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Cheese and dairy products

Milk: the Italian law defines milk as the product of the full and continued milking of a healthy, and well-fed female dairy mammal.

Cow’s milk: raw milk is a delicate food: it contains numerous microorganisms able to transform lactose into lactic acid, which gives the milk a sour taste, but also pathogenic microorganisms. Therefore, milk must be handled with great caution and undergo several treatments to ensure proper conservation. From milking until the beginning of conservation treatments, milk must remain at cold temperatures, to limit the development of germs.

The two treatments for the conservation of milk are: pasteurization and sterilization.

Nutritional value of whole milk: the consumption of fresh milk reached a turning point in the 1860s thanks to the research of the French chemist Louis Pasteur, who discovered the importance of the heat treatment to destroy the microorganisms responsible for many diseases. He invented “pasteurization” starting from the studies on the fermentation of  wine: the patented method that involves heating  wine to 50-60 ° in order to kill germs able to alter it. The innovation was introduced on 1 May 1865 at the Academie des Sciences. The industrial revolution of the late nineteenth century perfected the technique and contributed to improve the image of milk to the consumer:  milk is no longer food for the poor and the weak, on the contrary, it is essential to achieve a balanced diet.

Milk contains proteins of high biological quality, fat characterized by good digestibility, water soluble (B group) and fat-soluble (A and D) vitamins, lactose and calcium salts. Aside from breast milk, human beings use primarily cow’s milk. But there is also milk from buffalo, sheep, goat, camel and donkey, almond and cereal.

Butter: is a fatty substance made from the cream of milk. To get a pound of butter 2.5 kg of cream, namely 25 liters of milk are needed. Invented by the Indians more than three thousand years ago, this product was made known by the Vikings and was very much appreciated from the Middle Ages onwards.

Heavy Cream: it is produced by concentrating milk fat. According to regulations, heavy cream must contain at least 30% of lipids. Since milk contains 3.6% fat, it takes 10 liters of milk to produce one liter of heavy cream.

Yogurt is the product of fermented milk most consumed in Europe. It has been known for over 2000 years in Asia and Central Europe and,

for some centuries, in Italy. For about thirty years now, the production of yogurt has been industrialized, which has resulted in a large increase of its consumption in almost all European countries.

Ricotta: cottage cheese is a dairy product, it is not considered a cheese. It is made from whey curd residue, heated to 70-80 ° and soured, and then “re-cooked ” (which is the meaning of the name “ricotta”).

Cheese: the ancient cheese  makers certainly could not know that milk cheese grew thanks to enzymes present in the stomach of sheep and cattle, which have the power to “bind” the proteins present in the milk to form a solid aggregate. Still today, a ferment called “rennet” (because it curdles milk) is used on whole or partly skimmed milk (mainly cow, but also sheep, goat, buffalo). The rennet (liquid, powder or paste) is obtained from the dried and cured gizzard of calves or lambs.Under the action of the “rennet” casein, typical protein of the milk, is coagulated in a granular curd mass, which also contains higher or lower amount of fat, depending on whether whole or partially skimmed milk was used. The curd is processed with different techniques according to the type of cheese produced, and even maturation is different in techniques used and in duration, while always consistent is the series of fermentation processes required. The differences between the various cheeses originate from these different technological manipulations.

The Italian dairy tradition is among the richest in the world. Some of the most prestigious types of Italian cheese are described below.

Cheese has different nutritional characteristics depending on the age and type of milk with which it was produced. Dairy products contain the same nutrients of milk (with the exception of lactose, which is reduced as much as the cheese is aged) and represent the best source of dietary calcium. Cheeses are excellent sources of proteins of high biological value (they contain a percentage greater than that of meat and fish) and lipids (variable quantities between 20 and 35% depending on the type of milk used). Cheese is rich in phosphorus, low in magnesium and zinc.

The consumption of cheese should be encouraged and enhanced.

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