Cheeses are products which have been widely eaten by human beings from time immemorial. Over time and depending on the area, they have taken on special characteristics which have defined their flavours, shapes, types of milk, and even made the area where they are produced famous.
If we began talking about cheese in general we could be here for hours and hours because of the wide variety of cheeses, so we will do it in a number of parts.
The most important thing is to classify them by their main features. This will make it easier to form small groups that define a common specific feature.
We can classify by:
- Types of milk (origin)
- Raw or pasteurised milk
- Types of rennet and curd
- Curing time
- Moulds and fungi
- Additives or additions
TYPES OF MILK (ORIGIN)
The world’s most used milk is cow milk, largely because more of it is produced than any other, but there are also other well-known ones such as sheep’s milk and goat’s milk. In addition to these main producing mammals there are other less common ones, such as milk from buffaloes, camels, llamas and even sows.
Their value is based not only on the amount of production but also on the percentage of fat they contain. It is largely the purpose of a good cheese and the animal feed that will determine the sensory qualities of the milk, the main requirement of a good cheese.
RAW OR PASTEURISED MILK
This is one of the great dilemmas often faced when choosing a cheese. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of both of them.
Raw milk: milk which has not had any heat treatment after milking. Once the milk is obtained it is put into temporary storage (usually on the day) at about 6-10 °C. Then the temperature is raised by adding the rennet, but only by a few degrees. This kind of milk has full flavour and does not lose any of its qualities. In addition cleanliness is more than acceptable given the progress there has been and the strict surveillance by the health authorities, so product safety is usually very high. This is essential because raw milk contains all kinds of bacteria that are beneficial. That is why it is called a live food.
This type of milk is often used by smaller dairies with limited production and special manufacturing techniques to make products of high culinary value. Under European law cheeses made with sheep and cow milk must be aged for at least 2 months.
Pasteurised milk: milk which after milking undergoes a heat treatment where the milk reaches at least 63 °C. There are several different temperatures and curves to make sure that milk which goes through this procedure is safe.
- VAT 63 ºC for 30 min
- HTST 72 ºC for a minute and a half
- UHT 138 ºC for 2 seconds
These types of treatments give us almost absolute safety by eliminating all the bacteria and microorganisms in milk while slightly altering its taste.
The problem with this is that it also eliminates the beneficial bacteria in milk as well as the very distinctive flavours of a quality product such as milk.
This milk is used to make the bulk of cheeses on the market as well as most variants, cream, fondue, etc. This provides a big advantage for food safety and minimises losses in the industry.
TYPES OF RENNET AND CURD:
Rennet can be of animal or vegetable origin. The animal ones are usually lamb or ram, although cow is also used occasionally. They are obtained from one of the stomachs of these ruminants. This rennet is put in brine where the chymosin, an enzyme that separates casein from whey to make cheese, is diluted.
Vegetable rennet comes mostly from the thistle plant, specifically its flower. The specific species is cynara cardunculus which has the property of curdling milk, hence its use.
Each kind of rennet gives the cheese a distinctive flavour and qualities that shape the cheese in question. Also critical are the amount of rennet used and the time used for the curd to appear while controlling the temperature at which it curdles.
All these variants can give lactic curds that are creamier, with more whey content, heated curds, where the temperature is raised after cutting with a curd knife (an instrument used to cut the curd which is like a racket made of wires).
The curds will determine how the cheese will turn out after curdling and moulding or chamfering, where it will be given its first shape to finish separating the whey. Even the size of the cut will determine its ripeness and flavour.