How is cheese made?
Let’s go on a journey of discovery to find out how we produce some of the finest cheese in the world.
- We start with milk from NZ cows that graze on fresh pastures for most of the year.
- Milk and cream are mixed together and then pasteurised to ensure harmful bacteria are killed. After pasteurisation, the milk is transferred into a cheese vat and stored at a warm temperature. This helps promote fermentation of the milk.
- Starter cultures are added to the milk. These ferment lactose, the naturally occurring sugar in milk, into lactic acid. The type of cultures used determine the flavour and texture of the cheese.
- After a short time, rennet is added which coagulates the milk to create a soft curd. Rennet is an enzyme that can come from animal and non-animal sources.
- The curd is then left to set until the desired firmness is achieved. Once the curd is firm enough, it is cut into smaller particles which allows the liquid whey to separate from the solid milk curd. The curd can also be washed with warm water and the excess whey drained off.
- Cheddar curd is then milled and salt is mixed in. Some cheeses are salted in brine, after they have been pressed, others are dry salted on the surfaces of the cheese.
- For some firm style cheeses the curd is then pressed into forming a cheese tower where the weight of the curd presses out the whey from the curd. This also allows the curd to compact together forming a consistent cheese block. While the curd blocks are still warm, they are cut into their desired sizes. Others can be pressed under their own weight or simply turned in the cheese hoop.
- The cheese is then matured in temperature controlled rooms. The maturation temperature and time depends on the cheese that is being made. Generally the longer the cheese is matured the crumblier and stronger tasting it will be!
How different Types of cheese are made
To make different styles of cheese, different recipes, ingredients and processes are needed to give different flavours & textures!
- For fresh cheeses, like Cream cheese, Mascarpone or Quark, lactic acid forms the curd instead of rennet. These types of cheeses are not cut, pressed or ripened.
- For soft-ripened cheeses, like brie and camembert, moisture is retained by cutting the curd into larger pieces. This cheese is made with a surface ripening mould that produces a white rind (Penicillium candidum) allowing the cheese to ripen from the outside inwards developing a soft texture.
- Blue cheeses are pierced to allow the blue moulds to grow through channels to create the blue veins and develop the typical blue cheese flavours.
- Washed Rind cheeses (like Ramara) [NZ specific]are smeared with a special bacteria to create fruity, yeasty flavours and can have strong surface odours.
- Swiss Style Cheese (Emmenthal, Maasdam) includes a special bacteria that produces gas while ripening, this creates “eyes” or holes in the body of the cheese and develops nutty, sweet flavours.
- For semi-hard and hard cheeses, more whey is separated out by cutting the curd into smaller pieces. During the curd formation, a higher temperature may be used to produce a firmer curd. These types of cheeses can be ripened for much longer periods (from two months to two years) to achieve the desired texture and flavour.
- Some cheese blocks are floated in brine (salt) baths for up to 2 days at the Lichfield cheese brine baths containing 4.3 million litres of brine! Astonishing when compared to the 2.5 million litres capacity of an Olympic swimming pool.