Curd handling

The curd is separated from whey by settling and drainage through some form of perforated system. It is important to have efficient fusion of the curd particles and this is impacted by pH and by the physical properties of the curd. Fusion starts to occur when the pH has reached 5.8, and if the whey is removed before this, the cheese will feature openings. If fusion takes place in the presence of whey, the cheese will have a dense body. Sodium chloride may be introduced into the curd after the whey has been drained, a process that controls acid production and impacts the final flavour.

Finally the curd particles are fused into the desired final shape. This may be promoted by increased pressure or by the application of vacuum. Fused cheeses usually receive protection from moulds and other microbes by coating with wax or application of a plastic film. However, cheeses such as Camembert are not sealed immediately in order that there is an opportunity for microbial growth.

Processed (or process) cheese is made by heating and mixing combinations of cheese and other ingredients, with the end result being a creamy, smooth product of desirable texture, flavour, appearance, and physical attributes, such as melting and flow properties. Processed cheese incorporates phosphates and citrates that prevent the separation of oil and protein phases during heating. The phosphates and citrates bind minerals in the cheese increasing the solubility of caseins. The proteins form a thin film around the fats which are thus stabilised against separation.

Most cheeses are matured for periods between 3 weeks and more than 2 years, the period being essentially inversely proportional to the moisture content of the cheese. This comprises controlled storage to allow the action of enzymes and microbes to effect desired physical and flavour changes. Amongst the changes that occur are the bacterial reduction of lactose to lactate (via glycolysis) in eye cheeses, mould-ripened cheeses and smear-ripened cheeses, and the conversion of citrate inter alia to acetate, diacetyl and acetoin.

Proteolytic cleavage of a-casein is important for the softening of cheeses such as Gouda and Cheddar. Furthermore, amino acid production by

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