus means « what is made in a mold », derived in -icus from Latin forma « mold ». The adjective substantivé has regularly evolved into old French formage, become cheese.

The loan to French also gave the Italian formaggio (in front of cacio), Walloon froumadje, Occitan and Catalan formatge, the Breton formaj (in front of keuz).

Forma is perpetuated in Occitan fourmo (modern Occitan spelling) or forma (Occitan standard spelling), the current regional linguistic appellation of Forez, Auvergne (in the sense of the former province) and Rouergue and Frenchized in French. by the trade names of certain cheese specialties of these territorial zones.


On the other hand, the Latin noun cāseus « cheese » disappeared in Gallo-Romanesque, but was perpetuated in the other Romance languages: Spanish queso, Italian cacio, Portuguese queijo and Romanian caş, whereas the French knows only two derivatives, one casein scholar21, and the other chésery, used in place names in the Alpesn 3. The borrowing from Latin was done in Western Germanic languages: English cheese (césse, c ense in Old English), German Käse (old High German chāsi), Western Frisian Tsiis, Dutch kaas, etc. through a hypothetical form of the common Germanic kāsijaz. They all mean « cheese » in these different languages.

Celtic languages ​​have also borrowed caseus Latin: Irish Cáis, Breton Keuzn and Welsh Caws.

The Latin caseus is also at the origin of the Malay word keju (borrowed from the Portuguese word queijo).


Transformation of milk into cheese

The physical state of the milk varies according to the age and the race of the animal: the Normans give a milk rich in fat while the Holstein gives a very abundant but poor milk. the quality of the grassland (cultivated or natural, diversity of flora in the mountains), the bacterial flora (microbiota) which varies greatly depending on the soil, the environment of origin (giving rise to PGI, INAO) but also of the laboratory where it is produced: the old farms without sanitized laboratories had a microbiota in their own balance, which controlled the bad bacteria by maintaining a wealth of different strains of interest to the consumer (probiotics) of food quality and other cakes (pesticides or even GMOs in some soya cakes imported from South America), The apples used to make cider in Normandy were traditionally given to cows but gave a strong taste to milk, butter and cheese. It’s the same with silage. From the season (spring grass rich in omega 3 and growing plants), the climate of the day.

A difference in quality also exists between a preserved milk and a milk directly from the refrigerated time milking and transport. The cheese maker will take into account the condition and quality of the milk he processes.


Of the twelve manufacturing steps described below, four are essential: renneting, draining, molding and salting.


Skimming (if any): collect the creamy portion on the surface of the milk, which will be used to make the cream or butter. This practice gives lean cheeses, not very creamy. The cream (fat) is lighter than the water constituting the majority of the milk. The operation is carried out by centrifugation.

Heating (if applicable): Only applies to the milk (s) kept in refrigerated tanks due to delayed processing. The milk is heated to restore its temperature out of the body of the animal, a physical condition essential for renneting. The county for example is lukewarm at 40 ° C. Beyond, the milk loses the name « raw milk ». The operation is sometimes called « ripening ».

Pasteurization (if any): the milk is heated to a determined process to eliminate pathogenic bacteria (harmful to humans) and increase the DLC. In contrast, beneficial bacteria are also destroyed. This practice significantly reduces the cost of cheese processing, because the milk is no longer « alive » it no longer requires costly and time-sensitive bacteriological analyzes. This aspect is of prime importance in agribusiness.

Inoculation of pasteurized or micro-filtered milk (optional): an essential practice for these processed milks; only a limited number of bacterial strains are seeded, which leads to a standardization of sensory characteristics. This is one of the flaws of this technique. Pasteurized or even sterilized milk (UHT process) will need to be enriched with calcium chloride to be chewable.

Renneting: the cheese maker adds rennet or ferment to the milk to curdle it (the milk separates into two distinct dairy products: curd and whey). Lemon juice or vinegar may be used (household cheeses). Some use the method of spontaneous acidification. The balance between rennet, sowing and acidity is decisive: the rennet character dominates for example in the bridge-the bishop, the lactic character in brie Melun, with between the two the case of Camembert (in industrial manufacture). We should also mention the method of milk kefir which is no longer used for cheese only in a restricted area in the family circle (Tibet, Middle East, Caucasus) and in the family circle, but could be at the origin cheese.

Flaking (if any): The cheese-maker passes through the curd mass using knives to obtain larger or smaller grains depending on the type of cheese desired, and to express the whey.

Drain (systematic): It reduces the moisture content of the cheese. During this stage, the whey and the curds finish to separate. The utensils used are stamen (operation performed before molding) or the mold or perforated form (two functions: draining and molding). The operation can be completed by heating, in the case of the county to around 55 ° C to « dry grain »

Casting: Molding or forming is done in large molds to obtain grinding wheels, in smaller ones for cheeses like fourmes, or even very small ones for Camembert, Picodon, Pérail, etc.

Pressing: The pressing, very physical operation if the method is really artisanal, allows to eliminate the excess of water. It is done with the hands, with a weight or with a mechanical press.

Salting: Immersion in brine or salting by hand for small cheeses.

Stitching (if any): This operation is practiced for the manufacture of « bruises » by piercing the cheese to inoculate a mushroom. The perforations also serve as oxygen corridors which, together with the internal humidity of the cheese, create an atmosphere conducive to the development of the mushroom.

Refining: This is the longest operation and requires great attention. It is done in a cellar. Each cheese is flipped and salted on each side for crust formation. This operation requires several days of work and a particular attention to the maturation of the cheese; the artisan cheese maker must have good sensory dispositions such as observation, smell, taste and touch, all combined with good physical strength in the case of large cheeses (mechanization possible). Experience in this area is crucial. The hooter (often electric) can take care of the period of drying. Sometimes, the walls of the cellar, thanks to their porosity, serve as a reservoir for a certain microbial biodiversity, which can contribute to the particularity of a cheese, as well as the grass consumed or the race used to produce the cheese. milk.

For a successful ripening, each type of cheese requires a particular atmospheric atmosphere (temperature, hygrometry) which makes it impossible to ripen different cheeses in the same cellar.

Finally, note the technique of serac, made from whey by-product of other cheeses (Tomme d’alpage, Munster …) from the Vosges to the Alps via the Jura. Whey contains lactose (sugar) and serum proteins, dissolved in water that will be heated to 80 or 90 ° (hence the name recutta in Italy) and coagulated with an acid (vinegar).






Drainage, transfer of curd into the molds.









The microbial ecosystem

According to INRA researcher Marie-Christine Montel, « Cheese is an ecosystem populated by bacteria, yeasts of mushrooms that live there as in society, each doing a specific job, all living in a delicate balance between competition and cooperation. (…) The cheese is thus the fruit of the digestion carried out by the microbes that invite themselves to the milk table. And they are many ! We have described more than 200 species in cheeses (…) « .


Depending on whether they have been well preserved or not and made with milk of satisfactory sanitary quality or not, we can distinguish two types of sprouts in cheeses:


Pathogenic germs such as the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria responsible for the dreaded listeriosis.

According to researchers at INRA:

A study, made to determine whether the microbial diversity present on the surface of raw milk cheeses can act in favor of safety, shows that 10 out of 34 microbial groups, naturally present on the crust of raw milk cheeses, can self-protect against Listeria monocytogenes, compared to a commercial surface ferment.

Some bacteria degrade amino acids and fatty acids, more slowly, and are sources of flavor.


Conservation methods

The best way to preserve a cheese, or even perfect its ripening, is to leave it in its cellar maturation, that is to say a cool, dark, airy and slightly humid.


The bottom of a refrigerator, under a cheese bell, can also do the trick but, by its lack of air renewal, will bring a different organoleptic result (a little stronger).


The majority of commercial cheeses are packaged, some hermetically. These have gone from an aerobic environment to an anaerobic environment which has changed their initial organoleptic qualities: they have become strong or even pungent. A return to the open air for several hours will make them recover their original characters.


It is always possible to freeze a cheese but without exceeding three months. If it’s suitable for pressed pasta cheeses such as Gouda, Parmesan, etc. It is not recommended to freeze cheeses with soft pasta.




Since cheese is made from concentrated milk (by partial removal of water), its nutritional value is high, with a composition similar to that of milk, but more concentrated. However, fermentation by bacteria and rennet may possibly reveal some complex nutrients (amino acids, sugars, vitamins …) not originally present in the milk. Cheeses contain both protein, sugars and lipids in good quantities, and therefore represent a very energizing and relatively « complete » food, which has allowed many cultures to make a pillar of their diet. They are also a source of vitamins A and B, mineral salts (Ca, P, K, Na, Mg …) and in particular rich in calcium. Cheeses are however rich in saturated fatty acids which have a detrimental effect on cholesterol levels: overconsumption is therefore not recommended for certain sensitive people (diabetics, people with high cholesterol, overweight people, people at risk of a point vascular view …).


Calcium intake is subject to controversy. Highlighted in nutritional campaigns and by the food industry, it is real but this calcium is not bio-assimilable (30%) and therefore partly rejected. It requires other components to improve this assimilation (vitamin D) or interacts with others (magnesium). As a reminder, Brussels sprouts have a rate of 64%, which must be weighted by the high amount of calcium in the cheese. Osteoporosis occurrence rates remain high in the Scandinavian countries despite a high consumption of dairy products, knowing that vitamin D is also below recommendations because of lack of sun.

Young cheeses and soft cheeses have high levels of lactose, but cooked pasta and pasta have the defect of being more acidifying for the body. The PRAL index is thus 13 for Camembert but 28 for Parmesan cheese.


Unpasteurized cheeses contain probiotics by their method of manufacture, which are further protected by the nature of the cheese as they pass through the acidic environment of the stomach and are more likely to survive, making a good contribution for the microbiota and therefore the immune system, but less than yogurt and even less than the milk kefir.


Finally, the composition and the nutritional values ​​of the cheeses can vary enormously from one type to another, according to the manufacturing method (more or less skimmed milk cheese, cooking …), the fermentation, the ripening, or the type of milk used (the milks of equines being the least fat, and those of ewes and buffalo fatest (5.9%).


Studies on the benefits or misdeeds vary greatly for this reason, without giving a clear direction despite the temptation of industry to promote only those that are favorable.



Contaminants possible

Contaminants can be microbiological (viruses, fungi, unwanted bacteria). The bacteria are Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter (thermophilic), Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.


In the European Union, the share of cheese devoted to trade is subject each year to a mandatory monitoring plan. In 2004, the European Commission focused its surveillance on the microbiological quality of raw milk cheeses and raw milk. Unexpectedly, the balance showed a presence of germs or pathogenic toxins weak.


Regulatory definition for commerce

In the European Union, a 2007 « single CMO » regulation requires that the name « cheese » be reserved for dairy products (« products derived exclusively from milk, it being understood that substances necessary for their manufacture may be added, provided that these substances are not used to replace, in whole or in part, any of the constituents of milk « ). Thus a cheese substitute can not be marketed as « cheese » in Europe.


In France, a decree of 27 April 200741 defines the commercial name « cheese » as being reserved for « fermented or not, obtained by coagulation of milk, cream or their mixture, followed by draining ».


The characteristics of the dry extract, the fat content and the origin of the milk must appear on the labeling.


Fresh cheeses (white cheese, Swiss cheese, semi-salt …) are rich in water (70% to 82%), and do not undergo ripening. The minimum dry matter for cheeses other than fresh is fixed at 23%. It is allowed to add a qualifier to the word cheese: a « triple cream » contains at least 75% fat; a « double cream » contains from 60% to less than 75%; a « fat cheese », from 50% to less than 60%; « low fat cheese » (and no added sugar) from 20% to less than 30%; a « lean cheese », less than 20%.


Article 7 of the Decree specifies that the name « cheese » may be used for any combination or combination of products defined in Articles 1 to 3 (white cheeses and blue cheeses), provided that the mixture or blend does not no other ingredients than those allowed in these cheeses.


The farm cheeses are made on the farm or in the place of summer pasture, by the farmer or an employee, exclusively with the milk that the breeder produces. This type of production, if offered for sale, may show on its labeling the words « unspecified fat » and has the right to derogate from the indication of nutritional values.

The term ‘raw milk’ is reserved for cheeses obtained with milk whose temperature has not been raised above 40 ° C and which has not been ultrafiltered or microfiltered.


Since June 20, 1992 (Decree of February 19, 1991), all cheeses produced on the farm, refined, must include the indication of a deadline of optimal use (DLUO), and the fresh cheeses a date of limit of consumption (DLC).



Cheese is one of the world’s leading agricultural products. According to the FAO, world production was more than 18 million tonnes in 2004. This is more than the cumulative annual production of coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans and tobacco. According to the FAO, production of dairy products in 2010 accounted for 4% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The world’s largest producers of cheese are the United States (about 30% of the total), followed by Germany, France and Italy.


Producing countries

The advertising slogan « the other country of cheese », which was used to promote the production of the Netherlands on the French market, implicitly designates France as « the » country of cheese. However, Switzerland, in promoting its own productions, is also referred to as « cheese country ».


The world has about 10,000 cheeses. Traditionally, the number of varieties produced in France between 350 and 400, which translates the adage « a cheese per day of the year ». In fact, this country now produces more than 1,000 different cheeses and Britain more than 700. As for the cheese factories and mountain pastures in Switzerland (where the first big dairy for cheese making was opened on February 3, 1815, they produce more than 450 varieties.


The United States is the world’s leading producer of cheese. However, they occupy a marginal place in world cheese exports, with most of their production destined for the domestic market. France is the world’s largest exporter of cheese in value, while Germany is the largest in quantity. Of the top ten exporters, only Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Australia have a predominantly export-oriented cheese production: 95%, 90%, 72% and 65% respectively of their exports. cheese production is exported. Only 30% of French production is exported.


Greece, with an average consumption of 30.0 kg per capita, is the largest consumer country of cheese in the world (feta accounts for three-quarters of this consumption). France is the second largest consumer of cheese, with 24 kg per inhabitant. French industrial emmental (used mainly as a cooking ingredient), and camembert are the two cheeses most consumed in France. Italy is the third largest consumer country with 22.9 kg per capita. In the United States, cheese consumption is growing rapidly and almost tripled between 1970 and 2003. Consumption in 2003 was 14.1 kg per capita. The favorite cheese of Americans is of Italian origin, mozzarella: it represents about a third of consumption, mainly because it is one of the main ingredients of another typical Italian food, pizza.