Cheese, oh cheese, how do they make thee?
Making Amish cheese is a truly delicious adventure that involves eight tantalizing steps. Are you ready to embark on this cheesy journey? Let's go!
Step 1: Milk Collection - It all starts with fresh cow's milk, collected by the farmer into milk tins and transported by buggy to the cheese dairy.
Step 2: Heat It Up! - The milk is poured into large vats and heated to the perfect temperature (around 86-98°F), which is the first step to creating cheesy goodness. This kills harmful bacteria, makes the milk proteins more susceptible to coagulation, and activates certain enzymes to develop the flavor.
Step 3: Starter Culture - Next, a starter culture is added to the milk to kick-start the fermentation process. This culture is like a superhero team of bacteria, converting lactose into lactic acid. The specific strains of bacteria used in the starter culture can vary depending on the type of cheese being produced.
Step 4: Rennet to the Rescue! - Vegetable rennet, which contains natural protease enzymes that coagulate milk, is then added to the milk to turn it into curds. These curds settle for several hours and form a solid mass. It's like magic!
Step 5: Cutting the Curds - Time to get cutting! The curds are chopped into tiny pieces to release whey and reduce the cheese's acidity. This step is like giving the cheese a haircut!
Step 6: Cooking and Drainage - The curds are cooked to about 100-110°F and drained to remove more whey and concentrate the solids. This step requires precision to ensure the cheese has the right consistency and flavor. (Did you know that whey, a byproduct of cheese-making, is used in animal feed, in the production of other dairy products, and in industrial applications? Nothing goes to waste!)
Step 7: Salt, Salt, Salt - Salt is added to the cheese to preserve it and enhance its texture and flavor. It's then placed in molds and pressed to remove any remaining whey and firm up the curds.
Step 8: The Aging Game - Finally, the cheese is aged for several weeks to several years to reach the desired flavor and texture. During this time, the cheese is turned and cared for like a precious gem.
And there you have it, eight steps to cheese perfection!