How is cheese made?


Joanna is a Nutrition & Regulatory Lead at Fonterra and holds a Masters of Dairy Science & Technology

Cheese is a delicious and nutritious food that has been enjoyed for thousands of years.  Cheese-making is a complex craft that produces a wide variety of cheeses, with different textures, aromas and flavours. Let’s go on a journey of discovery to find out how cheese is made from natural ingredients, using time-honoured traditions and the latest in modern technology & innovation!

How do we make a block of cheese?

  • It all starts in New Zealand with fresh milk from grass fed cows.
  • The standard cheese making process requires the correct milk composition (particularly protein & fat) to make the desired cheese. The amounts depend on the type of cheese that is being made.
  • The milk is then pasteurised to remove harmful bacteria. After pasteurisation, the milk is transferred into a cheese vat at the optimal temperature for starter cultures to grow.
  • Cultures are now added- a crucial ingredient of cheese! They are the key to consistent cheese making and flavour development. Starter cultures contain bacteria that ferment lactose, the naturally occurring sugar in milk, into lactic acid. There are thousands of different culture strains which can all make cheeses with different flavour profiles and textures! Our expert cheesemakers carefully select the cultures to ensure the cheese will consistently have the desired flavour!
  • Next rennet is added, miraculously transforming the milk into a soft gel. Rennet can either be vegetarian or from animal origin. Vegetarian rennet is used in Anchor cheese blocks.
  • Once the gel is firm enough, it is cut into smaller particles to separate the liquid whey from the solid milk curd. The curd and whey mix is then gently cooked and left to expel more whey. For some cheeses the curd can also be washed with warm water and the excess whey drained off.
  • The curds and whey are separated. To make cheddar, the curd is then pushed together to form layers before it is cut into small fingers and salted. Salt is an important ingredient in cheese as it adds flavours, aids in ripening and works as a natural preservative.
  • The salted curd is then transported to a tower called a block former.  Here the weight of the curd squeezes out more whey and compacts all the individual curd fingers together to form a cheese block!
  • The cheese blocks are stored in temperature controlled rooms. Depending on the type of cheese it can be left to mature to allow flavours and textures to develop. The cheese makers take great care to ensure the cheeses mature to develop the desired final flavour and texture. Generally the more the cheese is matured, the stronger tasting and crumblier it will be!