If a perfectly molded piece of Stilton or an aged block of Parmesan makes you drool and pant, it might be time to consider a career in cheese making. This ancient profession necessitates a thorough knowledge of scientific processes, as well as a keen sense of taste and a desire for adventure. A cheese maker can work on his or her own, making artisan cheeses, or as part of a larger company that makes cheese for a larger audience.
A cheese maker’s basic job is to take milk and turn it into cheese, though the process varies greatly depending on the type of cheese desired and the available production facilities. Although some large manufacturers rely heavily on computers to perform the majority of the work in the cheese-making process, many still require the skill and expertise of a skilled cheesemaker. A cheese maker who works for a large corporation may be more of a consultant, quality tester, and research and development worker.
Smaller creameries are more likely to focus on a few types of cheese. The flavor and texture of the cheese may vary from batch to batch, similar to wine, because it is largely handmade and not formulated computer. Artisan creameries are typically family-owned and operated, with some owning their own milk production farms. They produce small batches of carefully made cheese. Small creameries in Europe, where cheese making dates back thousands of years, may have centuries of history.
A cheese maker must first obtain milk, which is usually from a cow, goat, sheep, or buffalo. The source of the milk is critical, as it has a significant impact on the finished product’s flavor and texture. The milk is then heated to allow fermentation, which is often aided the addition of bacteria cultures. Fungus can also be added at this point if the cheese requires it.
Enzymes are added to the cheese after it has fermented to help it coagulate. The amount and variety of enzymes added, as well as the precise time of addition, are critical. Skilled cheesemakers develop a keen sense of when to start the coagulation process, which produces curd. The remaining liquid is removed after the curd has developed, causing the curd to solidify into cheese. The cheese may then be heated, brined, dipped into a mold, or aged, depending on the variety.
There are hundreds of different types of cheese, all of which have been developed and perfected through the art and craft of cheesemaking. Cheese is thought to be one of humanity’s oldest dairy products, according to historical records. Understanding cheese can lead to a wealth of information about history, culture, anthropology, and even geography. The great work of a cheese maker certainly deserves to be classified as an art form.