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Milk & Dairy Products

Dairy products are produced from the milk of cows, sheep, goats, and water buffalo in this country. Its major components are water, fat, protein, carbohydrate (lactose), and micronutrients, including vitamins, essential amino acids, and trace minerals.

According to legend, cheese was accidentally discovered by an Arabian merchant who put his milk supply into a pouch made from a sheep's stomach. The Rennet in the pouch's lining, combined with the sun's heat, caused the milk to separate into curds and whey. That night he found that the whey satisfied his thirst, and the cheese (curd) satisfied his hunger.

Travelers from Asia brought cheesemaking to the Roman Empire and throughout Europe. During the Middle Ages, until the discovery of America, cheese was made and improved on by monks in European monasteries. For example, Gorgonzola was first created in the Po Valley in Italy around 879, and Roquefort was developed at a monastery in Conques, France, about 1070.

As cheesemaking flourished in Europe, the Pilgrims included cheese in the Mayflower's supplies when they made their voyage to America in 1620. Cheesemaking quickly spread in the New World, but it was not until 1851 that the first cheese factory was built by Jesse Williams in Oneida County, New York. As migrations and population grew dramatically, the demand for cheese moved westward. 

Wisconsin because a hub for its production and European immigrants started manufacturing cheeses there. 

In 1924, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) developed the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO). This created production, processing, and packaging standards to ensure safety against milk-borne diseases. These guidelines also established that only Grade "A" pasteurized milk products shall be sold to consumers. They do not regulate individual states, and raw dairy products are sold at farms and farmer's markets in twelve states.

The pasteurization process was invented by Louis Pasteur in 1880, who is considered the father of germ theory and disease. His belief states that sterilizing food and environments prevents disease. With milk, pasteurization is done by heating milk to a specific temperature for a certain amount of time. When making cheese from raw milk, it is held for at least 6o days ensuring all pathogens have been destroyed.

According to Ayurveda, milk is a Sattvic (pure) product. Its beneficial properties can be diminished by the conditions the animal is raised in and its products. From a holistic point of view, pasteurization means to sterilize, killing the natural energies in milk. This does allow for longer shelf life and commercial viability but removing its life -force (Ojas), natural immunity, and vitality.  

Another commercial step in processing milk is homogenization, which prevents fat globules from floating to the top and forming a cream layer. This process is achieved by pushing the milk at high pressure through a special valve that breaks up the fat clusters making them more uniform. Additionally, this process makes the milk have a whiter appearance and a richer flavor. Homogenization also improves the texture of ice cream, half and half, and cream cheese.

Fermented milk products are also known as cultured dairy products, like yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, sour cream, and acidophilus milk. The process creates a chemical change using lactic asci bacteria, which increases the product's shelf life while enhancing its taste and improving the digestibility of its milk. 

Making cheese requires curdling milk, which separates the solids from the whey (remaining liquid after milk has curdled and strained). It is achieved by the use of Rennet or in the case of fresh cheese, an acid like citrus juice or vinegar.

Rennet is an enzyme produced in the stomachs of ruminant mammals. These include cows, goats, sheep, deer, water buffalo, and camels, which have four stomachs. One of the four is responsible for fermenting food and curdling the casein (protein) found in milk. 

Below are commercial forms of Rennet:

· Traditional Rennet was acquired from the dried and cleaned stomachs of young calves.

· Genetically Engineered Rennet is made by extracting chromosomes from the animal's stomach and implanting it into yeast cultures. 

· Microbial Rennet is made in laboratories and is not usually used because it causes the cheese to become bitter. 

· Plant Rennet is derived for cardon thistle, artichokes, or nettles. Which can be challenging to work with because of inconsistency and flavor fluctuations.

Once the curds are separated from the whey, they are processed differently depending on the types of cheese produced. Fresh cheeses using vinegar or citrus juice for coagulation (paneer, ricotta, queso fresco) are simply drained, and then pressed and formed. Harder, more aged cheeses are heated and salted to drive out moisture to create the desired consistency. Cheeses like mozzarella undergo a stretching process that aligns the proteins and develops fibers giving it a stringy nature. Milder cheese, such as Colby or Gouda go through washings to reduce acidity to create its flavor. Ripening and aging cheese provide the cheese with distinctive characteristics and tastes; for instance: Swiss and Blue cheese is injected with bacteria that produce the holes and veins of color.

In Ayurvedic and Vedic traditions, the cow is considered the most sacred animal with a gentle, giving, and nurturing spirit. It is the true symbol of the Divine Mother. This giving quality is partially perceived because it produces more milk than its calves require. It shares this excess with humans to make butter, ghee, yogurt, cream, and paneer cheese.  

Milk has the energetics of having a sweet taste, cooling energy, and a sweet after taste, making it anabolic (the building-up aspect of metabolism). Its nature is heavy and wet with a laxative effect and is considered Sattvic. Although dairy is not recommended for all doshic constitutions, it plays an essential role in maintaining health and increasing longevity. 

Ayurveda uses dairy products as an "Anupan" or carrier substance in many medicinal preparations and formulas. These act as a catalyst, or moderator for the herbs, helping to carry the medicinal deeper into specific channels and tissues, improving metabolism, overall health, and building Ojas (life sap).

Ayurveda notes that dairy products used in excess or when cold can be harmful. Their damp and heavy nature can clog the channels of circulation. This can aggravate many chronic diseases, such as allergies, asthma, arthritis, or heart disease. Ingesting warm milk with spices like cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper or ginger makes it more digestible. Additionally, milk should not be mixed with certain uncompilable foods like sour fruits, melons, yeast, starchy foods, and animal proteins.

It is not unusual for some people to experience digestive issues when consuming dairy products called lactose intolerant (hypolactasia). Lactose is the primary sugar found in dairy products, and Lactase is the enzyme that digests sugar found in milk. Most humans gradually lose Lactase after infancy and breastfeeding and can have difficulty digestion dairy products later in life. Adverse symptoms may include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, gas, and nausea.  

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