Many types of cheeses can be found throughout the world, so the recipes and processes for making them vary greatly. Despite the variety of cheeses, recipes and procedures, several basic steps usually are involved in the process of cheese making. Starter cultures and rennet are added to milk to begin the curdling process, resulting in curds and whey. The curds and whey are further manipulated and then salted, shaped and ripened to make cheese.
The initial process of cheese making involves adding cultures and rennet to milk. The type of both the milk and the cultures can vary from one cheese to another. Starter cultures are bacteria used to produce different flavors in cheese. The cultures also start the process of converting lactose to lactic acid, commonly known as acidification. An enzyme known as also can be added to further aid in the process.
After the acidification process has taken place, curds and whey will have formed from the original milk. The curds will result in cheese after the entire process of cheese making is complete. Depending on the type of cheese being made, the curds might be cut, cheddared or cooked. Cutting the curds allows them to release more moisture, resulting in a harder cheese. Cheddaring is done to create tiny curds that are formed in molds, and cooking the curds involves heating them to produce a more tender cheese.
Salting accomplishes two things in the process of cheese making: flavoring the cheese and preserving the cheese during the aging process. Cheeses derive their flavors from a variety of sources, one of which is the salt added to the curds during the process of cheese making. To preserve the cheese during the aging process, salt might be rubbed on the formed cheese, or a rag that has been submerged in brine might be rubbed on the cheese.
Shaping the cheese involves pouring cheese curds into various molds to form the shape of the cheese. Specific molds are used for some cheese varieties. Ripening usually is the final stage in the process of cheese making. This step involves allowing the cheese to mature under ideal conditions. The area in which the cheese is placed to ripen is controlled to keep the temperature and humidity at optimum levels. For some cheeses, additional steps are taken in the ripening process, such as injecting mold into the air, placing mold in or around the cheese or washing the cheese with certain solutions.