Dairy industry - Cheese

Dairy industry - Cheese

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Dairy industry

According to Italian legislation, cheese or cheese is the product that is obtained from whole or partially skimmed or skimmed milk, or from cream following acid or rennet coagulation, also by making use of enzymes and table salt.
According to the type of milk, the cheeses are divided into vaccines, pecorino, goats and buffaloes. Milk intended for cheese production must be free of unpleasant odors and antibiotics (which hinder coagulation) and must not come from animals affected by mastitis.


1. CORRECTION OF FAT. Some milks are skimmed (by surfacing) to obtain semi-fat cheeses (eg Parmigiano Reggiano), others are added with cream (sometimes Provolone and Gorgonzola) to obtain fatty cheeses.

2. PASTEURIZATION. For the manufacture of fresh cheeses and, sometimes, to lower the microbial load of certain milks, pasteurization is carried out.

3. GRAFT OF LACTIC FERMENTS. Modern technologies for the production of many cheeses usually use selected lactic ferments. The addition of graft brings to the milk a bacterial flora that ensures a decisive prevalence of the caseophilic bacteria which confer high acidity, promote coagulation and contrast the butter bacteria (agents of late swelling).
This storage can be done in several ways:
- by natural grafting, which consists of cultures of bacteria already naturally present in milk, the development of which is favored by heating the milk (milk-graft) or whey (serum graft),
- by means of a selected graft, which consists of cultures of bacteria specially selected to give the cheese homogeneous and constant organoleptic characteristics (lactoferment and seroferment).

4. COAGULATION OF MILK. The majority of cheeses are obtained in Italy mainly by rennet coagulation, which occurs by adding rennet (or rennet) to the milk.
Acid coagulation occurs as a consequence of the demineralization of the casein micelles, thus obtaining a clot with very limited consistency and elasticity. By using this coagulation, sour or white cheeses are obtained. In Italy two white cheeses are produced: mascarpone, obtained from cream coagulated with acetic or citric acid, and in Campania the cheese-ricotta obtained by coagulation at 90 ° C with spontaneously acidified whole milk.
The rennet coagulation occurs instead following the detachment from the k-casein of a glycopeptide or proteosis operated by the enzyme chimase, with simultaneous loss of its stabilizing properties towards other caseins which, due to the intervention of ionic calcium, pass from the dispersed state to that of clot (the calcium paracaseinate coagulates forming the curd). In general, coagulation is mixed in the sense that it occurs both through the addition of rennet and by acidification of the milk (obtainable in the boiler by lactic acid bacteria), with the prevalence of the former to obtain hard cheeses and the prevalence of acid action for soft cheeses.
Rennet or rennet is an enzymatic complex obtained from the superficial mucosa of the abomasum of the suckling calf. It consists of two enzymes: chymosin (with a strong coagulating action) and pepsin (with a strong proteolytic action).
The title or strength of a rennet is expressed by the ml of coagulated milk of 1 ml or 1 g of rennet, at a temperature of 35 ° C in 40 '; for example 1 g of rennet paste with a titre of 1: 8.000 coagulates 8 l of milk under the aforesaid conditions of time and temperature. On the market it is found in paste, liquid and powder (with different titles).
In Sardinia, thistle flower extract is also used, while abroad, fig latex and bacteria and mold extract are also used. The coagulation of the milk consists in the passage of the casein from the sol state to the gel state. The ricotta derives instead from the coagulation of the serum proteins and therefore it is not a cheese, but generically a dairy product. The milk that coagulates quickly is called strong, while if the coagulation is slow it is called sluggish or lazy.

5. SYNERESIS AND BLEEDING. At the end of the coagulation, the curd contracts (syneresis) expelling the whey (water, lactose and serum proteins). The expulsion of the whey (which is called purging when it is caused by man by rupture or compression) causes the rupture of the paste and the start of the granulation; the cheese turns out to be a conglomerate of granules.

6. PROCESSING OF THE CURD. The breaking is the first intervention that is obtained by means of a special tool (thorn, lyre), on the curd when it has reached the desired consistency. to obtain soft cheeses, the curd is chopped into pieces the size of an orange or a walnut, for semi-hard cheeses the pieces have the size of a bean and for hard cheeses the size of rice grains. The finer the chopping, the greater the bleeding and the drier and harder the cheese will become. During breakage, the curd must be stirred and brief rest periods observed to facilitate purging. The earlier the breakdown, the faster the bleeding; for soft cheeses this operation takes place in 15-20 minutes after coagulation, for soft cheeses it lasts 2-4 minutes. Follows the stock which consists in leaving the curd at rest in its serum for 20-30 minutes at 36-38 ° C where the bleeding continues. At this point, the curd is extracted, fractioned according to the desired weight and put into shape in special containers where the shape is occasionally turned over. At this stage the cheese acidifies by continuing to purge.
The processing line described so far concerns soft cheeses; to obtain hard cheeses (eg Parmigiano Reggiano), the pasta must be cooked before it is left. During comminution, the temperature is increased from 32 to 42 ° C and, after a brief pause, to 56 ° C within 15-20 minutes, stirring the curd. For semi-cooked cheeses, it reaches 45 ° C (for Asiago), 48 ° C (for Fontina). The high temperature dehydrates the clot, favors the cohesion of the granules and selects the thermophilic microorganisms useful for the maturation of the cheese. After storage and extraction, the curd is placed in a mold or mold (forming) and subjected to compression with appropriate weights for 18-24 hours.

7. STEWING and SPINNING. Some cheeses (eg Gorgonzola) are subjected to stewing in a very humid and warm environment (22-23 ° C), for 6-48 hours where rapid acidification and considerable bleeding occurs.
In the case of the production of spun paste cheeses, the curd, after coarse breaking, is wrapped in a cloth and placed on a table, where it undergoes maturation (acidification) for a time ranging from 30 'to 2-3 hours (depending on if more or less acidic). At this point, the pasta is roughly sliced ​​and treated with water at 85-90 ° C (spinning). Finally, once the spinning is finished, the pasta is subjected to the desired size and molding.

8. SALTING. All cheeses are subjected to this operation of variable duration depending on the type of cheese (less than an hour for Mozzarella, 20-25 days for Grana Padano) for the following purposes: to impart flavor to the product by improving its taste; favor the formation of the crust; regulate the water and lactose content of the dairy paste; select the microbial flora, hindering some harmful agents and favoring the useful ones. It can be made dry by sprinkling coarsely ground cooking salt on the surface of the molds and by moistening it by placing the molds, for predetermined periods of time, in a salt solution at the desired concentration.

9. CRUST FORMATION. The rind essentially performs the task of protecting the mass from the external environment, supporting the pasta, limiting losses by evaporation and promoting maturation. This protective layer is formed by hardening of the external layer of the casein following the considerable release of whey from the external part of the form, thanks also to salting.

10. SEASONING or MATURATION. it is a process whereby the curd becomes cheese. it is decidedly complex and takes place in special rooms called casere for a variable period depending on the cheese: from a few days (Crescente) up to 12-18 months (Grana). The atmosphere of the casere is controlled: in fact, the temperature varies from 5-10 ° C for soft cheeses, to 12-20 ° C for cooked cheeses .; the relative humidity is in any case high, around 90%.
In cheese maturation, the following occur:
- decrease in water content;
- increase in dry extract;
- decrease in proteins;
- increase in sodium chloride;
- increase in pH;
- increase in free fatty acids;
- partial demolition of the caseinic hamlets;
- increase in soluble nitrogen.

Special processes

Melted cheeses (sliced ​​cheeses and small cheeses) are obtained from defective forms of more or less seasoned cheese, with a more or less hard paste. Any other components are cream, butter, milk, ricotta and whey powder. The preparation of melted cheeses requires the perfect hot melting of the raw material, which is favored by the use of flux, i.e. polyphosphates and sodium or potassium citrate.
After 15 days of maturation, Gorgonzola is perforated to allow the entry of air which allows the development of molds added as spores before rennet.
Mascarpone is prepared with cream, 25-50% fat, heated to 90 ° C and coagulated by adding tartaric acid or acetic acid or citric acid.

Milk processing facilities

Milk intended for direct consumption is mainly processed in large collection centers, called milk plants. The milk collected by tankers or bins from the manufacturing companies arrives at the plants where it is filtered, sterilized and packaged for sale.
The dairy is the building where the milk is transformed into butter and cheese. The milk is received in a dive vestibule is weighed, checked and filtered. Subsequently, it passes into a room where centrifugal skimmers or trays for natural surfacing are located. Very often, before cheese making, the milk is pasteurized. The milk is processed in a large room in which the boilers and shelves are placed for shaping the cheeses (well-ventilated area, illuminated and maintained at a temperature of 25-30 ° C). Before moving on to the maturing warehouse, the cheese is brought to the salt cellar (with tanks for salting in brine or bunk shelves for the dry one). Indispensable in the dairy is the presence of the maturing warehouse. In large plants, butter is prepared in a separate room where churns, kneaders and packers are located.
The dairy is completed by other rooms in which there are cold rooms for storing butter and soft cheeses, steam and heat generators, laboratories, etc.
Yield, composition and classification of cheeses
The yield of milk in cheese varies considerably from type to type of cheese, due to the different water content, a consequence above all of the different technology used to produce them.

Yield and water content of some Italian cheeses

Type of cheese

Surrender (%)

% of water




Parmesan Cheese






Taleggio cheese



Milk cream






In addition to water, the cheese contains fat, proteins, lactic acids (0.5-1%), lactose (present only in soft and fresh cheeses) and ashes (those of milk added to the sodium chloride absorbed in the salting ).

Average composition of some cheeses

Type of cheese

Fat (%)

Protein (%)

Salts (%)

Water (%)











Parmesan Cheese





Roman pecorino





Mascarpone cheese





The numerous types of cheese are classified according to the consistency of the pasta (soft, semi-hard, hard), the processing temperature during the preparation of the curd (raw, semi-cooked, cooked), the fat content (low-fat, semi-fat, fat) and the seasoning time (fresh, semi-seasoned, seasoned).
The Italian legislation, in order to enhance the national production, establishes the denomination of typical cheese for products obtained in the Italian territory with particular techniques and with milk produced exclusively in Italy, and of D.O.C. (controlled denomination of origin) whose production takes place in well defined areas of the national territory (eg Asiago, Grana Padano, Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano).

Parmesan-Parmigiano Grana

it is the best known and most important Italian cheese. it is semi-fat, hard and cooked, slow maturing. it is manufactured from milk of the evening milking skimmed by outcrop combined with that of the morning.
Seasoning lasts about 12-18 months; it is used as a table and grater. It has a cylindrical shape with a slightly convex edge; diameter from 35 to 45 cm, height from 18 to 24 cm, minimum weight 24 kg, 5-6 mm thick rind. More or less intense straw-colored pasta, fragrant aroma, delicate flavor, but not spicy; minutely grainy, with flake fracture and barely visible holes.
Production area: the territory of central Emilia, including the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and the part of the province of Bologna, located to the left of the Rhine; also the southern part of the province of Mantua to the right of the Po.

Grana Padano

it is made according to a technology similar to that of Parmigiano-Reggiano; the same can be said of the external characteristics and dimensions of the shape.
Production area: Piedmont, Lombardy with the exception of the territory of the province of Mantua located to the right of the Po, the remaining part of Emilia not included in the production area of ​​Parmigiano-Reggiano, Veneto, excluding the province of Belluno, and the province of Trento.
A significant number of cheeses are produced in Italy, some of which are known and appreciated throughout the national territory and abroad; others, however, are linked to particular production areas.

Review of the main Italian cheeses

Fresh: ready to eat (without ripening)
Mascarpone cheese
Creamy cheeses
(Ricotta cheese)

Soft paste and fast ripening (10-30 days)

Soft paste and medium ripening (1-6 months)
Taleggio cheese
Tuscan Pecorino - Sienese Pecorino

Spun paste
Mozzarella cheese
Buffalo mozzarella

Hard paste: medium and long ripening (12-18 months)
Parmesan Grana cheese; Grana Padano
Roman pecorino

Video: Cutting Through the Cholesterol Confusion with Dr. Barnard (May 2022).


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