Last night my nerdy family gathered around the tv to watch an "In Demand" show from the History Channel on cheese. We LOVE cheese. Cheese is like heaven. It is the one thing that truly keeps me from becoming vegan. They showcased a ton of different cheese and talked about how the cheese are made. Everything from Cheddar to American, from Brie to Swiss and from Roquefort to Gruyere. The part about Mozzarella was especially interesting, especially when they talked about the "taffy pulling" process of making the cheese. The kids were salivating within 15 minutes of the show.
The process is all very interesting to us as we have been experimenting with making cheese lately. I have some rennet and am considering trying my hand on the 30-minute Mozzarella from Animal Vegetable Miracle. The book is by Barbara Kingsglover, but isn't her normal genre. We have made much "Viking Bag Cheese" which is really quite easy. You take milk, heat it to 180°F and then add either lemon juice (makes for a mildly sweet tasting cheese) or vinegar (less sweet) to form the curds. Then you pour it through a strainer lined with cheese cloth and hang it to drip for a few hours. I have also found you can just squeeze the whey from it. If you simply drain it for a while you actually are making a Cottage cheese. It's very yummy cheese. You can add garlic, herbs, spices, etc to it if you want.
If you get a chance to watch this special do! It talks about the possible history of how cheese started (some bloke was carrying his goat's milk around in a bag made from the stomach of a goat or sheep which naturally contains rennet and thus the milk curdled - voila cheese) and how cheese particles have been found that are thousands of years old in Egyptian pyramids and other grave sites. I did know that the different cheeses are named primarily from where they are made. Some cheese will do fine no matter where they are made, such as Cheddar, Colby, and Mozzarella whereas other cheeses like Brie, Camembert and Roquefort. If memory serves me correct there was a huge issue with Feta cheese a few years back. The Greeks were saying that it couldn't truly be called Feta if it was made somewhere other than Greece. The European Union agreed with Greece and protected the name (they did the same with Camembert.) Unfortunately, the US doesn't agree and I have seen "feta" cheese that say "made in the USA." I guess this is just one more of those Ameri-centric things that makes the US feel superior and thus not having to "play well with others."