Why is the Structure of a Cheese Wheel So Important?
It is believed that cheesemaking began around 8000 B.C., when humans first domesticated sheep. It is likely that sheep stomachs could have been used to transport milk, and the rennet found in these early bags could have triggered the chemical reaction that turned that milk into cheese (according to Spruce Eats). A beautiful coincidence may have created the deliciousness we all love today!
However, Culture suggests the foundations for cheesemaking were not laid out until nearly a thousand years later, because scientists discovered milk fat in pockets of pottery that go back a thousand years after that. Still, cheesemaking likely didn't get very far until the age of the Roman empire. That is when people figured out how to make cheese so it could be transported across greater distances.
They used bronze containers to store milk (which would later become cheese). They also learned to use heat, which allowed the product to keep longer and age more efficiently as a result.
In order to deal with the frequent problem of cheeses rotting in the middle and to make them sturdier, people began mixing cheese curds with salt before pressing them into hoops.
The practice of pressing cheeses into wooden hoops continues today, and most of the world's cheeses are made in the shape of wheels.
The wheel shape offers up a consistent, even thickness, and prevents organisms like mold and bacteria from congregating in just one place. Cheeses made into wheels are also better placed to form a rind, which helps protect it from contaminants from insects to bacteria, according to Mental Floss.
Having cheeses come in wheels makes it easier to move the bigger, heavier, more compact blocks from one place to another. Not all cheeses sit in one place from start to finish, they may need to be flipped or moved at some point during the aging process, and having them in wheel form makes it easier for cheesemakers to do that - according to Delighted Cooking.