7000 - 6000 BC
The Accidental Cheese
The earliest type of cheese was made during these times. Cheese was first discovered by accident. Legend states that an Arab nomad had set out on a journey and filled his saddlebag with milk.
During these years, saddlebags were made from the stomachs of animals. When the nomad went to quench his thirst, what he found instead of milk was sweet liquid containing solid white lumps. Inadvertently the nomad had made curds and whey that he turned into a delicious snack that was enjoyed by adding salt to the curds and drinking the sweet whey.
How did this happen? In the stomach of animals rennin is found which is a coagulating enzyme. When you add rennin to milk, heat it, mix and agitate it, the milk curdles and the whey separates to create curds and whey. What happened to the nomad was that the milk was put into a saddlebag, the milk combined with the rennin from the animal stomach lining, it was agitated by the motion of riding the horse, and the hot, arid climate of the Middle East provided the heat. The combination of those conditions (rennin coagulation, agitation, heat) made the "accidental" cheese.
Believe it or not, the first steps in cheese making today is very similar to the way the Arabic nomad's method. Technology and industrialization has made cheese manufactuing more sophisticated today, but the basic formula is closely followed. One difference is that some companies, like Jensen Cheese, use bacterial enzymes instead of rennin or rennet to coagulate the milk making the cheese suitabe for the consumption by vegetarians.