How Cheese is Made
Preparing the milk
- Strands of starter culture are added to the milk. The type of cheese being made determines the type of culture used.
Separating the curds from the whey
- Next, animal or vegetable rennet is added to the milk to begin the separation into curds (solids) and whey (liquids). Once formed, the curds are cut to expel the whey. Soft cheeses are cut into big chunks, while hard cheeses are cut into tiny chunks. As the whey separates, it is drained.
Pressing the curds
- Moisture must then be removed from the curds. For some cheeses with high moisture content, the whey-draining process removes sufficient moisture. Other types require the curds to be cut, heated, and/or filtered to get rid of excess moisture. If the curds are to be aged, they are then pressed into molds. Here, they are pressed to give the proper shape and size.
Aging the cheese
- The aging process depends on the type of cheese. Some cheeses are aged for a month, some for several years. Aging sharpens the flavor of the cheese; for example, cheddar aged more than two years is appropriately labeled extra sharp.
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Wrapping natural cheese
- Lastly, the cheese is wrapped. Some cheeses may develop a rind naturally, as their surfaces dry. Other rinds may form from the growth of bacteria that has been sprayed on the surface of the cheese, while others are washed, encouraging bacterial growth. In place of or in addition to rinds, cheeses can be sealed in cloth or wax. The cheeses may then be left as they are, or wrapped in plastic, foil or waxed paper.