How is the cheese made?
Cocoricooo! France is undoubtedly a country known for its cheeses. The French are even the world champions in cheese consumption! We taste, but do we know how it is produced? Could you focus on the making of our cute sin?
Cheese is made the same way — by curdling milk — except the milk is curdled on purpose. Most cheese is made in factories. After the milk is poured into giant vats, a “starter culture” of bacteria is added to convert the lactose into lactic acid. Then an enzyme called rennet is added to curdle the milk.
It’s not just about milking a cow, a goat or a sheep and processing the milk. Making cheese requires actual know-how and many steps to achieve it!
To make cheese, it is necessary to solidify the milk, an ingredient called “rennet” is added to it, which allows it to thicken to set. Milk is “divided” into two materials: a liquid called “whey”, the other solid, “curd”. We recover this dough which is used as a base for the cheese.
This step involves pressing the curd manually through a cloth or mechanically using a press. The excess water still present is drained off. Depending on the type of cheese you want to make, you will squeeze the curds more or less.
Salt is an essential ingredient in manufacturing. It will make it possible to pronounce the cheese’s taste, act as a preservative, and modify its texture. Salt can also add at other stages of cheese making.
It is about shaping cheese with moulds. Through this, we can also define its size and weight. Cheese can be wrapped in aluminium foil like the Laughing Cow® or Kiri® portions and even coated in wax-like Babybel®. The moulding will also recognise the cheese; goat dung does not look the same as gouda!
It is not systematic for all cheeses, but some need to be drained further to keep them longer. They are therefore pressed into their mould.
Some cheeses need to be aged. It’s like letting fruit ripen to make it better! A crust forms, the dough becomes coloured, and the taste is pronounced. While this step is crucial for some cheeses, it does not exist for others that are eaten fresh.
Washing or brushing
Soft cheeses are surface washed, and hard cheeses are brushed to activate fermentation. It is a transformation thanks to bacteria naturally present in milk.
To obtain different cheeses, the steps are not always the same. The origin of the milk varies; the propensity for added salt changes, the mussels come in various shapes, the pressing is more or less intense, the ripening is more or less prolonged, and the final step does not always take place. The rules that govern the making of each cheese help make foods that are very distinct from one another… and so many ways to taste them! Yum!
The art of cheese making in 5 steps
Knowing the cheese-making processes allows you to appreciate the extent of the cheesemakers’ work and better understand what makes each cheese unique. Here is the art of making cheese in just five steps.
Step 1 – The curdling or coagulation of the milk
To obtain cheese, you must first curdle the milk. During this stage, the milk thickens and turns into a homogeneous and smooth gel: the curd. This coagulation of milk occurs under a mixture of lactic acid bacteria called the ferment, a natural coagulant from animal or plant sources called rennet or a combination of the two.
Step 2 – The work of the curd
The curd is then sliced, broken and fragmented. The larger the fragments, the more water they contain. Conversely, the smaller they are, the lower their humidity level and the firmer the dough. The grains thus obtained are subsequently transferred into moulds to promote drainage.
Step 3 – Draining and moulding
Drainage guarantees the quality of cheese. It is a crucial stage during which the curd is emptied of its whey (whey) or part of its water. On average, 10 litres of milk makes about 1 kg of cheese. Drainage, slow, accelerated-squeezed, or squeezed-heated, takes between 12 and 48 hours. Slow drainage, that is, is based only on gravity by turning over. The curd is divided into cubes and placed in a mould from which the whey drains and quietly. It is used for a soft dough.
The accelerated-pressed method indicates that the curd cubes are placed in a mould, then pressed mechanically to aid the draining of the whey.
The press-heated technique, for its part, maintains the curd grains between 40 ° C and 55 ° C before they are placed in a mould. These types of a drip are used for semi-firm and firm doughs. Note that there is no ripening for fresh pasta.
Step 4 – Salting
Following demolding, the cheese will be immersed in a saline solution for a period that is specific to each one. The salt acts as a preservative and an antiseptic. It can also be added to the cheese in the mass just before being pressed. It is the case with cheddar curds and blocks of fromage frais.
Step 5 – Ripening
The cheese is then placed in the maturation phase in a room called a cheater. The conditions in the dairies, where the humidity and the ambient temperature vary between 8 ° C and 16 ° C, are decisive for the quality of the finished product. During this stage, the texture, rind, colour, and flavours of the cheese develop and become uniform.
In the case of cheeses with a washed rind, the person in charge of the ripening, called the refiner, treats the surface of the wheels by turning them over and washing them with brine. About other cheeses, the refiner ensures the steady development of their character. He also turns them and brushes them dry when the need arises.
Final step – Your tasting
You don’t need to be an expert; you have to dare! Find out how to assemble a cheese board for an enhanced tasting.
How is the cheese made?