Cheese is a most commonly used dairy product which is a product derived from milk. Cheese is available in the market in various textures, forms and flavors. It is basically the product of coagulation of milk protein, casein. Cheese is said to be a concentrated form of two major products i.e. Milk protein (casein) and Milk fat. Combination of these two results in the production of cheese which is very much liked by everyone nowadays.
The other ingredients of cheese besides milk are a particular, selective strain of a bacterium, a milk clotting agent and some amount of sodium chloride (to give a salty flavor).
Various types of cheese are present in the market which is basically due to the variation in its basic constituents. No new ingredient is actually added in forming the new type of cheese. Just a basic variation in the already present ingredients can help. Sometimes there is a need to add new additional ingredients which give rise to completely different variety of cheese. It has also been observed and noted that the change in any environmental conditions surrounding the manufacture and subsequent ripening of cheese also affects its manufacturing and thus type.
BASIC CHEESE MANUFACTURING PROCESS –
The basic cheese manufacturing process consists of 3 main stages – Curdling, Curd processing and ripening. All different varieties of cheese can be manufactured at different levels of manufacturing means some cheese can be made in the first step while some needs all the 3 steps to completely occur.
- CURDLING –
It is the first and the most important step in the production of cheese. In this step, there is a separation of milk into solid curds and liquid whey. Usually, this step is achieved by the addition of acidifying (souring) agent in milk and adding the enzyme RENNET. The acidification can also be achieved by directly adding some acidic agent such as vinegar. But most commonly for this acidification purpose, a starter bacteria is used which converts milk sugars into lactic acid and without even the addition of any acidic substance, the acidification is achieved. The common starter bacteria which are used are from Lactococcus, Lactobacillus, or Streptococcus families. Swiss cheese requires the addition of Propionibacter Sherman, which is used to produce Carbon dioxide bubbles during ageing resulting in the hole like structure of Swiss cheese.
Some fresh cheeses are curdled only the acidification process, but most cheeses require the addition of enzyme, rennet which sets the cheese as strong and rubbery. It also allows the curdling step at low acidity.
- CURD PROCESSING
Till this step, the cheese has now set into a very moist gel. Some soft types of cheeses are essentially complete in the first step. They are just drained, salted and packaged. But from other cheeses, which are not been prepared in the single step, the curd is cut into small cubes which allows the remaining water to drain off from the individual pieces of curd itself.
Some harder cheeses are then heated at a normal temperature which deliberately forces out the whey from the cut curds. This step changes the taste and flavor of the cheese. Apart from providing a salty flavor to cheese, salting has some other benefits also like it prevents cheese from spoiling, it drains out moisture and also it is used in firming he cheese’s texture in an interaction with its proteins. Different cheeses have different processes of getting texture.
Most of the cheeses are already prepared in the last step, some of which are not prepared yet are of harder varieties and more rubbery in texture which is completely attained in this step. In this step, the cheeses are left to rest under controlled conditions. This step is also known as AGING. This step may take several years to complete. As a cheese ages, the microbes and the enzymes secreted by them transform its texture and also intensify the flavor. This transformation is more of a result of the breakdown of casein proteins and milk fat into a complex mixture of amino acids, amines and fatty acids.