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 It was the cheese!

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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: It was the cheese!    Fri 14 Dec 2012, 11:15

It appears cheese making is older than originally thought. Dairy farming has long been held as the main reason for the evolution of Europe, but new research is now suggesting that it was cheese rather than the milk itself that helped our development and increased our ancestors chances of survival.

Most of the world, including the ancestors of modern Europeans, is lactose intolerant, unable to digest the milk sugar lactose as adults. However, while cheese is a dairy product, it is relatively low in lactose.

"The transformation of milk to a more tolerable product such as cheese
for lactose-intolerant people may have helped promote the development of
dairying among the first farmers of Europe," researcher Peter Bogucki, an archaeologist at Princeton University, told LiveScience.


In turn, the presence of dairying over many generations may have helped
set the stage "for a biological change in Europeans, the evolution
about 7,500 years ago in Europe of lactase persistence — that is,
keeping the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose, well into
adulthood," researcher Richard Evershed, a chemist at the University of
Bristol in England, told LiveScience. "This changed Western digestive
capabilities." [The 7 Perfect Survival Foods]

http://www.livescience.com/25472-first-cheesemakers-discovered.html
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: It was the cheese!    Fri 14 Dec 2012, 12:00

Whilst I think I understand the reasoning of the article, that cheese-making arose from a practice of cattle dairying ... I am surprised that the idea of early cheese making from the milk of sheep and goats is pushed aside - if for no other reason than the practicalities of stock management and the very early recorded history of goat and sheep husbandry in the middle east. Or have I missed something?
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: It was the cheese!    Fri 14 Dec 2012, 14:30

I never thought of it before but your remark, MM made me realise that I have not come across any cheese making culture in my Easter and tropical travels . Yogurt and fermented milk, yes but not cheese as such. The Steppe nomads, of cours used fermented yaks' milk - and curds but not the full cheese monty, perhaps. Only observation, not from scholarly knowledge all of that
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PostSubject: Re: It was the cheese!    Fri 14 Dec 2012, 14:45

Yes MM, consideration of sheep and goat milk is often pushed aside in favour of cattle, (western bias perhaps?). Certainly in the east where farming and animal husbandry supposedly began, sheep and goats would have been the preferred live stock as they are more suited to the climate and terrain than cattle.

The evidence in the article was found in Poland though, and a large amount of cattle bones were also found, I suppose that must be why they are going with cows here.

There is a bit of a boo boo in the article though, it says the strainers found must be for cheese because it is the only dairy product strained. But they are wrong, in this end of the Med yoghurt is strained also. Which is why it is so rich and creamy compared to the western yoghurts.
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PostSubject: Re: It was the cheese!    Fri 14 Dec 2012, 15:10

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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: It was the cheese!    Fri 14 Dec 2012, 16:43

It seems probable that cheese wasn't the first product - fermenting milk (such as mare's milk into kumiss) was another way of reducing the lactose content - and getting alcohol, if only a little alcohol, as a replacement. Cattle cultures frequently still tap blood to add to their diet.
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PostSubject: Re: It was the cheese!    Fri 14 Dec 2012, 20:12

If I remember correctly, one problem with using sheep or goat's milk in the earliest times was it was needed to feed the lambs and kids which were usually slaughtered at about a year old. Even if the offspring died or were slaughtered before the end of the normal lactation time, the milk was only produced for 2 or 3 months all together so there wouldn't be a great deal available for the likes of cheese making. Of course there was no milk substitute then nor had the animals been bred to produce a large yield so it was a choice between milk now or the meat from an animal of reasonable size in a year's time. Suckling lamb is delicious but one would hardly provide enough meat for a decent meal.

That's a really good point about strained yoghurt ID, and the alcohol too Trike.

All this is assuming though that the milk the residues of which have been found from the early neolithic and before was for human consumption. The dreaded get out 'ritual' might be another explanation.

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PostSubject: Re: It was the cheese!    Sat 15 Dec 2012, 05:37

You also need to keep quite a lot of sheep or goats to produce enough milk for cheese making, they only produce a small quantity at a time. As opposed to cows, where 3 or 4 would produce almost the same amount.

I've seen that many shows on tv here with grandmothers making cheese and yoghurt the traditional way, but I can't find any that have been uploaded onto youtube, unfortunately. Here is a home video on milking sheep



And milking goats and making the cheese

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