Where does cheese come from? Early European farmers milked their cows, sheep and goats, but DNA tells us that drinking milk gave them unpleasant symptoms. Fortunately, prehistoric people developed ways to overcome the side-effects, including making cheese and fermenting milk.

Take part in an experiment using prehistoric technologies to make cheese as researcher Penny Bickle explains the latest methods archaeologists use to investigate ancient diets.

What you will need:

  • A saucepan and stove
  • Two pints full fat milk
  • Something to strain your cheese through (a cheesecloth or a sieve will work equally well)
  • Something to curdle your milk (the juice of one lemon, vinegar, or you could order some rennet online)
  • Food thermometer (optional)

Health and Safety:

  • Ensure that all equipment is clean and designed for use in preparing food
  • Children should be supervised when heating the milk
  • The milk should be heated gently and care should be taken when testing the temperature of the milk – the milk should not exceed the temperature of a warm bath
  • The cheese should be consumed as soon as it is made (not kept for any extended period of time)
  • While the cheese-making process should make the cheese lactose-free, we do not recommend consuming the cheese if you have an allergy to or intolerance of any of the ingredients
  • Do not use foraged ingredients to make your cheese unless you are confident that you can correctly identify the plant required and harvest it in a safe manner


You might also be interested in:

Making Prehistoric Cheese on YouTube

Feeding Stonehenge

About the researcher

Dr Penny Bickle is a Senior Lecturer with the University of York’s Department of Archaeology.