Are you like most Dutch people also so crazy about cheese?
On average, one person eats approximately 17 kilos per year. That is why cheese is the number one filling for sandwiches in Holland. But as obvious as cheese is for us – we know very little about the production process.
How is cheese actually made?
The Basis: Milk, Coagulants and Lactic Acids
To make cheese firstly you need milk. Milk forms the most important basis of the cheese , but not only milk – Coagulants, lactic acid and salt are also used . Coagulants are taken from the stomach contents of a young calf for example or - it is made artificially it is needed for the milk to coagulate. Lactic acid is then important because of the lactic acid bacteria lactococcus.
Making the Cheese
When all the ingredients are ready, the process of cheese making can begin. First – all of the solids and moisture are carefully separated from each other. These fixed solids are for example fat, egg white and minerals. After the moisture and solids are separated, the lactic acid and coagulants are added.
The coagulants makes sure that the milk protein and milk fat clump together, thereby making the milk thicker.
The lactic acid does not only give the cheese a nice taste, but also ensures that the cheese stays fresh for longer.
Fat milk becomes curd
The thick milk that has arisen is cut into small white grains. This is called the curd. You might know this curd as “mei” – whey. This whey is drained off. Because whey contains a lot of valuable substances it is not thrown away but it is often sent to other factories that are able to use it again.
Next – the brining
After the whey has been drained off the curd is put into a round vat. Here the curd is pressed and formed as a cheese. Then the curd is dipped in a salt water or brine bath. The salt in the cheese will give it its lovely taste, makes the cheese firm and creates a crust. The salt also has a positive effect on the shelf life of the cheese. How long the cheese needs to be in the bring bath depends on the final destination of the cheese. In this way a factory cheese needs longer in the brine than a farm cheese. How longer a cheese is left in the brine, the more moisture and salt it takes in.
And now – ripening
After the brine bath, the cheese is still weak and has little taste. That is why the cheese needs to ripen. This process makes the crust firm and the salt is drawn into the cheese. The ripening time for a cheese can vary for example from four weeks for a young cheese up to one year for an old one. During the ripening the well known holes in the cheese form. This is a natural result of the fermentation process. Once the ripening time is reached then the cheese is ready to be consumed.