Milk is an amazing dairy that can be turned into various food which taste totally different, like your favorite cheese. Milk contains two kinds of proteins, namely casein and whey, which are both essential factors in the cheese-making process. As milk gets old, bacteria grows rapidly and digests the milk sugar, thereby producing lactic acid which causes casein to curdle. It separates into lumps, gives the milk a sour smell, whereas the expired dairy ultimately becomes ‘cheesy.’ Blocks of cheese are made in the same manner, only the milk is purposefully curdled in a factory.
How Does Milk Become Cheese?
Starting from the basics, once a cow has a calf, the animal is deemed ready to provide milk. A farmer would milk cows three times a day, transferring milk straight into a cooler where it’s kept clean and cold. The milk will then be taken to a cheese plant where it will be tested for quality as well as purity. It will then be pasteurized to ensure product safety and uniformity. Good bacteria is added as part of the starter culture.
Starter Cultures, Calcium, Rennet
As the process initiates, milk is carefully stirred until it reaches the ideal temperature. Starter cultures are then added by the cheese maker, as well as calcium and rennet. The lactic acid bacteria is added to ferment lactose into lactic acid, which naturally preserves the cheese. Calcium is then added to the mix since milk’s natural calcium content has been primarily modified during its pasteurisation.
The rennet enzyme is then incorporated to curdle milk and render it thicker. Back then, rennet was obtained from young cows’ or goats’ stomachs. Nowadays, it is acquired from bacteria and yeast which were genetically “taught” to produce the enzyme.
The milk in the cheese-making process should remain completely calm for the rennet and starter cultures to work. The coagulation process yields milk in the right consistency that’s similar to a yoghurt, after a period of approximately 40 minutes.
Slicing Soft Cheese Curd
Soft cheese curd is then cut into grains or smaller pieces to release more whey. The smaller curd grains are, the harder cheese will be. Curd grains gradually separate from watery whey, which are both stirred slowly for about half an hour. The curd grains are put to rest to allow it to sink towards the bottom, slowly becoming more dense in the process as its weight presses whey out.
Creating cheese entails the addition of warm water to thin out lactose or the “fertile soil” to control fermentation. At this point, curd grains would have ultimately achieved its desired consistency and firm enough to be baled into different cheese shapes.
Gravity produces a single mass of curd grains and any remaining whey in the form of thin liquid will flow out. For cheese to form evenly, a cheese maker typically follows through after 10 minutes, an hour later, and in the late afternoon. The next morning, cheese is dipped early on into a salt bath to absorb the salt, which would take about two hours. Salt is quite helpful for firming up the milk and preventing it from spoiling in a wrong way. The bigger and harder cheese is, the longer it must be left in the salt bath until a thin crust forms around it.
The right conditions must be met in a ripening. When additional whey is drained from curds, solid clumps of casein are often left behind which are then pressed into molds. Cheese left to age for varied periods of time depending on what kind of cheese you’re actually trying to make.
The choice of bacteria usually has a dramatic impact on the taste, look, and smell of cheese. Factor in the animal that primarily produced the milk, what the cow or goat was fed, the bacteria used for the starter culture, and how cheese was processed, this explains why there’s such a wide array of cheeses that can be made. The time fermentation takes also has a major effect on the type of cheese that’s produced. Limburger cheese is one of the stinkiest varieties of cheese, which derives its smell from the bacteria used during cheese-making. Swiss cheese is manufactured with bacteria that apparently produce carbon dioxide (CO2) when digesting lactose, whereas the bubbles create holes in the cheese.