Why does Swiss cheese have holes?

Holey moley!
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Stephanie Clark, Iowa State University

Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to CuriousKidsUS@theconversation.com.
Why does Swiss cheese have holes? – Owen F., age 13, Belmont, Massachusetts

There are thousands of kinds of cheese, each with its own color, shape, nutritional value, flavour and texture.

Since cheese is made from milk, cheese types tend to vary based on the source of milk. Some of the most popular cheeses are made from the milk of cows, goats and sheep. But there are also cheeses made from camel milk, water buffalo milk – even moose milk.

To make cheese, you need to add bacteria to the milk. These create chemical reactions that cause it to change into a combination of solid “curds” and liquid “whey.” The whey is generally drained off, concentrated and dried into a powder.

Variations in the amount and type of bacteria influence the taste and texture of the final product. Other aspects factor into the type of cheese that’s produced: the salting method, its temperature and how long cheesemakers age it, which refers to the amount of time it is left alone to ripen and form. Some cheeses are aged for as long as 18 years.

Like many other cheeses, Swiss cheese is made with cow’s milk and contains bacteria that help convert the milk into a solid.

So why does Swiss cheese have holes? Also called “eyes,” they’re so essential to Swiss cheese that when they’re missing, the cheesemakers say the batch is “blind.”

What makes Swiss cheese “holey” is additional bacteria called Propionibacterium freudenrichii subspecies shermaniiP. shermanii for short. Under the specific conditions that Swiss cheese is made, the P. shermanii produce a gas: carbon dioxide.

Because Swiss cheese is made at a warm temperature – around 70 degrees Fahrenheit – the cheese is soft and malleable. So as the bacteria grow, the gases they emit end up creating round openings. Think of blowing a bubble with chewing gum: As you blow air from your lungs, the pressure forces the gum into a circle. The bubble eventually pops, due to air pressure from your lungs or the atmosphere.

But when a bubble has formed inside a hunk of warm cheese – and then that cheese is cooled to around 40°F – the hole stays in place. The cheese now has its eyes.

It takes about four weeks at 70°F for the eyes to form. In total, it takes about six weeks to make Swiss cheese, and then it is aged two additional months before it is sold.

Swiss cheese was first made in Switzerland in the 15th century. But there, it’s known as “emmental” or “emmentaller.”

Other countries are also known for cheeses that are similar to Swiss cheese. France has Gruyere, while Italy has Fontina. In the U.S., cheesemakers concoct a modified version, called Baby Swiss, which tends to have smaller eyes. Gouda cheese – which originated in the Netherlands – is sometimes intentionally made with cultures that produce a little bit of gas and tiny eyes.

Fontina cheese also has ‘eyes.’
Brian Yarvin/Shutterstock.com

But in most cases, cheesemakers actually try to prevent the formation of gas in their cheeses. Especially in harder cheeses, gas doesn’t lead to nice, round eyes; instead, it forms unsightly crevices, cracks and splits.

[Like what you’ve read? Want more? Sign up for The Conversation’s daily newsletter.]The Conversation

Stephanie Clark, Virginia M. Gladney Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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BBC: the licence fee is a small price to pay for a service that unites the UK

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Anyone who owns a television set in the UK is obliged, by law, to pay a licence fee which has always enabled the BBC to exist as an independent entity. But a recent Sunday Times article (paywalled) has announced the UK government’s intention to abolish the BBC licence fee.

It is, I believe, a move that will jeopardise the BBC and the services it provides. The Corporation should be defended as a national public utility that provides unique and irreplaceable programming for different audiences. The subscription model proposed, we’re told, by Dominic Cummings (apparently at odds with the views of the prime minister, Boris Johnson) would simply not enable the full array of services that the BBC provides. Not only that but the recently reappointed culture secretary John Whittingdale has said a subscription model was “utterly impossible” at present.

As the New Statesman’s political editor Stephen Bush has argued, this portends a long game of political interference in the run-up to the BBC’s Charter Renewal in 2027, with the aim to constrain and reduce the BBC’s remit.

Is the BBC actually worth defending? Well, it is an organisation that, in its DNA, cleaves to the consensual “centre ground” of the day – recently, it has mimicked the agenda of a printed press overwhelmingly aligned with the Conservative Party’s worldview, as a Loughborough University report has found. But then plenty of influential people also accuse the BBC of left bias.

Is it time to accept British society’s atomisation? In an article for this platform, academic Lyndsay Duthie quotes The Sun’s report that 3.5 million people have refused to pay the licence fee. Clearly, a growing, vocal minority may not use the BBC at all. Having said this, people’s attitudes often change when they are deprived of the BBC, as this study suggests:

Thirty-three out of the 48 households who originally said they would prefer to not pay at all and not receive the BBC, or who wanted to pay a lower licence fee, changed their minds and said they were now willing to pay the full licence fee for the BBC.

What of the government’s own reasoning for replacing the licence fee? As Goldsmiths professor of media Des Freedman has argued, it is “absurd” to claim the BBC is obsolete due to unstable, debt-ridden streaming services such as Netflix, Disney and Comcast. Netflix doesn’t have CBBC. Disney doesn’t broadcast British national events. Not yet, anyway.

Better, surely, to maintain the BBC as a universally accessible utility. As the Byline Times journalist James Melville has asserted, the BBC is an informational and cultural counterpart to the NHS – it possesses an astonishingly rich archive, which it should do more to put on offer to people. In its necessary desire to appeal to young people, the Corporation neglects its past. Dad’s Army repeats regularly gain over a million viewers – such shows are part of our cultural fabric and linger in our lexicon.

Lasting achievements

It would do well to repeat more of the series that I am studying for my PhD – the one-off dramas that made up Play for Today, which ran from 1970 to 1984. This was usually broadcast on BBC1 on Tuesdays after the Nine O’Clock News. Many episodes dramatised contentious or topical issues and it nurtured idiosyncratic voices from different nations, regions and classes in the UK, the likes of Alan Bennett, Dennis Potter, Peter McDougall, Mike Leigh, Rachel Billington and Colin Welland.

Most people are aware of Jeremy Sandford and Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home (1966), which contributed to a change in public consciousness that led to the creation of the homelessness charity Shelter. We should also remember the likes of Peter Ransley’s Minor Complications (1980) which dramatised medical negligence in the NHS and led to the creation of Action against Medical Accidents charity, which has had some impact in making the NHS more open.

The government claims the BBC has to “modernise”. Well, listen to Ian Wright’s recent appearance on that formerly fusty “crown jewel” Desert Island Discs and try to tell me it hasn’t renewed itself or that this alone is not worthy of your £3.

Tory MPs on Twitter have defended the BBC against Cummings’s sword of Damocles – taking the view that by privatising the BBC the UK risks losing an institution of incalculable value to preserving social order.

A national service

All of us – regardless of political hue – should recall the BBC’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in the second world war and its credible honest brokerage during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. As media academic Jean Seaton has detailed, it was instrumental in laying the infrastructural groundwork for reconciliation – along with key actors across the sectarian divide and in the Major and Blair governments.

The last thing we need is further entrenchment of the same commercially driven values that have undermined the local British press for so long, as the journalist Matthew Engel has argued. Turning the BBC into an elitist redoubt – leaving a gaping hole in the public sphere – ignores the testimony of a past chairman of governors Sir Michael Swann in the Annan Report (1977), resulting from a Royal Commission, which argued for pluralistic public service broadcasting and led to the creation of Channel Four.

Swann claims the BBC’s broadcasting works as “social cement” for UK society – and it’s vital to defend the current model whereby minority interests, including local radio stations, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Asian Network, contemporary urban music on BBC 1Xtra or classical music on Radio 3, are all supported by the greater number of Radio 2 and 4 listeners. Paying £3 a week means that anyone in Britain can listen to these stations – not just the audiences they implicitly target. And more such listening would aid our understanding of other people’s ways of life on the British Isles.

To paraphrase what was once said in the BBC’s most famous telefantasy drama, Doctor Who: “A cosmos without the BBC scarcely bears thinking about.” Without the BBC and its unique potential to give voice to all of its constituent regions, nations and classes, the UK will struggle to continue as it is one of the few institutions capable of holding together a fractious nation state.The Conversation

Tom May, Post-Graduate Researcher, Northumbria University, Northumbria University, Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Amanda Palmer & Friends - Beds Are Burning (with MISSY HIGGINS)


Andrew Weatherall brought record producers out of the back room...

Andrew Weatherall brought record producers out of the back room and lured millions on to the dance floor

Andrew Weatherall outside Rough Trade East, London, for Record Store Day 2009.
Tom McShane via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

When Q Magazine called Andrew Weatherall the “Phil Spector of techno”, it was meant as a compliment – both were record production pioneers who helped to shape the sound of popular music. But aside from Spector’s troubling and abusive personal life, the comparison missed the mark slightly. Where Spector’s innovative “Wall of Sound” – multiple overdubs to produce an epic, dramatic sound – was firmly within the realm of “pop”, Weatherall’s music ranged across the terrain of techno, house, dub and electronic club music, often – as with his trio Sabres of Paradise – on individual albums.

Not all revolutions “devour their children”, and nor do they necessarily trample their predecessors. A key aspect of Weatherall’s work beyond its eclecticism – although also as a part of that – was the way it simultaneously strode forward while looking back and linking past and present.

Following stints as a carpenter’s assistant, furniture mover and labourer – and having moved from Windsor to London – his musical roots were as a DJ. His large record collection and correspondingly extensive musical knowledge attracted the attention of house music pioneers, including Danny Rampling and Terry Farley, and led to slots at clubs such as Shoom that blazed the acid house trail.

As part of the Boy’s Own collective, Weatherall fostered the burgeoning scene through promoting raves, producing fanzines and then setting up his own record label in 1990. Alumni of his promotional activities included future stars like the Chemical Brothers.

Eclectic passions

But as much as his work was focused on electronically infused dance music, Weatherall’s aesthetic was always informed by, and came to influence, popular music much more broadly. His background as an aficionado of punk and post-punk music – as well as funk – formed bridges between club culture, indie and rock. He deployed his eclecticism via remixes of indie acts – early successes included Hallelujah by the Happy Mondays and New Order’s World Cup song World In Motion.

Even as a relative novice to the studio, his guiding philosophy was one of musical inclusion – informed by but, crucially, not beholden to the past. He would later sum it up thus:

If you sit in a studio all day trying to be original, you’ll never do it. If you play me something you think is original, I’ll play you something from 1958 that proves otherwise! You become original by default. If you go into a studio and do an authentic approximation of music you love, I think you end up becoming original without even trying.

A vital component of this was that his remixing and production of bands was informed by his sense of what would work on a dance floor. Consequently, a formative moment in his career, and popular music history at large, was his collaboration with Primal Scream. On his first stint in a recording studio, he took the indie-jangle of I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have and thoroughly renovated it via loops and samples into the hit Loaded, leaving only snippets of the original behind.

Synthesizing the musical worlds of indie and dance, Loaded was a keynote of the Primal Scream album “Screamadelica” – the winner of the inaugural Mercury Album Prize in 1992 – which he co-produced.

Massive influence

Weatherall himself eschewed the “superstar DJ” mantle and massive clubs of Ibiza, focusing instead on studio work and a vast array of solo and collaborative projects. He combined production duties for the likes of Beth Orton and One Dove and remixing acts as diverse as Björk, My Bloody Valentine, James and the Orb, with releases as the Sabres of Paradise, Two Lone Swordsmen and under his own name.

If these never saw him break through into the mainstream as a featured artist, his influence on it – as on club culture – is unarguable.

Weatherall’s signal achievement was in threading together the production, consumption and curation of music into one role. His approach to breaking down source works and rebuilding them almost from scratch cut across DJ mixes, original records and remixes of other artists. This helped to redefine the notion of a “record producer” from being a backroom, industry-facing role and dragged it towards the creative limelight – leading a wider audience, and subsequent generations of artists, to view it as an artistic practice in its own right.

His refusal to stand still – and aversion to repeating himself – made it harder to market him as a “star”, as did his own self-deprecating view of the music industries revealed in this 2016 interview with the Guardian’s Alexis Petridis:

DJs? Heroes? Are people really that desperate?… I know people want heroes, but seriously, this is ridiculous.

Weatherall’s contribution to popular culture was to demonstrate how a vanguard of new forms – such as house music – could inform and rejuvenate existing ones, indie rock, for example. By taking a curatorial approach, but not a reverential one, he expanded the parameters of what was possible for DJs. His combined sense of musical diversity, focus and history – he saw himself as the “antithesis to the throwaway, mp3 culture” – shaped the role of the record producer in the 21st century.The Conversation

Adam Behr, Lecturer in Popular and Contemporary Music, Newcastle University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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