According to Cato Corner cheese maker Mark Gillman, the three critical components that influence proper cheese making are moisture, temperature and the rate of acidity development. As with all cheeses, it’s the breakdown of protein and fat that gives cheese its unique taste and consistency – some are mild and creamy while others are sharp, pungent and crumbly.
Mark starts his cheeses with fresh, raw, cow’s milk that’s pumped from a refrigerated bulk storage tank into a large, stainless steel mixing vat. There, the milk is heated to a temperature that ranges from 86 to 90 degrees, depending on the type of cheese he’s going to be making that day. He adds a starter culture, which converts the lactose (sugar) in the milk to lactic acid and helps break down proteins during the aging process. Up to an hour later, depending on the type of cheese, calf rennet – a stomach enzyme – is added to the vat to precipitate the milk curd from the whey.
The curd is next cut, drained and pressed into molds to form wheels, which are then soaked for 2 to 3 days in a brine solution. After brining, the cheese is moved to the aging cellar where it develops its characteristic flavor and texture. Each variety is turned at specific intervals to ensure consistent development throughout the wheel. Raw milk cheeses are required by law to be aged for a minimum of 60 days before they can be marketed. You can learn more about Cato Corner Farm Farmstead Cheeses at www.CatoCornerFarm.com .