Cheese first made at least 7,500 years agoLittle Miss Muffet could have been separating her curds and whey 7,500 years ago, according to a new study that finds the earliest solid evidence of cheese-making.
By: By Maria Cheng, Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
LONDON — Little Miss Muffet could have been separating her curds and whey 7,500 years ago, according to a new study that finds the earliest solid evidence of cheese-making.
Scientists performed a chemical analysis on fragments from 34 pottery sieves discovered in Poland to determine their purpose. Until now, experts weren’t sure whether such sieves were used to make cheese, beer or honey.
Though there is no definitive test for cheese, Richard Evershed at the University of Bristol and colleagues found large amounts of fatty milk residue on the pottery shards compared to cooking or storage pots from the same sites. That suggests the sieves were specifically used to separate fat-rich curds from liquid whey in soured milk in a crude cheese-making process.
“It’s a very compelling forensic argument that this was connected to cheese,” Evershed said. “There aren’t many other dairy processes where you would need to strain,” he said. He and colleagues weren’t sure what kind of milk was used, but said there were lots of cattle bones in the region. The study was published online Wednesday by the journal Nature.
“This is the smoking gun,” said Paul Kindstedt, a professor of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Vermont and author of “Cheese and Culture.” He was not involved in the study.
“It’s almost inconceivable that the milk fat residues in the sieves were from anything else but cheese,” Kindstedt said, adding that many experts suspected cheese was being made in Turkey up to 2,000 years earlier than this latest finding in Poland but that there was no definitive proof.