Curd cheese is produced in the first stage of cheese making. These kinds of cheeses have been around for more than 6,000 years. Was curdling discovered accidentally with soured milk? Nobody knows.
However, it is known that the Ancient Greeks stirred goat's milk with fig or olive branches to make the ancestor of feta, tyros. Apart from tapestry weaving, it was Penelope's favorite activity while she waiter for Ulysses to return from his long voyage. According to Homer, he loved it.
The Romans loved Greek-style cheese and they ate it with olive oil and sweet wine. Virgil described the consumption of pressi laetis (pressed milk) with fruit and chestnuts.
Fresh cheeses were found in France in the Middle Ages under the name of jonché because they were drained in baskets woven from rushes (joncs). This term is still present in certain cheeses: Jonchée d'Aunis, Jonchée d'Oléron, Jonchée Niortaise.
With the discovery of pasteurization, industrial production of fresh cheeses began in the 19th century. Petit-suisse was created on Norman farms, despite its name, and the small cheeses made from cream-enriched milk were wrapped in paper and dispatched to Paris. In the mid 19th century, Charles Gervais industrialized and diversified its production. He also invented Carré Frais, the industrial version of a salted raw milk curd cheese.
The famous brand of cream cheese, Philadelphia, was created in 1872 in Chester, New York.
In France, Jules Bel invented La Vache Qui Rit (Laughing Cow brand) cheese in 1920, and the idea of mixing curd cheese with garlic and fine herbs occurred to François Boursin, a Norman farmer, in 1963.
All industrially produced cream cheeses are sold in 100 g, 200 g, 500 g, and 1 kg tubs or wholesale in buckets. Cheese sellers also have farmhouse cheeses of this type for sale by weight.
Curd cheeses are sold by unit or by the piece for larger format ones.
Cream cheeses: these have an expiration date on the label. The different ingredients and fat content are indicated.
As with ripened cheeses, these are divided into:
. Farmhouse cheeses:made on a farm with raw milk produced there, and fermented without refrigeration or heat treatment. These are the tastiest.
. Artisan cheeses: made with combinations of heat-treated milk from surrounding farms. These are less common than farmhouse cheeses of this sort.
. Dairy cheese: Mostly produced on an industrial scale from a mixture of heat-treated milks, these cheeses are no match for farmhouse cheeses in terms of flavor.
. PDO (or AOC) cheeses: these labels protect their qualities.
Fresh cream cheese is served as a dessert, often with fruit. It is the base of cheesecake and other cakes or pies, and can be made into ice cream, mousse, and cream desserts. It can replace oil or fresh cream in light sauces. Its low fat content makes it a mainstay of low-calorie cooking.
Curd cheeses can be used for spreading on sandwiches or as a pizza topping. It can be used to stuff vegetables, and is ideal for tarts and tartlets, flans, and salads.
Cream cheese: in the refrigerator or cool room at 4ºC until its expiry date.
Curd cheese: in a cool place away from draughts, or in the refrigerator. It It will keep for around 15 days.
Plain cream cheeses have a high water content, but provide protein, a little carbohydrate and some fat (depending on the degree of skimming the milk has undergone), but never a lot. Of course, when they are sweetened and flavored with fruit puree, their nutritional value changes.
Curd cheeses vary in their nutritional properties depending on how much they have been drained and the quality of the milk used (sheep's milk always has more fat).
They are all an excellent source of calcium.