Regardless of the type of cheese, the manufacturing process is always approximately the same. Cheese recipes differ mainly in the presence of additional ingredients, their type, temperature conditions for processing the cheese mass, conditions for pressing and salting, drying and ripening. But in all recipes for making cheese, both homemade and in mass production, there are certain stages that we will now consider.
[preliminary stage] Preparation of equipment, inventory and ingredients.
This is an important stage, because a lot depends on the sanitary condition of the inventory. All inventory and equipment must be sterilized before use. It is necessary to measure and prepare all the ingredients specified in the recipe. Also at this stage, it is necessary to prepare for the introduction of a coagulant (milk-clotting enzyme), calcium chloride and dyes (if used): they must first be dissolved in water in the proportions indicated in the recipe. Source: https://cheese-home.com/rubric/138/Process-prigotovleniya-syra.
At this stage, it is necessary to heat the milk to the temperature specified in the recipe (most often 31-33 ° C). If there is no cheese dairy, a two-pot water bath is used to heat the milk. This allows the milk to be heated more evenly and prevents it from sticking to the sides and bottom of the pan. Also at this stage, calcium chloride is added (if its use is specified in the recipe).
Starter Cultures and Cultures
After the milk reaches the required temperature, the starter cultures (mesophilic, thermophilic or a combination of cultures) are added according to the recipe. Sprinkle the dry starter culture on the surface of the milk, wait 2-3 minutes, then stir, spreading it over the entire volume of milk, then leave to activate for 30-45 minutes. If a mother starter is used, it takes 10-15 minutes to activate. Also at this stage, additional cultures indicated in the recipe are introduced: mold, propionic bacteria, surface mucus bacteria.
Coagulant (milk-clotting enzyme) Addition
At this stage, the milk-clotting enzyme previously diluted in water is added to the milk, then mixed. It takes about 40-60 minutes to form a cheese curd (coagulation). This time will vary and will depend on the quality of the milk and which cheese family you are making (soft, semi-hard or hard). See details on how to determine the coagulation time. When the clot is formed, i.e. the milk became jelly-like, easily cut, does not stain the knife (see the clean finger test), the stage is considered complete.
The formed cheese curd must be cut into equal cubes 0.5-1.5 cm in size. As a rule, this procedure is performed with a long knife, slotted spoon, whisk or special lyre.
Reheating (drying curd)
This stage is typical for all hard or semi-hard cheeses. The curd temperature slowly rises to the values indicated in the recipe (depending on the type of starter culture). The curd must be stirred continuously. At this time, whey is released from the curd grain (synergism), it becomes smaller and more elastic (indeed, it begins to look like a grain). At the same stage, it is allowed to regulate the acidity of the curd mass by replacing a certain proportion of whey with pasteurized water (so-called washing of curd grains). At the end of the stage, the cheese mass is left for a few minutes to settle to the bottom of the pan and the excess whey is decanted or drained.
The finished cheese mass is transferred to a colander until the end of the whey separation. Some cheese recipes have a cheddar process that takes place during this step. After that, the cheese mass is transferred into molds, in accordance with the instructions in the recipe.
There are 2 methods of pressing cheese, which are used, depending on the type of cheese: self-pressing (soft, semi-soft cheeses) and mechanical pressing (under the influence of a load, hard and semi-hard cheeses) As a rule, pressing cheese of hard and semi-hard varieties is carried out in several stages with a gradual increase in weight and regular turning of the cheese in the mold (so that pressing occurs evenly throughout the body of the cheese).
Self-pressing cheeses are laid in a special mold (without a bottom or with a removable bottom), and then after a certain time the mold is turned upside down, thus pressing the cheese on the other side. So turn the mold several times until the cheese is completely formed.
At this stage, the cheese is salted. Depending on how the cheese is salted, this step can be followed before or after pressing. Salting cheese is a must, even if you do not like salty: salt regulates the biochemical and microbiological processes in cheese. Salting cheese gives it a certain taste, and the texture and structure of the cheese depends on the intensity of the salting. Most often, rennet cheeses are salted in a special salt bath or brine, after pressing, but some varieties are salted in grain, before pressing.
Hard and semi-hard cheese varieties must be dried before being sent to the ripening chamber so that an even hard layer forms on the surface – a cheese crust. The integrity and quality of the natural crust is very important, even if the cheese is coated with wax or other coatings before ripening. The crust promotes proper ripening of the cheese, protects the cheese body from harmful environmental influences. The cheese is dried, as a rule, for 2-5 days, in well-ventilated dry rooms at room temperature until the surface layer is completely dry and a hard crust forms. During this period, the cheese is turned over 2-3 times a day to dry evenly.
Preparing for Maturation
After drying the cheese, it is necessary to prepare it for shipment to ripening in special chambers. First, you need to make sure that the crust is already fully formed. If a white mold or plaque has formed on it, it is simply washed with a towel dipped in saline solution, or scraped off with a knife. After that, this place should dry. There are various ways to prepare the cheese for ripening: wax coating, latex coating, shrink bag maturation, banding. Often, a natural crust is left on the cheese, which is lubricated during ripening, for example, with olive oil (for example, Parmesan).
Immediately after production, all cheeses taste approximately the same. And it begins to differ gradually, in the process of cheese ripening. At this time, the sourdoughs, molds and other additives introduced during the preparation of cheese are doing their job. The ripening period is determined by the type of cheese. Fresh cheeses can be eaten just a couple of weeks after being cooked, while some hard cheeses mature over the years and get tastier every year. As a rule, hard cheeses mature either in special cheese caves or in special chambers. These rooms must have strictly defined temperature and humidity conditions. Allowable temperature range: 10-15 ° C. Humidity should be fairly high, 75-90%. It is almost impossible to create such conditions in standard refrigerators that store food. Therefore, at home for the ripening of cheeses, you need to allocate a separate special refrigerator in which this mode is maintained. Cheese coated with latex, wax coating or wrapped in a shrink bag for ripening is not afraid of low humidity, they are reliably protected from drying out by the coating. In other cases, with low humidity, it is recommended to place the cheeses in special closed containers, in which it is easier to regulate the humidity level.
If the temperature in the ripening room is set too low, it can cause various defects in the cheese, such as sour or bitter taste.
When ripening cheeses with a natural crust, the formation of white bloom or mold on the surface is permissible. If they appear, it is necessary to wipe these places with a towel dipped in vinegar or in saline solution. The cheese should be turned 1-2 times a week to ensure even maturation.