The Consumer Education Project of Milk SA

How is cheese made?

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Cheese making is a multi-step process and an ancient art. Some of the processes involved are: bacterial fermentation of lactose to produce lactic acid; addition of rennet enzyme or acid gel to form a curd; cutting and heating of the curd to remove the whey; compression; brine immersion; air drying, covering and maturation.

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Depending on the type of cheese, it can be made from pasteurised or raw milk. The first step in cheese making involves adding bacterial starter cultures to the milk to convert some of the lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid. This causes the milk to acidify and adds flavour to the cheese. A natural enzyme called rennet or an acid gel is then added to let the milk solidify, thus forming the curd. The curd is cut and heated in a large vat so that it separates from the liquid whey. Cheese is virtually lactose free, as most of the lactose that remains after bacterial action drains away with the whey.

For semi-hard cheeses such as Gouda and Edam (sweetmilk-type cheeses), the curds are cut and pressed together after the whey has been strained off. The formed cheese is then dipped into a brine bath for about 3 days, after which it is air dried, covered and left to mature.

For cheeses such as Cheddar and Cheshire (textured cheeses), the curds are layered after which the substance is milled, dry salted and then pressed into moulds. The formed cheese is then covered and left to aged.
Cheese undergoes a ripening process, during which 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 two weeks to two years.

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