A Brief Lesson: The Making of Cheese

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There are thousands of cheese varieties available around the world, as well as cheese lovers.

From milk type (ie. cow, goat, sheep) and texture to color and country, there is no shortage of cheeses that will suit the needs of cheese lovers - whether pairing with wines, creating cheese boards, or using it in a recipe.

The interesting thing is, cheese lovers are often focused on the varieties they love, while overlooking one important aspect - the cheesemaking process, which has existed for the last 5,000 years. 

Let’s take a quick look at that process.

Step 1: Typically the process begins with the milk from sheep, cow, goat, buffalo or raw milk (in the case of some French traditional cheeses), which is heated. Bacteria is then added to produce lactic acid.

Step 2: In this step, to ripen and acidify the milk mixture, various bacteria types are added. Heterofermentative bacteria is added to produce eye holes (like in Swiss cheese) and fruity flavors.

On the other hand, Homofermentative bacteria produces cheddar type cheeses. Rennet is also added to create the basic curd - native to all cheeses.

Step 3: The cheese can be ‘cheddared’ or scalded in this step. Then it’s placed in cheesecloth-lined molds and pressed to remove moisture.

Alternatively, the cheese can be surface ripened or mold ripened, which requires being transferred to a cheese hoop and allowed to drain by gravity.

Step 4: For some cheeses like, Stilton and Roquefort, they are pierced with stainless steel rods, which promote mold growth; this gives them their distinctive blue or green veins.

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Step 5: Lastly, cheeses are left to ripen under ideal conditions or per certification demands in caves, cool rooms, and cellars. The end result is a variety of aromas, colors, tastes, and textures.

While it may seem like an easy process, cheesemaking is an art, a science, and a very intricate operation. Knowing this, you just might appreciate your next cheese board a little more.

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Kiana Lewis

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