With all that modernity has brought to cheese making there is still an amazing amount of mastery required. I can only imagine the connection that master cheese makers had with their craft/product before we knew what bacteria was and the science behind cheese making.
If like me, all you knew about cheese making was that it is made from milk and that curds and whey are involved (thank you Miss Muffet), then you are not alone. I wanted to know more about the process and how we get the myriad of different cheeses.
I watched this amazing video on YouTube to get me started and I have written much of the Cheddar/Hard English cheese section below from it. Please watch it and like it too. I also bought a few books on the subject.
I want to use this post to record everything I learn about cheese making. Of course, I hope it also gives all of us an insight into cheeses’ complete journey from paddock to plate.
Cheese making methods
When an artisanal cheese maker sets out to make a particular variety of cheese they will follow a general process common to all varieties. They will however vary the temperature, acidity levels, timing, how the curd is treated and the amount of salt added. The conditions and length of the cheese’s aging also plays a large part. Making cheese is like following any recipe.
Hard English cheese making: A generalisation
Cheese is made from dairy milk and a lot of focus goes into the choice of milk used to make a given type of cheese. This is apparent more so when we get to a regional or brand level where species and even individual farms can be mentioned.
The milk is heated as per the recipe in question and a starter bacteria is added and left to convert the milk’s lactose sugars to acid. The longer the bacteria are allowed to work, the higher the acidity.
When desire acidity level and milk temperature is attained, rennet is added. Certain cheeses have different amounts and types of rennet added. The rennet curdles the milk, separating the milk solids (curds) from the water content (whey).
The curds are cut at this stage, releasing more whey. The method and speed of cutting allows the cheese maker to control how much fat is released from the curd. Again, different cheese recipes call for different levels retained fat and moisture content.
The whey is then drained and the curds are ground. At this stage, the desired amount of salt is added. The salt is used for preserving and flavouring the cheese. It also stops the acidity level from continuing to rise i.e. it stops the bacteria in their tracks.
The resulting paste is added to cheese moulds and pressed. The amount and duration of pressure affects the level of moisture left in the cheese. The cheese maker will then age the cheese in cool conditions. They routinely turn the cheese wheels so the moisture content is even throughout the wheel.
The cheese maker then tests the cheese wheel for quality before sending it off to market. That is where you and I come in. 🙂
I hope this post helps you learn more about cheese and the amazing artisans that make it.
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