Did you ever wonder how traditional swiss cheese is produced? The skill of producing real swiss cheese requires a lot of know-how, expertise and experience. We will explain to you how milk is processed into cheese.
Milk is building the starting point of every Swiss cheese. The cows on the alm are being milked twice a day. The evening milk is cooled, stored and processed together with the morning milk the next day. The many Alpine herbs and the clean air give the milk its special taste and character.
The milk delivered is being checked by the cheesemaker (Senn) for bacteriological and sensory characteristics. Milk of perfect quality is absolutely essential for cheese production.
The milk is stirred in a vat and slowly warmed up. Next, lactic acid bacteria and lab-ferment are added. The addition of lab causes the milk to curdle. A gelatinous mass is formed, which is then processed further.
In this step, the famous cheese harp is used. The harp cuts the jelly and the cheese curd is formed. The type of cheese is determined by exactly these grains. The smaller the grains, the harder the outcome of the final product.
The cheese grains are further stirred and heated in the vat. The temperature determines how hard the finished cheese should be. The higher the temperature, the lower the water content in the cheese. Hard cheese is heated between 51-58 °C, soft cheese only in about 35 °C.
Once the cheese mass has reached the desired firmness, it is filled into a mould. During this process the whey is separated from the cheese mass. The mass is then being pressed. Cheese stamps are immediately placed on top of the cheese for identification. The cheeses remain in the mould until the desired pH-value is reached. The pH-value gives us information about the course of protein breakdown in the cheese.
The following day the cheese is placed in the salt bath. Here the floating cheese absorbs salt and releases whey. This process causes the cheese mass to solidify and the rind to form on the surface. The salt bath prevents the development of unwanted bacteria. The absorption of salt enhances the taste in the cheese.
Cheese ripening leads to optical, chemical and microbiological changes in the cheese. The formation of an outer rind is visually recognizable. Biochemical processes cause the protein to be broken down to the level of amino acids and this changes the texture of the dough. The maturation of the cheese is also known as affinage. The flavour can be influenced by additional treatment with must, white wine or herbs.
Before being sold, the cheese is being tested severa ways. Factors such as hole formation, dough texture, taste and appearance play an important role. After passing the quality check, the cheese is ready to be sold and enjoyed.