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Cheddar cheese is the most popular cheese used mostly in South Africa. This is followed by Gouda and Mozzarella cheese.

There are a number of different creamed and cottage cheese variations available. Some of the products contain very little fat, sometimes as little as 01 g of fat per 100 g, while other products can contain up to 30 g of fat per 100 g or more. According to the SA Food Tables, we differentiate between Full Fat Cream Cheese which can contain up to 34.9 g of fat/100g and 3 different types of Cottage Cheese: a) Full Fat Cottage Cheese with 11 g of fat100g; b) Low Fat Cottage Cheese with 4 g of fat/100g and c) Fat-free Cottage Cheese with 0,1g of fat/100g.

Hard cheese can be frozen without altering the flavour, but once defrosted, the cheese may be slightly dry and crumbly. Softer cheeses can be frozen, but for a shorter period of time (approximately 1 month), however they may separate upon thawing.

Depending on the type of cheese, it can be made from pasteurised or raw milk. The first step involves the addition of bacterial starter cultures to the milk, which convert the lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid. This causes the milk to acidify and adds flavour to the cheese. Rennet, a natural enzyme, or acid gel is then added causing the milk to solidify, thus forming the curd. The curd is cut and heated in a large vat so that it separates from the liquid whey. The cheese is then strained and the solid curds are milled together, forming a fresh soft cheese. To further develop the cheese, salt is added to give flavour, texture and to preserve it. The cheese is shaped, cut and chilled for 24 hours. It then undergoes the cheese ripening process where it is stored in a cool, dry room. This final step is crucial in the development of different varieties, flavours and textures of cheese and maturation usually ranges from a 2 week – 2 year period. 

Cheese can be made using pasteurized or raw milk. Cheese made from raw milk imparts different flavors and texture characteristics to the finished cheese. For some cheese varieties, raw milk is given a mild heat treatment (below pasteurization) prior to cheese making to destroy some of the spoilage organisms and provide better conditions for the cheese cultures. Cheese made from raw milk must be aged for at least 60 days to reduce the possibility of exposure to disease causing microorganisms (pathogens) that may be present in the milk. For some varieties cheese must be aged longer than 60 days. A global requirement for the pasteurisation of milk that is used for cheese production has been recommended. However, this would create restrictions for international trade of cheese, especially for the many traditional cheeses from southern Europe made from raw milk with protected designations of origin.

Processed cheese is typically a mix of blended natural cheese and emulsifying agents, oil, salt, sweeteners, colouring agents or flavourings. Cheese of different varieties and different degrees of maturity can be used, as well as other unfermented dairy by-products. Processed cheese comes in a variety of flavours, colours, consistencies, shapes and sizes. A good processed cheese should be uniform in colour with a smooth texture, should melt uniformly, cut easily and should have a compact shape. Processed cheese is more stable during storage compared to natural cheese.

Some cheeses naturally contain bacteria, which produce gas by fermentation. These bacteria produce carbonic gas bubbles which result in the formation of holes throughout the cheese. These holes are generally formed during the cheese ripening process and can vary in size and shape. Propionic acid can be added during cheese manufacturing to create larger, more uniform holes.

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Rediscover Dairy