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Milk Truck Unloading Milk

Pasteurizing Milk

Milk Truck Unloading Milk

Approximately 5,700 gallons of milk is brought into the factory every day.  All milk must pass a test showing that there are no antibiotics present in the product before being unloaded into the factory.

 

Pasteurizing Milk
Raw milk starts out at 38° F to 42° F and is then heated to 165° F for 18 seconds.  This heat treatment results in the pasteurization of the milk.  The pasteurized milk is pumped into the cheese vat at a temperature of 85° F.

 
Filling Vat with Milk   Set Temperature

Filling Vat with Milk
Following pasteurization, the vat is filled with milk.  This vat holds up to 1,750 gallons of milk. 

  Set Temperature

The milk temperature is raised to 88° F in order to prepare the milk for the addition of the culture.

 
Culture is Added to Milk   An Enzyme is Added to the Milk

Culture is Added to Milk
Culture is added to the milk and is allowed to ripen for 60 minutes.  When making traditional cheddar cheese, color is added about 50 minutes after the culture and about 10 minutes before the enzyme. No color is added for Jack, Fontina, Havarti or White Cheddar cheeses.   The coloring added to the cheddar cheese is Annatto which is a natural coloring derived from a tropical American tree whose seeds are used to produce a food coloring.

An Enzyme is Added to the Milk
An enzyme is added to the milk, causing it to coagulate and become curd.  The process between the time the enzyme is added to the milk and the time the curd is cut takes approximately 35 minutes.  

We use two vegetarian approved enzymes in the production of our cheese.  The actual type used will depend on the type of cheese made and the customer.  We use a Chy-max enzyme and Hannilase.  Hannilase enzyme is produced by the fermentation of Mucor miehei.  It is organic and vegetarian approved.

Cutting the Curd

Coagulation of Milk into Curd

Milk temperature is critical during this stage.  For every degree you increase the temperature, the time before you cut the curd shortens.  Our target time for the coagulation of the milk into curd is 35 minutes.  However, raising or lowering the set temperature of the milk can modify the set time.

Cutting the Curd
The coagulated milk is cut into 3/8-inch cubes by pulling curd knives with 3/8-inch wide stainless steel wires through the coagulated milk.  These cubes will become cheese curds.  At this point the whey starts separating from the curds.  Whey is the liquid portion of the milk that does not become cheese.   At Loleta Cheese we recycle the whey back to the dairies as a nutritional supplement for our cows.

Resting and Healing of the Curd Cooking the Curd

Resting and Healing of the Curd

The curd is very delicate immediately after it has been cut.  The whey and the curd begin to separate.  The curd is gently stirred by hand using a cheese squeegee to separate the curd from the surface of the vat and move the curd around in the mixture of curds and whey to allow the surface of the curd to heal before the start of the cooking process.

Cooking the Curd

During the cooking process, the mixture of curds and whey are gently cooked by raising the temperature from 88° F or 90° F, depending on the type of cheese, to 100° F over a period of 30 minutes.  It is important that this process be carefully monitored and that the temperature does not rise too quickly. 

Draining the Whey Packing Cheese Curds

Draining the Whey

After the curds and whey have reached the desired temperature, pH, and time targets, the whey is drained off.  At this point, the cheese making process will vary depending on the type of cheese being made. 

From this point forward, we will show the unique steps for making old fashioned, traditional cheddar cheese, which we refer to as “Milled Natural Cheddar Cheese”.

Packing Cheese Curds

The small cheddar cheese curds are pushed along each side of the vat and allowed to knit together. 

Cutting the Knitted Curd Cheddar Cheese Slabs

Cutting the Knitted Curd

The knitted curd is cut into cheddar cheese slabs, which are then turned.  The slabs are turned to allow moisture to escape.  The key thing that is happening during this phase is that the curd is developing more acidity.  The development of the acidity is measured by a pH meter.  

Cheddar Cheese Slabs

The Cheddar cheese slabs are turned about every 20 minutes.

Milling the Curd

Testing the Curd Before it is Milled

The cheesemaker tests the curd to determine the pH.  When the desired pH is reached, the cheese is ready to be milled.

Milling the Curd

The cheddar cheese curd is run through a mill and chopped up into smaller pieces.  This allows the salt to more easily penetrate the curd.  Also, the smaller pieces are easier to place in the hoops and be pressed into the desired shape.

Salting the Cheese Preparing and Lining the Hoops

Salting the Cheese

The salt acts as a preservative, draws out excess moisture, enhances flavor, and participates in the natural aging of the cheese.

Preparing and Lining the Hoops

The cheese molds (called hoops) are lined with disposable cheesecloth, which keeps the curd from sticking to the hoop and helps to form a smooth outer surface. 

Hand Filling the Hoops Topping off the Hoops

Hand Filling of the Hoops

The milled cheddar cheese curds are moved from the vat by hand using flat-sided buckets.  This is also the stage at which we remove cheddar cheese curds, which are not pressed, and sell them as fresh cheese curds, a popular snack.

Topping Off the Hoops

Once the hoops are filled to the desired level, the cheesecloth is pulled up over the curd and a stainless steel lid is applied.

The Cheese is Pressed Scrubbing the Vats

The Cheese is Pressed

The lidded hoops are turned on their sides and pressed at 40 Ibs. per square inch. 

Scrubbing the Vats

Scrubbing the plant is the final stage of a long hard day of work. 

 
Clean Plant   Removing Pressed Cheese from Hoops

Cleaning the Plant

The plant is being sanitized and ready for the next day of making great cheese.

 

Removing the Pressed Cheese from the Hoops

The next morning the pressed cheese is removed from the hoops and packaged.  The blocks weigh between 40-43 lbs. Each block of cheese is placed in a special nylon pouch and vacuum-sealed for aging.

 
Vacuum Packing  

Vacuum Packing

The block of cheddar cheese is placed in a vacuum chamber machine.  The vacuum chamber machine removes the air from the pouch and seals the package.  The packaged cheese is put in a cardboard box and labeled.  The boxed cheese is then placed in the cold room to age to the desired flavor.  The aging temperature is between 40-42° F.  Aging can range from several weeks to 24 months. 

 

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  THE LOLETA CHEESE FACTORY
252 Loleta Drive
Loleta, CA 95551
(800) 995 0453