Cheese Facts

Just the cheese facts, please.

Here's an interesting cheese fact: people have been making cheese since before the dawn of recorded history. No one knows who first curdled milk and separated the solid curds from liquid whey, but archaeologists have found traces of cheesemaking in artifacts that go back at least 7,200 years. It seems like humans have loved cheese from day one.

Here's another cheese fact: there are more than 1,800 different kinds of cheese varieties in the world – another sign that humans are fond of the stuff and finding many different ways to make and devour it.

And it's no wonder, because what other food in the world has so much flavor, so much texture, and pairs so well with everything from wine and pasta to bread and burgers?

With all this in mind, some might opine that cheese is the perfect food. In Wisconsin, we wouldn't call that an opinion. We'd call that a fact.

Fun cheese facts to win friends and influence people

Here are some incredible cheese facts to endlessly entertain guests at your next wine and cheese party:

  • Cheese fact #1: Mozzarella is the most popular cheese in America, thanks to our love of this fresh cheese as a pizza cheese.
  • Cheese fact #2: The famous holes or eyes in cheeses like swiss and emmentaler (and other alpine-style cheeses that are part of any basic fondue recipe) are the result of carbon dioxide made by bacteria in the cheese, forming little air pockets as the cheese hardens.
  • Cheese fact #3: Scientists suggest that cheese and wine pairings work well because the astringency in the wine balances the creamy fat content from the cheese to create a perfect balance in our mouths.
  • Cheese fact #4: Cheese curds squeak because the elastic protein strands in the cheese rub against the enamel of your teeth. (That's fresh curds only – a fried cheese curd loses its squeak but gains a world of fried and breaded flavor.)
  • Cheese fact #5: It takes ten pounds of milk to make just one pound of cheese.
  • Cheese fact #6: The world produces more cheese than coffee, tobacco, tea, and cocoa beans combined.
  • Cheese fact #7: Some varieties of cheese like mozzarella, cheddar, and swiss help prevent tooth decay by promoting saliva, which helps to eliminate sugar and acids from the mouth.
  • Cheese fact #8: Most cheese is made with just three ingredients: milk, salt, and a coagulant such as vinegar, rennet, or bacteria. It's amazing that these three ingredients can produce so many kinds of cheeses!
  • Cheese fact #9: People who are lactose intolerant can still enjoy cheese – hard cheeses like parmesan and asiago are super low in lactose.

Videos: Discover Your Next Favorite Cheese

Basic cheese facts and FAQs

How is cheese made?

Cheese is made by separating the milk liquid (or whey) from the milk solids (or curd). This is done by gently heating the milk and adding a culture like bacteria or an enzyme like rennet that causes the milk to curdle. After the curd is firm, it is cut into small pieces allowing more whey to be released. The smaller the cut pieces, the dryer the curd will become, and the harder the final cheese will be. At this point, the curd may be heated again or stacked to drain off more whey, and salt may be added before the curd is placed into molds where it is pressed for a time to create an even texture. The cheese is left to age for a few weeks to 15 months or longer. Variations in this process are what produce all the different kinds of cheese.

What makes cheese hard or soft?

Soft cheeses are usually younger cheeses that have more moisture content, while hard cheeses have been aged for several months or years, losing more moisture in the process. For soft cheeses, the curd may be lightly pressed or not pressed at all during the cheesemaking process, while lengthier pressing results in harder cheeses.

Why are some cheeses stinky?

Cheeses with a strong, pungent odor – stinky cheeses – are made by smearing bacteria called Brevibacterium linens or B. linens on the exterior of the cheese, and repeatedly washing it in a saltwater brine to encourage the bacteria to grow. The bacteria help the cheese ripen and produces the strong aroma.

The best cheese is Wisconsin Cheese. Fact.

Here's another cheese fact for you: Wisconsin makes the best cheese in the world.

Okay, before you get all worked up about that, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Mexico, and England, consider these cheese facts:

  • Wisconsin cheese fact #1: Wisconsin cheesemakers have won more awards than any other state or nation on the planet.
  • Wisconsin cheese fact #2: Wisconsin produces more flavors, styles, and varieties of cheese (600+) than anywhere else.
  • Wisconsin cheese fact #3: Wisconsin makes one-quarter of all the cheese in the U.S. and roughly one-half of all the artisan cheese.
  • Wisconsin cheese fact #4: Wisconsin has the only master cheesemaker program in the world outside of the one in Switzerland.
  • Wisconsin cheese fact #5: Wisconsin is the only state that requires a license to make cheese.

Look, we can argue all day long about who makes the best cheese, but when it comes to the cheese facts, it looks like a pretty solid case for Wisconsin.

The next time you're looking for the best cheese in the world, just look for the Proudly Wisconsin Cheese™ badge on the label. That's when you know your slice of parmesan, your hunk of havarti, or your Wisconsin cheese gift basket has real cheese cred. And that's a fact.

Craving award-winning aged cheddar, pining for parmesan, or searching for a new cheese to try? The world’s best cheese is just a click away! Explore our directory of Wisconsin cheesemakers and retailers who offer online cheese shopping and get cheese shipped right to your door. What are you waiting for?

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