Be a Cheese Whiz: Find Out How Your Favorite Dairy Product Is Made
Start with some raw milk, mix in some live bacterial cultures, plus a touch of art and science. What do you get? One of the most well-known and beloved foods in the world – cheese!
Cheese has been a dietary staple of many cultures since 8,000 BC. That’s when some creative soul accidentally blended the raw milk and bacterial cultures and invented an absolutely delicious food. The most popular variety of cheese in the world – Cheddar – is named for the region of England where it originated. In this article, we’re going to learn what makes cheddar, cheddar.
Where Cheddar Comes From
Like all cheeses, cheddar production begins when a dairy cow is milked in a milking house. Within 48 hours, a milk hauler arrives to test the product quality, take samples for further testing, and pump into a truck tank for shipment.
When the raw milk arrives at the processing station, it is drained into a large vat, and an enzyme called rennet is added to the mix. The milk is heated and curdled, and the solids are separated from the whey.
Different Treatments, Different Cheese
Once all the liquids are drained away, two popular cheeses – ricotta and paneer are already formed and ready.
Mozzarella undergoes a specific process to give it the stretchiness that makes it so perfect on pizza. Once the whey is separated, the curds form into a solid mass in a special hoop and are left until the pH reaches about 5.2 or 5.5 at which point the cheese is stretched. The cheese is kneaded like dough until it forms a smooth, shiny paste at which point it is formed into cylinders or squares.
Stilton, Gorgonzola and blue cheese have even more bacterial cultures added to them, while Camembert and Brie are treated a bit differently. The curd for these soft cheeses are layered in thin levels and molded by hand. The temperature in the cheese room must be increased and decreased to precise levels in order for the cheese to turn out just right. When ready it is drained on a special mat made of reeds, then salted and cured. It takes approximately two months for these cheeses to ripen.
What Makes Cheddar, Cheddar?
The makings of cheddar, meanwhile, remain behind in the vat.
When the curds are firm, they are cut with large stainless steel knives, cooked and stirred, then drained again. Next, they are “cheddared.” What this means is the curds are stacked on top of each other in small six-inch bricks in order to release any moisture. They are then put through a mill, ground up and salted before being poured into different shaped molds and pressed. This cheddaring process gives the cheese its unique flavor. The longer a cheddar ages for, the harder it becomes, and the sharper it tastes.
It’s a long process but that’s what makes Cheddar Cheese the most popular cheese in the world.
With so many different types of cheese to choose from, Americans are eating more cheese today than ever before – approximately twenty-three pounds a person each year according to the September 2013 Nutrition Action Healthletter.
Who can blame them! Cheese is nutritious and delicious.