Michael Tunick Answers Every Question I've Ever Had About Cheese

Ever wonder why there are so many kinds of cheese? Or why some kinds of cheese have holes? Or what's up with raw milk cheese?

Well, if you're anything like me, you spend a lot of time just thinking about the why of food, and now — at least, when it comes cheese — your questions are answered.

Wired posted an excerpt of USDA Research Chemist Michael Tunick's new book, “The Science of Cheese”, up on their website on Saturday. The excerpt is super interesting and answers the questions above and a ton more.

What can you expect? Well, click through for an excerpt of the excerpt and a link.


Why is cheese yellow?

Studies have shown that color — more so than labeling and even actual taste — affects our expectations and perceptions of food flavor, and cheese is no exception. Even though the fat contents and flavors in orange and yellow cheddar are identical, some people perceive the former to be richer than the latter.

Annatto is what gives cheese an orange or more pronounced yellow color. It comes from the achiote (Bixa orellana) tree found in Mexico, the Caribbean, and the western portion of South America. Annatto's major component bixin and much of its molecular structure is similar to that of β-carotene, the compound that gives carrots their orange color. Cows transfer carotenoids (β-carotene and related compounds) from their diet to the milk, where they bind to the fat. This yellow color is not visible since the fat content of milk is less than 4% and the carotenoid concentration less than 0.1%, and the fat globules are surrounded by casein. But most of the whey is lost during cheesemaking, causing the fat and carotenoid contents to increase, and the casein network to loosen up — revealing the fat so the resulting cheese takes on a yellow color…

Whet your appetite? You can read the rest of the (again, super interesting) excerpt here! And if you're so inclined, you can find “The Science of Cheese” here!

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