This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
The average palate has been taught to relish Cheese after it has undergone butyric acid fermentation (which is, in fact, the first stage of putridity). But years ago, when the small dairymen made plain Cheese for their own use, not for the market, they began to eat it before it was a fortnight old, and took it as freely as they did bread, never dreaming of its proving difficult of digestion, which it never was. Nowadays, to put such simply compressed casein before the lover of modern-cured Cheese, would be to him almost an insult; and yet from the standpoint of health, it is the only Cheese which can be altogether approved; though equal praise may be given to the fresh curd, consisting of unaltered albumin of milk, in combination with some fat, a little milk sugar, and some lactic acid. The numerous varieties of mature Cheese are products altered more or less to a degree proportionate with their stage of ripeness. Some soft Cheeses ripen in a week or two; others, of firmer consistence, take many months to mature.
Parmesan Cheese, made at Parma, in Northern Italy, from skimmed milk of special cows, and coloured greenish with saffron, is a hard article which requires three years to ripen.
Whilst contained in fresh milk the casein, which forms the substantial basis of Cheese, exists in two forms, the soluble, and the insoluble; in the first of these it remains completely dissolved in the milk, whilst in the latter it is made by art to coagulate as insoluble Cheese, but carrying with it the fatty matter, or cream. The coagulation from the soluble to the insoluble form by rennet becomes produced rather mysteriously. The milk sugar is probably changed into lactic acid, which then serves to coagulate the milk-casein. A similar coagulation takes place within the stomach by the acid gastric juice, when milk is had as food. The casein of fresh milk contains more nutritious material than any other food which is ordinarily to be obtained, except that the mineral salts which have been dissolved in the whey are left behind. Cooked casein is more digestible than the raw substance as we for the most part eat it in Cheese, junket, or curds; but its heated preparations are unknown to our kitchens except as Welsh Rabbit (rare-bit), which is an indigestible dish as generally made.
"Here comes the practical question, Can we assimilate, or convert into our bodily substance, the Cheese food as easily as we can flesh food?" "I reply" (says Mattieu Williams) "we certainly cannot if the Cheese is raw, but I have no doubt we may do so if it be suitably cooked." The Swiss make, as one of their plainest and commonest dishes, a Cheese fondu, of eggs, and grated Cheese, with a little new milk, or butter, and cooked in the condition of a paste; or else with slices of bread soaked in a batter of eggs and milk, and covered with grated Cheese, being then gently baked; by some persons the bread-crumb is likewise grated. In such fashion is concocted the "Cheese pudding" of the Swiss, who gain the mineral salts lacking in their Cheese by their accompanying salads of fresh vegetable substances rich in potash salts. Mattieu Williams adds: "The following is a simplified recipe of my own: Take a quarter of a pound of grated Cheese, add to it a teacupful of milk, in which is dissolved as much powdered bicarbonate of potash as will stand on the surface of a threepenny piece; also add mustard, and pepper to taste; heat this carefully until the Cheese is completely dissolved; then beat up three eggs (yolks and whites together), and add them to this solution of Cheese, stirring the whole.
Now take a shallow metal, or earthenware dish, or tray, which will bear heating, put a little butter on it, and heat the butter until it frizzles; next pour the mixture into the tray, and bake, or fry it until it is nearly solidified. The bicarbonate of potash is an original novelty which may possibly alarm some readers averse to medicinal agents, but its harmless use is to be advocated for two reasons: First, it effects a better solution of the Cheese curd, or casein, by neutralizing the free lactic acid which inevitably exists in the milk beforehand, as well as any other free acids which are present in the Cheese; and the second reason is of greater weight: salts of potash are essential for mankind as necessary constituents of his food; they exist abundantly in all kinds of wholesome vegetables, and fruits, and in the juices of fresh meats, but they are wanting in Cheese, having, because of their greater solubility, been left behind in the whey. This absence of potash seems to me to be the one serious objection to a free use of Cheese diet exclusively." Cheese, says an old adage, digests everything but itself, - "Caseus est nequam: digerit omnia' sequam".
Quite lately casein, the proteid, or chiefly nutritious part of milk, has been separated in the powder form, dry, as Plasmon, this being devoid of water, fat and sugar, but also of such potash salts as remain dissolved in the liquid portion of the milk (unless evaporated out, and added again). The Plasmon, or pure casein, is obtained from skim milk, and is intended for addition to other foods, to increase their stock of proteid. It is the product of separated milk, as a fine white powder, being literally Cheese without its fat and its milk sugar, nothing remaining practically except pure casein, or flesh-forming material, utilizable with obvious advantage for many combinations. Dr. Robert Hutchison recently, in an address on Patent Foods delivered to the S.W. London Medical Society, whilst passing a sweeping condemnation on most of these as costly, and unequal to plain ordinary foods, went on to add encomiums on one class of such foods in which the casein, or proteid of milk has been separated in its integrity, for being added to enrich Other foods as to their sum of proteid. "I think," he concludes, "one may say that these are among the most useful of all artificial foods.