Milk to Curd: The First Steps in Cheesemaking

Coagulated Milk in Vat

Welcome to the second installment of the “Cheese In Depth” series.  In Milk Matters, we explored the variations between the three most common dairy breeds for cheesemaking: cows, sheep and goats.

Now we take it a step further, looking at the first stages in the cheesemaking process, from the handling of the milk through the creation of the curd.  If this feels like a flashback to high school science class, it’s not surprising.   Cheesemaking is equal parts art and science.

Cheesemaking is equal parts art and science.  With milk as their medium, cheesemakers craft edible art.

Cheesemakers use fresh milk as their medium for creating edible art.  For cheeses which will be aged less than 60 days, the first step in the process is pasteurization.

Louis Pasteur, a French microbiologist, first tested the eponymous process in 1862, leading to breakthroughs in food safety and palatability.  The process involves heating and rapid cooling of milk during which natural bacteria and microflora in the milk, both beneficial and potentially harmful, are significantly reduced.

Raw milk is prized in cheesemaking.  Many believe raw milk cheeses have more flavor and complexity. 

Unpasteruized or raw milk is often used in producing aged cheeses.  U.S. law requires raw milk cheeses to be aged at least 60 days.  Aging changes the pH levels in the cheese, making an inhospitable environment for any potentially harmful critters.  Some of the finest cheeses in the world like Parmigiano Reggiano, Gruyère and Roquefort are legally required to be made with raw milk.

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  1. From Curd to Edible Art: Crafting Cheese Styles | Cheese Chick Chat
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