Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Illuminated Manuscripts & a brief history of cheese...

Making White Cheese with dog - Tacuinum Sanitatis (ÖNB Codex Vindobonensis, series nova 2644), c. 1370-1400

The oldest pictorial evidence of the existence of cheese dates back 4500 years to the Sumerians of Mesopotamia & clearly shows cows being milked, the milk being strained & butter being churned.

Making white cheese with dog (fol. 60), Tacuinum Sanitatis (BNF Latin 9333), 15C

In the Bible, Job is quoted: “Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?” Isaiah sends his son David, of Goliath fame into the war camp of King Saul with 10 fresh cuts of cheese & some bread.

 Preparing cheese with dog. Tacuinum Sanitatis, 14C

In Homer’s Odyssey, the giant Polyphemus, who keeps Odysseus & his companions prisoner in a dark cave. Homer writes: “Then presently he curdled half the white milk...that it might serve him for supper.”

 A cheese seller - Tacuinum Sanitatis (ÖNB Codex Vindobonensis, series nova 2644), c. 1370-1400

The Romans later also enjoyed Swiss cheese, with emperor Antonius Pius said to have eaten himself to death indulging in cheese from the mountains of Helvetia.

 A cheesemonger (fol. 58v), Tacuinum Sanitatis (BNF Latin 9333), 15C

The 1st recorded cheese recipes date from the time of the Roman writer Columella & appear in the 10-volume De re coquinaria published by Marcus Gavius Apicius.

 Hanns Thom, a cheesemonger (d. 1518), The Landauer Hausbuch

Emperor Charles the Great issued the world’s first butter & cheese directive, in Aachen in 812. He imposed an annual tax on the church that comsisted of 2 consignments of his favorite cheese. Norms existed at the time as to how large the cheese should be, as it was one means of payment of mandatory taxes for feudal lords.

Making cheese (fol. 59v), Tacuinum Sanitatis (BNF NAL 1673), c. 1390-1400

Around 1225, the knights of Saxony encouraged butter & cheese to be produced in the dairy manors of Pomerania. Cheese production became a thriving industry in the Germany & western Europe by 1500, mostly thanks to enterprising monasteries & convents.

 Making cheese with dog. (fol. 60r), Tacuinum Sanitatis (ÖNB Codex Vindobonensis, series nova 2644), c. 1370-1400

Many cheeses today were 1st recorded in the late Middle Ages or after, cheeses like Cheddar around 1500 CE; Parmesan in 159; Gouda in 1697; &Camembert in 1791; but there is no way to judge what recognizable relation to modern products the cheeses made during that period might possess. 

 Making Fresh Cheese - Tacuinum Sanitatis (BNF NAL 1673), c. 1390-1400

The types of cheese that might have been found in the middle ages are:
Gorgonzola   (1st recorded use is in 879);
Swiss Schabziger cheese (1st recorded use is in1000);
Romano; French Roquefort   (1st recorded use is in 1070);
Grana   (1st recorded use is in 1200),
Beaufort; Brie; Camembert; Cheddar   (1st recorded use is in 1500);
Gruyére; Maroilles; Mozzarella; Parmesan   (1st recorded use is in 1579);
Comté; Cottage; Emmenthal; Farmer’s (similar in both taste & texture to Medieval cheese); Glouscester   (1st recorded use is in 1697);
Gouda   (1st recorded use is in 1697).

Making white cheese (fol. 59) Tacuinum Sanitatis (BNF NAL 1673), c. 1390-1400

Cheese-making continued to flourish in Europe, as cheeses of several sorts became an established food. In fact, the Pilgrims included cheese in the Mayflower's supplies, when they made their voyage to America in 1620.

Fresh Cheese with 2 dogs! from the Theatrum Sanitatis, Library Casanatense, Rome

As you can see from these illustrations, generally, cheese is made by taking curds of milk & pressing them in cheese strainers, which squeezes out lactose-rich whey, leaving protein-fat-rich cheese.  Apparently local dogs appreciated the cast-off whey.

Making fresh cheese with dog. (fol. 58), Tacuinum Sanitatis (BNF Latin 9333), 15C