Researchers Just Uncovered A 2,600-Year-Old Cheese In Egypt

When it comes to cheese, being old has its advantages. As Wisconsin Cheese explains, aging cheese removes moisture and makes it harder than younger cheese. According to the site, this tougher quality makes aged cheese particularly well-suited for being a topping or a garnish. Naturally, there is some strategy behind aging, and the amount of time cheese is aged can affect the taste of the final product.

In the case of cheddar cheese, the aging time can make a huge difference. As Cabot Cheese explains, the difference between mild and sharp Cheddars is actually the amount of time the cheese is aged. The longer it's aged the sharper it becomes. Cabot's Mild Cheddar cheese is aged in the two-to-three month range, while the extra sharp variety may be aged for up to a year, with some sharp cheeses being aged over two years. For anyone thinking two years is a long time to age cheese, back in 2020, Hook's Cheese Company made headlines when it offered a limited run of cheddar cheese that had been aged for a whopping 20 years (via NY Times).

Now, IFL Science reports researchers have found a 2,600-year-old cheese in Egypt, but cheese lovers might not want to get their hearts set on trying a piece of this old cheese just yet.

The Halloumi may have been meant for mummies

If the archaeologists were getting hungry on a recent Egyptian dig, eating 2,600-year-old halloumi probably wasn't what they had in mind come lunchtime. According to IFL Science, that is one of the artifacts the researchers on a Ministry of Antiquities expedition in Saqqara recovered, however. The blocks of cheese were inside vessels decorated in an ancient Egyptian script that can also be "found on the Rosetta Stone." The cheese could have been offered to mummies in the belief they may be resurrected, according to Director of the Saqqara Antiquities Area Mohammad Youssef Oyan (via Egypt Today). So, even if the cheese tasted okay, we all know what happens when you upset a mummy.

Younger halloumi, on the other hand, you can probably get your hands on without facing the wrath of the undead. According to The Spruce Eats, halloumi is a white cheese from Cyprus made from the milk of goats or sheep. If eaten raw, "Halloumi is plain and somewhat rubbery with salty notes," per the outlet, with the ability to become crispy on the outside and melty on the inside when grilled. As IFL Science points out, the discovery of 3,200-year-old cheese in a tomb (via the BBC) has the recent Egyptian discovery bested in the age category. So, if you're looking for a timeless gift, you may want to take a hint from the Egyptians and give that special someone a really special cheese. (We know we'd love it!)