The History of Cheese

Presentation on the History of Cheese, with samples to purchase.

Photograph of people buying cheese & cheese scones after the talk on the History of Cheese

Members buying cheese & cheese scones after the talk on the History of Cheese

When: to November  2013
Where:Boniface Centre, Crediton, EX17 2AH
Who:Tim Pearkes

Almost 50 members and friends heard a talk by Mr Tim Pearkes of the Cheese Café, Crediton, on the history of cheese! Amazingly, Tim had crafted a most unlikely and fascinating account of this important ingredient in so many diets.

He explained that the Chinese call cheese 'rotten milk'. It is the oldest way of preserving milk to eat at a later date. 4,500 years ago in central Asia, horsemen used to carry milk in a bladder made from a cow's stomach. This has natural rennet in it which separates the curds and whey and forms cheese. In 2003 archaeologists in Cumberland found blackened pottery sherds with evidence of goats cheese which were 6,000 years old. Even older deposits of cheese on Neolithic pottery vessels from Poland date back 7,000 years. At these early dates sheep or goat's milk were used. Cows were introduced to this country in the 1st century BC. There are 700 types of artisanal cheeses in this country but France has only 600! Rennet from the 4th stomach of ruminants is used for separation but a vegetarian version is now made using a fungus to make artificial rennet.

My Pearkes went on to describe how many different, often ancient, cheeses are made, including Cheddar and some used by Roman soldiers. He told his audience that the flavour in cheese us produced by moulds or bacteria in milk. Blue cheeses have naturally occurring bacterias.

Penicillium roqueforti was found in caves in France originally and was used to make Roquefort cheese. The same bacillus is used for Stilton. Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire are the only counties allowed to make Stilton and the milk must come from cows less than 30 miles from the dairy.

Tasters were then passed round by Mrs Penny Pearkes. These featured St Endellion Brie from Cornwall, Sharpham Rustic, Cornish Yarg, Keen's Cheddar, Devon Oke and Dorset Blue Vinny. Afterwards there were cheeses to purchase as well as cheese scones.

Mr Pearkes was thanked for a most informative talk in which he had demonstrated how complex and interesting this seemingly dull subject really is!