Storage Treatment And Preparation Of Cheese

All cheeses except those consumed fresh must undergo a storage period for some amount of time. This is necessary in order for the enzymatic processes that determine the maturation of the cheese to have an appropriate reaction time. This reaction time varies significantly between different types of cheese, depending on which reaction takes place. For similar cheese types, it is common to use different storage times, depending on the taste desired and the temperature used. The possibilities for varying the temperature are very limited; a change in temperature will change the ripening of the cheese.

A. Storage Treatment of Ordinary Hard, Semihard, and Soft Cheeses

The temperature that is chosen for the fermentation storage room depends on many factors, and the producer will choose an appropriate temperature in each case, according to the cheese type, milk quality, pasteurization temperature, acidification technique, moisture content, scalding temperature, etc. The commonly used fermentation storage room temperature for hard and semihard cheese is 17-18°C (63-64°F) and for soft cheese 15-17°C (59-63°F), but many producers use lower temperatures, and other use higher temperatures. The climatic conditions, temperature, and the relative humidity are of great importance to the rate of ripening, loss of weight, rind formation, and development of the surface flora (smear-treated cheeses—for example, Tilsiter, Havarti, and Esrom).

If a new production of surface-ripened cheese is started, it can be beneficial for development of a surface flora, to inoculate with a red smear culture, but in a continuous production, this is not always necessary. However, a smear former, which can be a starch porridge or premade smear former with Brevibacterium linens, is often used for surface-ripened cheese. The cheeses should be wiped often, especially in the beginning, in order to develop a smear layer that is healthy and not too thick. The wiping of the cheeses should also take place often in order to keep the growth of the blue mold fungi down.

Most cheeses are turned during storage in order to obtain an even evaporation and rind formation and to maintain a regular shape. The storage layout depends on the type of cheese. Installing permanent cheese racks in the store has been the conventional solution for both hard and semihard cheeses. Pallet racks or containers are a widely used system. Pallets or pallet containers can also be put on special wheeled pallets running on rails. This method also permits compact storage. Fig. 14 shows a ripening store based on pallets.

When the cheeses have reached an age of 2-3 weeks, they will usually be far enough along in their development that it is appropriate to lower the storage temperature. If conditions and space allow it, it is easiest to leave the cheeses at the same store and just lower the temperature and humidity. If the conditions and space are not available, the cheeses will have to be moved to a ripening store. The temperature and the humidity in the ripening store depend on how long it is desirable to keep the cheeses in storage. The temperature, humidity, and ventilation of the ripening store depend on how long the cheese will be stored there. If the cheeses are only to be stored 1-2 weeks because they are to be sold as 6-week-old cheeses, it is possible to have a relatively dry ripening store with approximately 85% humidity and a temperature not above 12°C (54°F). On the other hand, if the cheeses are to be left in the ripening store for a longer period, it is possible to lower the temperature and the humidity in consideration of the shrinkage and rind formation of the cheese.

Wiping of surface-ripened cheeses in the ripening store is not necessary if they are removed within 1-2 weeks. But it may be necessary to apply water or smear former to the surface of the cheese about once every 14 days if they are to be stored in the ripening store for a longer period.

When the cheeses are matured and have fermented enough to be stored without risking post-fermentation, the cheeses are cleaned, marked, and coated with paraffin plastic or wax in the usual manner, and are then transported to the cold store right after paraffining, plastic-coating, or wax coating. The air temperature of the cold store should be kept at 2-4°C (36-39°F), and the air should be dry.

Figure 14 Cheese storage using pallets. (From Ref. 1, courtesy of Tetra Pak Processing Systems AB, Sweden.)

B. Storage Treatment of Rindless Cheeses

The rindless cheeses are placed in special storage boxes consisting of a bottom and a lid, or in plastic-boxes or containers. This is necessary to preserve the cheese's form and to facilitate stacking of the cheese during storage. Shelves are then not needed in the storage store, and as a result a significantly higher storage capacity is obtained. Stacking is also important to achieve a constant pressure on the foil of the cheese; pressure has the effect of preventing pocket-formation between the cheese and the foil. Of course, cheeses at the top are under less pressure and therefore, must be moved around regularly to ensure that the cheeses on top are rotated at some point to below. It is also good to turn some cheeses. How often the cheeses should be turned depends somewhat on the cheese's type, but once a week for the first 2 weeks would be safe. Later in the process the frequency can gradually be decreased. Different types of cheese require different temperatures and relative humidity in the storage rooms—ordinary hard and semihard cheeses for example, with 10-12°C (50-54°F) and a relative humidity of 60-70% (7,8).

C. Storage Treatment of Mold Cheeses

Mold cheese such as Blue Cheese, Danablu, Camembert, and Brie are kept in so-called dripping rooms after the cheese mass has been molded, at a temperature of 20-25°C (68-77°F) for approximately 12 hr (Blue Cheese and Danablu, 36 hr). After salting and drying, the cheese is transferred to a ripening store, which is important because its temperature and humidity correspond to that of a mountain cave. Blue Cheese and Danablu, however, are ''pierced'' first, before they are transferred for ripening at a temperature of approximately 10°C (52°F) and a humidity of 95-98%. Camembert and Brie are kept for ripening at a temperature of 13-15°C (55-59°F) and a humidity of 85-90%. It is important that mold cheese be stored with a very low circulation of air, for instance by ''bag-cooling.'' After a ripening period of approx. 5 weeks, the Blue Cheese and Danablu cheeses are washed. Camembert and Brie are ripe after 2-3 weeks. The cheeses are then ready for packing and sale.

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