Step 1 - Milk Intake
Quality cheese begins with one key ingredient – quality milk. Before the cheesemaking process begins, incoming milk is first tested for quality and purity. It takes approximately 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese.
Step 2 - Standardization
Next, the milk is weighed, heat treated or pasteurized to ensure product safety and uniformity.
Step 3 - Starter Culture & Coagulant
Starter cultures, or good bacteria, are added to start the cheesemaking process. They help determine the ultimate flavor and texture of the cheese. Next, a milk-clotting enzyme called rennet is added to coagulate the milk, forming a custard-like mass.
Step 4 - Cutting
It's then cut into small pieces to begin the process of separating the liquid (whey) from the milk solids (curds). Large curds are cooked at lower temperatures, yielding softer cheeses like Mascarpone and Ricotta. Curds cut smaller are cooked at higher temperatures, yielding harder cheeses like Gruyere and Romano.
Step 5 - Stirring, Heating & Draining
Cheesemakers cook and stir the curds and whey until the desired temperature and firmness of the curd is achieved. The whey is then drained off, leaving a tightly formed curd.
Step 6 - Curd Transformation
Different handling techniques and salting affect how the curd is transformed into the many cheese varieties made in Wisconsin.
Step 7 - Pressing
Pressing determines the characteristic shape of the cheese and helps complete the curd formation. Most cheeses are pressed in three to 12 hours, depending on their size.
Step 8 - Curing
Depending on the variety and style of cheese, another step may be curing. Curing is used for aged cheeses and helps fully develop its flavor and texture. The cheese is moved to a room that is carefully controlled for required humidity and temperature and may be aged for 10 years or more.
Read about Wisconsin's illustrious cheesemaking heritage from prehistoric times to today.
Learn more in-depth about the unique Wisconsin certification program
Wisconsin cheesemakers are leading the way in crafting specialty and artisan cheeses