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Cheese FAQ
Is milk pasteurised before being used in cheesemaking?
All milk used in cheesemaking is pasteurised. Pasteurising heats the milk to 72°C and holds it at this temperature for 15 seconds. During pasteurisation all harmful bacteria are destroyed. The milk is also subjected to a number of other strict tests and quality controls to ensure its purity for use in cheese.
What is cheese?
In simple terms, cheese is a concentrated form of milk. It is made by treating the milk so that it coagulates into a curd and at the same time, releases a thin, watery liquid called whey. The curd, which is made from casein, then becomes the basis for cheese.
What is whey?
Whey is the water component of milk. It contains small amounts of salts, fat and proteins and is highly nutritious. Its components are used in whey butter and in the making of many other products such as baking ingredients, some medicines, animal feed, fertilisers etc.
What is rennet?
Rennet is an enzyme that causes milk to coagulate, changing it from a liquid to a junket-like solid (curd). Today there are three sources of enzymes that will bring about the coagulation of milk:
1. Natural calf rennet. The traditional source, used commercially for the past hundred years, is the stomach of a very young calf.
2. Microbial rennet. In the 1960s the demand from cheesemakers for coagulant outstripped the availability of calf rennet and a new source was found - an enzyme secreted by a fungus. Because this is not sourced from an animal, it means the cheese can be classified as suitable for vegetarians.
3. Genetically engineered rennet. The newest source of rennet is a result of genetic engineering and has been available commercially for about five years. The genetic code for calf rennet is inserted into the DNA of a microbe and the microbe is then allowed to multiply in a fermenter. The microbe produces the same enzyme that would be produced in the stomach of a calf. Again because this enzyme is not produced by an animal it can be used to produce cheese suitable for vegetarians.
What is a cheese starter?
A cheese starter is a mix of bacteria such as streptococcus lactis which is added to the milk to convert its lactose into lactic acid. The acid enhances the coagulation step as well as acting as a preservative to prevent the growth of undesirable bacteria.
What is a sweet curd cheese eg Edam?
A cheese in which the rate of acid production is slower than normal. This is usually achieved by the removal of lactose from the curd by washing with water.
What is a warm pressed cheese eg Emmental?
This is a cheese which is kept at elevated temperatures to enhance the growth of gas-forming bacteria.
What is an open textured cheese eg Havarti?
This cheese is firm but flexible with many slits or openings.
Why is Mozzarella hard to make?
Mozzarella is hard to make because it involves physically stretching the curd to produce its stringiness.
What is the ripening process of Traditional Camembert and Brie?
Traditional Camembert and Brie will continue to ripen over a seven week period until the cheese assumes a strong "continental" fully ripe flavour. The products will mature from the surface to the centre of the cheese. Special enzymes in the white mould surface break down the protein in the cheese during maturation until a soft creamy body develops throughout.
Maturing process:
a) After 21 days the cheese has a firm centre and mild flavour.
b) After 28 days, it's beginning to soften through the body from the surface to the centre.
c) After 35-42 days, it becomes fully ripe, perfect for eating
d) After 56 days, the cheese develops a strong continental flavour and runny body.
What is a Ready Ripened Camembert or Brie?
Ready Ripened Camembert or Brie is ready to eat straight away and shows little change over its life except for drying out slightly.
Why is Blue Vein crumbly?
During the cheesemaking process, special mould spores are introduced to form the characteristic blue veins of blue vein cheese. The action of these special mould spores breaks down the protein to give the crumbly texture of blue vein.
What is the blue in Blue Vein?
The characteristic blue veins are formed as a result of the introduction of special edible harmless mould spores eg penicillium roqueforti during the cheesemaking process. The veining gives Blue Vein cheese a rich, distinctive flavour.
Contrary to popular belief copper wire does not play any part in the manufacture of blue cheeses. To encourage the mould development, the cheese is pierced by needles to create air passages in which the blue culture slowly develops.
Why is Blue Vein moist?
As cheese ripens, it loses its ability to hold water. Often when cheese is held at elevated temperatures a viscous liquid containing salt and flavour compounds is exuded. This may soil the cheese's packaging and surrounding area and pose problems. Leakage (exudate) may be minimised by proper storage ie refrigeration at 2 to 4°C and good stock rotation.
Does Blue Cheese mature and get tastier with age?
Yes. It is a living product which continues to mature even when refrigerated. This means it will be slightly more piquant if left for any length of time.
Why are there holes in cheeses like Emmental?
The characteristic holes (or "eyes") in cheeses like Emmental are caused by certain types of bacteria that are added in the cheesemaking process. During ripening, bacteria create gases. When gases can't escape, they create the characteristic holes or eyes you see in Swiss-style cheeses.
Is Elsberg classed as a Swiss cheese?
Yes. It is produced with a similar manufacturing technique to swiss-style cheese, ie characteristic eye development by propionic acid bacteria and characteristic nutty flavour.
What is the rind on cheese?
The rind is a coating that protects the interior of the cheese as it ripens. It may develop naturally as with Raclette, or it may be an artificial rind like the wax on Pyrenees.
Does the rind have anything to do with the flavour?
Yes. For example, surface ripened cheeses like Brie and Camembert take on the added flavour and interest of their white mould rinds. Smear ripened cheeses like Raclette tend to be very aromatic.
Can you freeze cheese?
Generally cheese is a living product that should not be frozen. However, shredded Cheddar cheese keeps well in the freezer. Frozen shredded cheese can be used straight from the freezer for cooking. If you freeze cheese this damages the protein structure with the result that the thawed product is more crumbly than usual and the flavour is altered.
Why is there salt in cheese?
Salt is necessary for three main reasons. It acts as a preservative, enhances the flavour and is important in helping to remove moisture from the cheese during the last stage of manufacture. It also assists in firming up protein in the cheese. Most cheese types require salt. Some cheeses have low salt levels eg Emmental at 0.5 per cent is one of the lowest. Other cheeses like Parmesan or Blue cheese have a salt level of 2-3 per cent. Cheddar, Edam and Gouda have a salt content of approximately 1.6-1.8 per cent.

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