Ft I

provide about 1.6-1.8% salt in the final cheese. The salted curds are then packed into 40-lb stainless-steel hoops with porous netting lining the hoops or into 600-700-lb boxes. These containers are generally pressed at 15-20 psi to remove more whey over severed hours and then placed into a vacuum chamber while under pressure to fuse the curd particles into a solid mass.

Several methods are used to arrive at a solid cheese block. One process provides for pumping the curds into a tower that allows whey drainage and compacting of the curds by their own weight. At the bottom of the tower a portion of the curd is cut off to fit into a 40-lb hoop, which travels to a press station and, finally, to a packaging station.

In another method, curd and whey are pumped from the vat to a draining-and-matting conveyer (DMC) under controlled temperature and curd depth. When the curd has reached the proper pH, the mat is cut and is automatically salted and transferred onto another conveyer where it is finally carried to a boxing operation (Fig. 2).

There is also a stirred-curd procedure used for mild- and medium-flavored Cheddar as well as Colby, brick, mozzarella, etc. In this method the curd and whey are pumped to a drain table or automatic-finishing vat (AFV) where the whey is drained and the curds are continually stirred to prevent matting. When the proper pH is achieved the cubes are salted and then boxed as previously described (Fig. 3).

If stirred curd Cheddar is intended for use in process cheese it can be packed into 500-lb drums and used after a short curing period. It should be noted that cheeses such as Monterey Jack and Colby, should not be placed under vacuum to preserve a slight open texture.

Blue cheese is made in a similar manner up to this point, but the mold (Penicillium sp.) can be added to the starting milk or to the drained curds. This cheese is usually formed in 5-lb hoops to promote an open texture. When the cheese is removed from the hoops it is dry-salted several times over a number of days and then punctured to create air channels in which the mold grows; this develops the characteristic blue veining. This cheese may be salt brined instead to obtain a 4% salt content in the final cheese. The cheese is cured for 60-120 days at 13°C and 95% humidity to achieve full veining and flavor.

Swiss, Parmesan, and other varieties are handled somewhat differently at the whey drainage step. For years these cheeses were manufactured in Europe in wheel-shaped hoops; 20-lb wheels were used for Parmesan and 175-225-lb hoops, for Swiss. The principles are the same so the description here will pertain to most U.S. products. For Swiss cheese the curds and whey are pumped to a large stainless-steel universal vat, which has been equipped with porous side plates, where the curd is allowed to settle evenly at the bottom. Large stainless-steel plates are used to press the curd at a precise depth of the curd mass. This pressing under whey results in a tightly fused cheese, required later for eye development. The whey is drained and the huge curd block is kept under pressure for about 16 h while it continues to develop acidity. Then the 3,000-3,500-lb block is cut into sections of about 180 lb and immersed into 2°C saturated brine for 24 h. The surface of the blocks are then dried. The blocks are packaged and boxed. These boxes are stacked and banded to help keep the block shape as the cheese cures in a hot room at 20-25°C. When the eyes have formed (about 18-28 days) the blocks are transferred to a room at about 2°C to prevent further eye development and held for at least 60 days before cutting into retail sizes. The cheese can be held for longer periods if stronger Swiss flavor is desired.

For Parmesan cheese, the curd is stirred while draining off the whey and then placed into round 20-lb hoops. After pressing, the round cheeses are allowed to surface dry before brining. If salt has not been added during the stirring of the curds, additional brining time is required. The cheeses are held at 13-16°C until the proper weight is reached (moisture reduced) and then vacuum packed in

Static plough blades to turn curd and promote free drainage of whey with minimum curd damage

Curd and whey inlets

Draining screen with curd guides

Draining belt

Static plough blades to turn curd and promote free drainage of whey with minimum curd damage

Curd and whey inlets

Draining screen with curd guides

Draining belt

Peg stirrer with parking position clear of curd on belt

Discharge conveyor

Matting and/or stirring belts with optional washing or pre-salting discharge

Interchangeable curd mill

Figure 2. Cheese curd draining conveyor. Source: Courtesy of Sherping Systems, Winsted, Minn.

Peg stirrer with parking position clear of curd on belt

Matting and/or stirring belts with optional washing or pre-salting

Discharge conveyor discharge

Interchangeable curd mill

Figure 2. Cheese curd draining conveyor. Source: Courtesy of Sherping Systems, Winsted, Minn.

plastic bags with a tight seal. Some factories wax the cheese. This cheese requires a minimum of a 10-mo cure time by federal regulation. Most of the U.S. Parmesan is grated for use as a retail product.

Mozzarella and provolone are among those cheeses referred to as pasta filata varieties. Provolone has some lipase enzymes added to produce its characteristic flavor and sometimes is sold naturally smoked or with smoke flavor added. These cheeses have traditionally been further cooked, after whey drainage, in hot water and stretched by hand with subsequent shaping into the familiar forms. Today, however, most mozzarella and provolone are mechanically cooked under water and further stretched to provide texture and then shaped in molding machines. The cheeses are then brined to the proper salt level.

Cheeses such as Camembert, Brie, Muenster, and Limburger are made in smaller equipment and formed into smaller shapes to allow surface salting or brining and treatment of the cheese surface with selected bacteria or molds to provide the characteristic flavors, and textures.

Fresh cheeses such as cottage, queso fresco, and cream are mostly acid in nature and, following cooking of the curds, are treated differently. Cottage curds are washed with filtered water and then combined with a cream dressing. Queso fresco is pressed into loaves after salting and eaten fresh after slicing. Cream cheese curd is separated centrifugally and then standardized in regard to fat, salt, and stabilizers. Stabilizers are added to prevent moisture release. It can then be packaged in small loaves, hot or chilled.

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