How to Make Cheese
Learning how to make cheese is actually a fairly simple process. While these days it's usually made in large factories, people have been making cheese for thousands of years without the use of expensive equipment.
A Traditional Cheese Kitchen
This is a traditional Dutch cheese kitchen. There's very little crazy equipment - they do it almost entirely by hand!
Once you mix rennet into the milk, it will start to form a curd as it separates from the whey.
Almost Solid Curds
The longer you let the mixture sit, the thicker the curds will become. Soon they will becomes quite solid, meaning that they are ready for the next step.
After the curd has been set, it is separated and put into molds for forming and draining. The smaller the curds become during this process, the harder the resulting cheese. Hard cheese like cheddar are generally broken into very fine curds at this stage.
Draining the Whey
The next step is to drain the curds to make sure all of the whey has been removed. If you don't remove all of the whey, the cheese will not age properly and may begin to go bad.
Pouring into Molds
Different kinds of cheeses require the use of different molds and draining times. This soft cheese is going into molds with holes in the side so that they can drain easily while retaining their shape.
In large-scale cheese plants, there is quite a lot of curd to scoop into molds. This is a big job! If you make cheese at home, you will only have to fill a few molds.
Hard cheeses need to be pressed to squeeze all of the whey out. This will also give them their signature texture, since most of the moisture has been removed. Hard cheeses require the use of different bacteria, which also contributes to the "hard" texture.
Many hard cheeses are then coated with wax, which helps them to age without developing a moldy crust. A special cheese wax is used that is resistant to mold spores.
The Aging Process
Finally, the cheese is put away to age. This allows the bacteria to do their jobs and create the flavor that people love about cheese. Some cheeses age for as long as a decade, as their moldy coating takes takes years to grow!
No matter how you slice it, cheesemaking is an interesting process.