How cheese is made

Milk is made into cheese as a result of three main stages: the coagulation of the milk, which creates the curd; the purging of the whey; and the maturing of the curd. After the milk has been collected, it is turned into cheese by separating the liquid part (i.e. the whey) from the solid part (i.e. the proteins), which will become cheese. Water, lactose and sugars remain dissolved in the whey.
Coagulation may be achieved by acidification, thanks to the action of ferments which are naturally present in the milk, or, more frequently, by using a milk-coagulating enzyme, rennet, made from the stomach of calves, lambs or young goats. Once the curd has formed, it is broken up with a particular instrument, called a curd knife, into pieces the size of an orange or a walnut for soft cheeses, the size of a bean for semi-hard cheeses, and the size of a grain of rice for hard cheeses. The curd, left to rest for a brief period, contracts into a solid mass which is then extracted from the boiler in which it has been placed and divided up into the moulds (fascere), where it can be pressed in order to obtain a firmer texture. The moulds then undergo a dry or brine salting process, in order not only to enhance the flavour, but also to allow the cheese to be preserved for longer. Finally, the cheese is matured, or aged, a process which can last anything from a few hours to many months, depending on the type of cheese.
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