How is cheese made?

Cheese. Cream. Butter. Yoghurt. We know they’re all dairy, but how is it that milk is so versatile?

Typically, milk comes from a cow, however, there are plenty of other milks available. Around the world, people drink goat, yak, camel and sheep milk among others. But how does this white liquid become a delightful creamy solid on your antipasti board?

Milk contains just two proteins: casein and whey. As milk ages bacterial feeds on the lactose in the milk, producing lactic acid. This makes the casein curdle and results in the lumpy milk you’ve likely found in your fridge once or twice before.

This is how you make cheese! Well, in a specific way, in a controlled environment. But the idea is the same, milk is curdled, whey and curds are separated, the curds are set into moulds and soon enough you’ve got the cheese you know and love.

How different cheeses are made

Though all cheese undergoes the same general process, there are a few factors that change the result. This is how you end up with mozzarella, swiss cheese and Limburger all from the same process.

To get mozzarella’s signature stringy texture, the cheese must be kneaded like dough before it is set.

Swiss cheese, famous for its holes, is started with bacteria that produce carbon dioxide. It’s these carbon dioxide bubbles that create the holes throughout the cheese.

Limburger, a particularly smelly cheese, gets its smell from the same bacteria that cause smelly feet. Don’t worry, they’re entirely safe to eat, you just might need a nose plug before you get used to it!

Types of Cheese

Depending who you ask there are anywhere between five and eight main categories of cheese. We’re going to focus on five broad categories that cover just about every cheese we can think of.

Fresh Cheese

Fresh cheese is the simplest and most commonly made cheese, particularly by home cooks. These cheese types are white and can be eaten as soon as they are made. Generally, they are soft and spreadable and are great for marinating in other flavours. Ricotta, feta and mozzarellas are all examples of fresh cheese.

Soft Cheese

Soft cheese is like the gateway into ‘adult’ cheese. Brie and camemberts are the best-known cheeses of this type. They are very high in fat content due to the cream ladled into the wheels during their setting process.

Washed-rind Cheese

Also known as stinky cheese, these cheeses have been ripened with bacteria. They are not as popular as soft cheese, however, they are easily identifiable by their bright red, orange and pink colours. More common varieties include taleggio, Époisses de Bourgogne, and stinking bishop.

Hard Cheese

Hard and semi-hard cheeses have the widest variety of styles available. Everything from parmesan to cheddar, gouda to goat cheese fits into this category. These cheeses are solid and versatile and are often used as a bae for testing and experimentation by cheesemakers.

Blue Cheese

The only cheese type more scary than smelly cheese is blue cheese. Their name comes from the blue veins of mould inside them. Many people are scared of blue cheeses, but they shouldn’t be. There is a great variety of flavours in blue cheese, so don’t be scared, give it a go!

Across the Barossa Valley, there is a selection of cheesemakers for you to get to know. Enjoy a cheese platter with a local glass of wine for the perfect afternoon snack!

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