Originally all the cheeses were homemade, but now cheese industry has developed in many countries. For farms, which produce small amount of self-made cheese the quality of the milk is of the utmost importance. Every small coin is weighty. Starting from the breed of animal, its age and feeding routine to good hygiene, the soil and even the weather. All thesethings make an influence on the quality and flavour of the milk.
When cheese is produced on a large scale, it tends to lack delicacy and character. There are too much mechanisation of the cheese making process. Such method of cheese making can not take account of daily variations in milk characteristics. As a result cheeses can not hope to attain the charm of a handmade cheese.
The main enemy of fine cheese is mass production. The mass producted cheeses are undoubtedly cheaper, but in return of available price we get the loss of intrinsic quality of the genuine article. Lieutenants automation, vacuum packing, flavour enhancing enzymes make cheese cheaper, but worsen its taste.
The basic principle of cheese making process remains constant during the long time. Main thing is the separation of curds from the whey and their subsequent drying and ripening. But there are almost infinite variations of recipe which results in the glorious diversity of cheeses we enjoy.
How the milk is produced is key to the beginning of the cheese making process. Once again, milk can be diffenciated according to the species and breed of animal, the soil on which the animals graze, their feedstuff, their stage of lactation and even the weather. These differences can be critical only for artisan cheesemaker. The mass producer nowadays standardise milk in order to enable his factory produce identical cheeses everyday, no matter what weather is it. The artisan producer values the daily differences because each day he has the possibility to make a better cheese than the day before.
Cheese making process consists of five main stages.
1. Preparing the milk
Cheesemaker should choose type of milk: morning, evening or mixed. Then he/she should deside whether add cream to the milk or use partly skimmed product. On this stage colouring, penicillin etc could be added to the initial milk.
2. Separating curds and whey
When this stage starts cheesemaker add a starter culture to acidify the milk. This converts lactose into lactic acid. Then rennet or its analog, used for vegetarian cheeses, should be added. It is very important to control the temperature. For hard cheeses it needs to be high and it may be low for soft.
3. Cutting and treating the curds
Cutting is made to release the whey. So little cutting is required for soft cheeses, much cutting for hard cheeses. There is one more detail in cheese making process. "Cheddaring" is a process in which the curds are cut into blocks and piled on top of each other. One ought to pay attention to the temperature. And there is time to add herbs or spices.
4. Salting, moulding, pressing
Salt acts as a preservative and it is also a flavour enhancing item. Salt is added to virtually all cheeses; sometimes to the curd, sometimes rubbed into the rind; sometimes by soaking the cheeses in a brine. The curds are placed into moulds and then there are two ways of daining. For soft cheese it is left to drain naturally, and it is kept pressed for hard sheese. Please, note that the harder the cheese desired, the stronger should be the pressing.
During this stage cheese starts to take on character. And again there are two ways of ripening. Some cheeses ripen from the inside out - Blue cheeses, Cheddar, Emmental; other from the outside in - Brie, Camembert, Pont L'Eveque. This last stage can take anything from a few days to 3 years depending on the type of cheese.
Cheese making equipment also play a great role in cheese making process. Damrow cheese making equipment is already 100 years old. The Damrow brand of cheese making equipment manufacture stainless steel equipment for the dairy industry It is the world famous brand, which is renowned for its high quality products. Products are now can be acquired in the UK and Ireland.
Some of the most important Damrow markets are related to the production of cheddar, mozzarella and cottage cheese. Damrow is a recognised global leader in innovative technology. This concern was founded by brothers Edward and George Damrow, under the apt trading name of the Damrow Brothers Company in 1904. Since its foundation, Damrow has invented and patented many pieces of cheesemaking equipment, one of the earliest was the cheese vat agitator. This item of cheesemaking equipment was introduced around 1925.
During its now long history Damrow has brought a great number of products to the dairy industry. They include Curd Mills, Cheese Moulds, Mould and Churn Washers, Finishing Tables, Batch Pasteurising Tanks and Process Cheese Cookers.
In the early 1970s Damdow invented the enclosed Double-O cheese making vat. It was the biggest breakthrough in cheesemaking industry. Shortly after the Double-O vat was introduced, the company developed the 'Draining Matting Conveyor', (DMC) 'Cheddaring Belt Machine' and 'Enclosed Finishing Vat' (EFV).
All these units helped to significantly reduce labour costs and introduce automation to the cheese making process. Noone can say if it was good or bad for cheesemaking. But no doubt, that high quality stainless steel construction of those units and innovative features has made them firm favourites with a massive number of dairies.