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Cheese Information

There are probably well over 1000 or more cheeses in the world. Certainly Europe and the United States produce the majority. There are several categories that cheeses fall into. There's fresh cheese such as ricotta and cream cheese, soft cheese such as Havarti and Port Salut, semi soft cheeses such as Fontina, Cheddar, Morbiere and fresh Asiago, hard cheeses include Parmesan and Pecorino Romano, double and triple cream cheeses such as Saint Andre and Explorateur whose butterfat content can sometimes be as high as 70% or more. There's blue cheese which with the addition of penicillin bacteria during the aging process creates the edible blue mold in the cheese, washed rind cheeses such as Epoisses and Limburger that spoil if they were not washed with salt water through the aging process of many weeks, bloomy rind cheeses such as Brie and Camembert only take several weeks to age. Processed cheeses such as Boursin and Wisepride, goat’s milk cheeses like Montrachet logs and Crottin, sheep's cheeses such as Manchego, Roquefort and Feta.

So how is cheese made? Some basic steps---

Step 1. Fresh milk is brought to the production plant. It may be cow’s milk, goat’s milk, water buffalo’s milk, sheep's milk or other. One consideration a cheese maker may make, is where the animal lives and what it eats as it will determine the final quality and taste of the cheese.

Step 2. Tasting the milk for purity and quality.

Step 3. The milk may be pasteurized that is heated to retard spoilage and promote product uniformity, even the milk fat can be adjusted at this time. If producing a cheese made with raw milk, this step is skipped.

Step 4. A harmless bacteria or culture is added, known as a starter, which will determine the flavor, texture and growth rate. This culture is what actually curdles the milk.

Step 5. If the cheese is to be a yellow cheese, coloring is added, this coloring is from the Annatto seed.

Step 6. Rennet is added to coagulate the milk proteins. The milks proteins then coagulates, turning the milk into a custard like gel.

Step 7. Cutting; the curd is cut and shaped into cubes of different sizes. There are different cutting techniques for different cheeses. Cutting divides the gel into small Kurds. It's allows the way to begin to separate from the curd and drain off.

Step 8. Stirring and heating; the curd is continually stirred and cook until the desired firmness is reached. The length of cooking time is dependent on the kind of cheese being made. Please note, in some cheeses, there is no cooking, which is the case with Camembert and Brie.

Step 9. Draining the Whey; whey is now a watery solution and is what remains after the cheese curds have formed. It is trained in pumped into another system for further treatment and some countries this way may be fed to pigs. Such is the case with the weight that's produced when making Parmigiano Reggiano, that's why Prosciutto di Parma is so tasty!

Step 10. Molding and pressing the curd; the curd is cut, gathered in cheese cloth, drained and pressed into molds for final drying. Pressing will determine the shape of the cheese and forces out the final drops of whey.

Step 11. Aging and caring; the curd, now cheese, is aged or cured to conform to regulations for the specific type of cheese being made. Depending on the type of cheeses being made, forms are salted, salted and soaked in brine or sprayed with mold spores to get to the next stage of development. Then, the cheeses are placed on racks in a caring room, caves or sellers, for the appropriate ripening period, during which temperatures and humidity are kept at certain levels.

There is a very good book written by Ricki Carroll called Home Cheese Making, Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses, published by Storey Publishing. In it you will find a wealth of information to get you started making your own cheese. Ricki also owns New England Cheese Making Supply, 54B Whately Rd, South Deerfield, MA 01373. Visit http://www.cheesemaking.com/ for all your cheese making supplies.

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