The quality of cheese that you get depends on the quality of the one key ingredient, that is, the quality of milk. Before the process of making cheese begins, the milk to be used is tested for purity and quality. So if you are to make one pound of cheese, you will need to have approximately 10 pounds of quality and pure milk.
A little background information
Cheese is a fermented type of food that is derived from milk. The milk is not limited to cows as it can be derived from various animals. Since 10,000 B.C, when humans domesticated the milk-producing animals, they have come to know the propensity of milk and can properly separate it into whey and curds. As milk is breaking down, it separates into curds; this is lumps of phosphoprotein and into the whey. Whey is a watery fluid that is gray in color; it contains minerals, vitamins, lactose and some traces of fat. The curd collected is used in making the cheese you love so much. As a result, every culture that you will find in this beautiful world has developed their own methods, the only major exceptions that exist is ancient Americas and China.
The first cheese that was made was fresh, that is, it did not go through the fermentation process. It consisted only of the salted white curds that were drained of the remaining whey; you could this is similar to the cottage cheese we enjoy today. The next step that was taken was developing ways to accelerate the natural separation process. This was done by adding some rennet to the milk being used. Rennet is a type of enzyme found in the stomach of young ruminants. A ruminant is an animal that chews its food thoroughly, it has a complex digestive system that has three or four stomach chambers, and cows are the best-known creatures that are of this kind. Ever since rennet is a popular way to start your cheese making process, however, other starting agents are still used, such as lactic acid and plant extracts.
The process of making cheese
1. The preparation of milk
Most cheese factories prefer the morning or the evening milk; they purchase it from the small dairies as they do not pasteurize their milk. This type of milk contains the necessary bacteria needed to produce lactic acid, one of the agents that trigger curding. The milk is left to sit until enough lactic acid has formed to make the particular cheese they are to make. The milk is heated depending on the type of cheese being made.
2. Separate the curd from the whey
The next step is adding some vegetable or animal rennet into the milk; this helps in furthering the separation of the curds and the whey. Once it has formed, the curds are cut horizontally and vertically with a knife. However, in the large factories, they would cut the curds with multi-bladed knives to speed up the process. The soft type of cheese is cut into large chunks, while the hard cheese into small pieces. After the curds are cut, they are heated to speed the separation from the whey; at times, they are left alone. Once the separation is complete, the whey is drained.
3. The curds are pressed
The pressing process is done to remove the moisture present in the curds; the amount of moisture that is removed highly depends on the type of cheese being made. For the type of cheese with high moisture, the whey draining process will remove sufficient moisture. On the other hand, other types of cheese will require the curds to be cut and heated, then later filtered to get rid of the excess moisture. For example, when making cheddar cheese the curd is finely chopped, for dry hard cheese such as parmesan the curd is finely chopped then cooked. If the curd is to be aged, it will be put in molds where they are pressed to give the appropriate size and shape. The soft type of cheese does not undergo the aging process.
4. The cheese is aged
The fourth step involved is aging the cheese. At this step, the cheese is inoculated in flavoring mold, it is bathed in brine, and then wrapped in hay, or cloth before it is kept in a room with proper humidity and temperature to age. Some cheese could be aged for a month and some several years. When cheese undergoes the aging process, it sharpens the flavor. An example, if cheddar cheese goes through aging more than two years it is labeled as extra sharp.
5. Wrapping the natural cheese
As some types of cheese are being produced they develop a natural ring around as their surface dries. Other rinds tend to develop due to the growth of bacteria that was sprayed on the surface of the cheese. In other cases, the cheese may be washed; this processes encourages the growth of bacteria. In place or in addition to the natural rinds, cheese can be sealed with wax or cloth. If the cheese is to be eaten locally, then this is all the packaging it will need. However, cheese produced in large quantities is packaged for sale, this type of cheese is usually heavily slated for export, an example is Roquefort, or it could be sealed in foil or impermeable plastic.
6. Wrapping the processed cheese
The edible but inferior cheese can be made into processed cheese. Emmental, which is commonly known as Swiss, Gruyere, which is similar to Swiss, cheddar or Colby are cut and finely ground. The powder is then mixed with water to form a paste; other ingredients are then added to the mixture; such as fillers, salt, preservatives, flavorings, and emulsifiers. Once properly mixed, it is heated. While it is still soft and warm, the paste is extruded into ribbons that are sliced. The cheese sheets are then put on the foil or plastic then wrapped with a machine.