How is cheese made?
Most people probably know that cheese comes from milk but how does it get from a liquid to a solid that tastes so nice?
Who hasn't heard "Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet eating her curds and whey..."? The curds(80%) and whey(20%) come from curdled(coagulated) milk and are the start of the cheese making process. These are usually separated using rennet(a natural substance found in any mammals tummy or may come from vegetables such as fig tree bark, nettles or thistles), the curds are the solids that are the basic ingredient of most cheeses, and the whey is the liquid that is left over.The curds are then allowed to settle or put into presses, to form a dense golden blanket of young cheese.
To make cheddar, the curd is cut into large strips, and then turned by hand to allow the last remnants of whey to drain away. This is the "Cheddaring" process, which is essential to Westcountry Farmhouse Cheddar, as defined by European Law. When the curd has been cheddared it is milled to give a uniform texture to the finished cheese. The curds are then salted, and punched by hand into muslin-lined moulds, ready for pressing.
The cheeses are placed carefully into traditional wooden racks in the ripening room. The cheeses are then turned daily, to give a uniform texture throughout the cheese. After 12 months in the maturing store, the cheese has reached its full maturity, and is ready for distribution around the country.
For oak-smoked cheddar, selected mature truckles are then cut into 1/16ths and smoked for 3-4 hours over oak shavings and sawdust to produce a delicious naturally oak smoked cheddar. No artificial flavourings are added.
A blend of chives, parsley, thyme, oregano and marjoram are added to the cheese at the milling stage to create cheddar with herbs. As it matures the flavours develop through the heart of the cheese.
To make cheeses such as brie or camembert, the initial steps are the same but the cheese is then cast into moulds and drained for approximately 18 hours. The cheese is then taken out of the moulds, salted, inoculated with cheese mould and aged in a cellar for at least four weeks. The mould grows on the outside of the cheese for a few days or weeks and forms a white crust and contributes to the smooth, runny, or gooey textures and more intense flavors of these aged cheeses.
Blue-mould cheeses like Stilton, Roquefort or Gorgonzola are produced by inoculating loosely pressed curds with moulds that grow within the cheese as it ages. These cheeses have distinct blue veins and, often, assertive flavors. Their texture can be soft or firm.
Lastly, though the moon may be made from green cheese, the green does not refer to the colour but to the age, the newness, of the cheese.