Archive for Thursday, October 4, 2007

Everybody loves cheese!

October 4, 2007

Why am I writing about cheese? First of all my early career was making cheddar and cottage cheese. Recently on a trip to Wisconsin, I visited a cheese plant that brought back old memories.

Making cheese is an art. The secret is the cheese maker's ability to know exactly when to go to the next step. It is all based on testing the acid of the milk.

Cheese goes back 6,000 years. The first cottage cheese was probably created by accident due to the fact that milk was carried in the linings of the stomachs of animals and by the end of the day, instead of milk, it had changed into a coagulated form caused by the increase of lactic acid. Back in those days they did not have the convenience of milk cartons.

The cottage cheese in this country is made with pasteurized skim milk, as pasteurization yields the milk that is in a "blank slate" absolutely open to beneficial and harmful bacteria. After it has reached a controlled temperature, around 72 degrees, then the buttermilk starter would be added and it was allowed to set until the acid would reach a desired level, and it would become a solid state. It was then divided into cubes that would cut lengthwise through the cheese to either large curd or small curd. Then crossed with a vertical knife to finish forming the curd into complete cubes.

The cheese would be no better than the starter culture. Nowadays the cultures are produced by laboratories and sent to the dairy. Before World War II, cheese makers could keep cheese cultures for years, but the contamination of the atmosphere from chemicals and the introduction of penicillin in cows made the manufacture of cheese more difficult. We learned to alternate different cultures each day to outwit the contamination in the environment.

After the curd was cut into cubes then the jacket of the vat was heated with steam to finish cooking it. The cheese maker had to have the ability of knowing just how much heat to add to make a perfect product. These curds have no flavor until the cheese dressing is added to the dry curd. This consists of salt and butterfat. That's what makes it good.

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