Cheese is produced from milk, therefore the milking process must precede the cheese making one. Milking is drawing milk from the mammary glands of a mammal (especially cow or goat). In local production farms milking is done by hand, while in large-scale farms milking machines are employed.
The tissue of the mammary glands of the animal to milk (cow, sheep,goat) are made up of many alveoli where the milk is secreted. It is supplied by a network of capillary blood vessels, veins, and arteries in order to allow large quantities of blood to flow within the mammary glands. When the mammary glands are stimulated by the calf or the massage of the milker the hypophysis secretes the oxytocin hormone in the blood which induces the production of milk. Milking must then proceed rapidly due to the short action time of oxytocin, and without disturbances for the animals since otherwise the adrenalin hormone is secreted which interrupts the milk production.
Once sufficient milk is retrieved, the cheese making process can start. The milk is poured in a container (copper or iron) and put on the stove to heat. When the milk reaches approximately 30° C, it is removed from the stove and a coagulant is added in order to obtain the curd. The coagulant is a composition of proteolytic enzymes used for the coagulation of casein. Commonly a cheese coagulant is of animal origin and is extracted from the abomasums (the fourth stomach of a ruminant) of calves, goats or lambs. This part of the stomach of young ruminants is exsiccated and aged and then added to the milk for the coagulation which is the separation of the solid part (proteins, fats, mineral salts) from the liquid part. The coagulant can also be of plant origin, mainly fig (Ficus carica) and cardoon (Cynara cardunculus). According to its origin, the coagulant gives different characteristics (consistency and taste) to the cheese.
Here is what is used in some countries to make the milk thick:
NORWAY: Mjølkekross, mjølkegras, sprenggras, tettgubbe, tussebittgras, ringormgras m.fl.
SWEEDEN: Tätört, Vanlig tätört, Vanlig fetört, Hårgula.
DENMARK: Vibefedt, Almindelig vibefedt.
ICELAND: Hleypsigras, Lyfjagras.
FINLAND: Siniyökönlehti, Yökönlehti.
ENGLAND: Butterwort, Common butterwort, March violet, Yorkshire sanicle.
GERMANY: Gewöhnliches Fettkraut, Blaues Fettkraut, Echtes Fettkraut, Gemeines Fettblatt.
FRANCE: Grassette vulgaire.
Now most of the coagulant used to make cheese is synthetic.
The milk then stands for about an hour. Afterwards, the curd is broken up (again by hand or with machines) in order to obtain tiny fragments. At this point the fragmented curd is collected in a mould while all the liquid (whey) is eliminated. The pressing phase then starts, (by hand and with a press) that continues for 2-3 days. Afterwards, the cheese passes to the salting phase (1 week) after which the salt is eliminated and the cheese is sprinkled with olive oil. The final phase is the maturing of the cheese that is done in fitted storage areas for at least 60 days during which the cheese must be constantly turned over.
Decanting whey from the curds
Cheese in press