Cheese is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating dairy products known to man. The byproduct of milk from several livestock sources that include sheep and goat through the process of curdling, cheese has become one of the most beloved dairy products in the world.
What makes cheese a favorite is the fact that it comes in a wide assortment of flavors, each with their own distinct taste and characteristic. From the well-loved mozzarella to the sharp tang of the cheddar cheese, cheese has become an important ingredient for several dishes that are served both at home and in our favorite restaurants.
Although cheese-making has now incorporated new curdling methods, the basic and traditional process is described below.
Step One: Preparing the milk.
The first step to creating a world class cheese is by picking the right milk for the job. Unpasteurized milk is mostly used in cheese-making as the bacteria present in the milk is what triggers the curdling process. The milk can come from several sources but the most common are cow, goat, sheep and even buffalo.
Cheese-makers would often get their cheese directly from farmers as they do not pasteurize the milk. The overall quality of the cheese depends on the kind of milk used in the process.
Step Two: Coagulation: Separating the curd from the whey.
The next step is to add a culture agent that will separate the whey from the curds. Setting the milk for a specific period of time is needed and the use of a culture agent will further separate the curds from the whey. Traditionally, rennet derived from the stomach lining of curd-chewing animals are used in cheesemaking. However, vegetable-based rennet is now being used as an alternative especially for vegetarians.
Step Three: Pressing the curds into the moulds.
Once the curds are fully separated from the whey, they are then pressed into different moulds. The amount of curds to be removed depends on the kind of cheese that must be made. Moisture content plays a big role on the kind of cheese that will come out as a result. For cheese with high moisture content, the whey draining process would remove only a sufficient amount of moisture. With other cheese types, the curds have to be cut and heated and sometimes filtered to remove excess moisture. Hard cheeses are made by cooking the curds.
Step Four: Aging the cheese.
Once the curds have been properly separated, the cheese is then aged. Aging cheese can be done through several methods. Popular methods include flavoring the mold, bathing it in brine or wrapping it in cloth before depositing it in a room with the proper temperature and humidity.
Cheese can be aged from one month to several years depending on the type. Most sharp-flavored cheese are made by aging the cheese to several years just like cheddar.
Step Five: Packaging the cheese.
Cheese can be sealed in rind, cloth or wax. Rind naturally develops, however, some would spray bacteria on the surface to encourage growth. Other cheese makers prefer washing the cheese as this encourages bacterial growth.
However, cheese made in large quantities, especially if they are to be shipped to distant countries, are packaged differently. Manufacturers would heavily salt the cheese or seal them in impermeable plastic or foil for longer shelf life or until they get to their country of destination.
Sophie White is a foodie blogger based in Australia. She is passionate about all things food-related and is an accomplished home cook herself. With a tongue for all dishes local and international, she leads the online marketing campaign for American cheese brand Sargento.
Disclosure: this post presented in partnership with sponsor New Local Media PTY LTD.