Sunday, December 23, 2012

Aged Cheese

 
Traces of dairy fat in ancient ceramic fragments suggest that people have been making cheese in Europe for up to 7,500 years. In the tough days before refrigerators, early dairy farmers probably devised cheese-making as a way to preserve, and get the best use out of, milk from the cattle that they had begun to herd.

Peter Bogucki, an archaeologist at Princeton University in New Jersey, was in the 1980s among the first to suspect that cheese-making might have been afoot in Europe as early as 5,500 bc. He noticed that archaeologists working at ancient cattle-rearing sites in what is now Poland had found pieces of ceramic vessels riddled with holes, reminiscent of cheese strainers. Bogucki reasoned that Neolithic farmers had found a way to use their herds for more than milk or meat.

In a paper published in Nature2, Bogucki and his collaborators now confirm that theory, with biochemical proof that the strainers were used to separate dairy fats. Mélanie Salque, a chemist at the University of Bristol, UK, used gas chromatography and carbon-isotope ratios to analyse molecules preserved in the pores of the ancient clay, and confirmed that they came from milk fats. “This research provides the smoking gun that cheese manufacture was practiced by Neolithic people 7,000 years ago,” says Bogucki

Art of cheese-making is 7,500 years old (Nature blogs)

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