How is cheese produced?

  1. Preparation
    To start producing cheese the milk is filtered and pasteurised – as long as it is not a raw milk cheese that is to be produced. Depending on the fat content of the cheese, the cheese maker mixes the milk with skimmed milk or cream.
  2. Milk coagulation
    Lactic acid bacteria are added so that the milk ferments and rennet is then added so that the milk coagulates.
  3. Curdling
    Depending on the type of cheese, in half an hour or over a period of several hours a curd, a thick “jelly”, is produced.
  4. Curd
    When the curd has attained the firmness required for the type of cheese, the cheese maker then cuts it into pieces by using a cheese harp. To do this the cheese maker needs to know a great deal about and have many years’ experience in cheese production, because the size of the curd determines the hardness of the finished cheese. The finer the cheese maker cuts the cheese curd, the more whey is drained off and the harder the cheese becomes. For example, to make a soft cheese the curd is cut into larger pieces than for semi-hard cheese.
  5. Pressing the curd
    The curd is sieved, in other words separated from the whey, and then pressed into the correct shape for the particular cheese and turned.
  6. Brine wash
    All types of cheese except for cream cheese are washed in brine in order to remove any harmful bacteria and also to encourage rind formation.
  7. Maturation
    The final step in cheese production is the ripening of the cheese in so-called cheese ripening cellars. The cheeses are regularly turned and, depending on the type, brushed, washed or treated with edible mould. The ripening period varies and can take up to twelve months or even longer until the cheese attains the taste typical of its type.

What types of cheese are there?

Cheese can be divided into 6 different types of cheese:

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Hard cheese:

Hard cheese has a firm and grainy cheese curd, taking at least three months to mature with a mild taste, and several years to develop a strong tangy taste. To produce hard cheese fresh milk with a rich aroma is used in copper kettles, some of which are still heated with wood.

Key facts:

  • Water content maximum 40%, dry mass approx. 60%
  • Ripening period: 3 months to several years
  • rind washed, brushed or shaved

Examples: Vorarlberger Bergkäse g.U., Emmental or Gruyere

Semi-hard cheese:

Semi-hard cheese is the most popular type of cheese, offering the greatest variety in our local cheeses from a mild to a tangy taste. The curd is malleable and ripens under a wax film, protective foil or a culture of red or edible mould for at least 4 weeks.

Key facts:

  • Water content 50%, dry mass 50%
  • Ripening period: 4 weeks to several months
  • Ripening in foil, wax, red culture, edible mould

Examples: Gouda, Tilsiter, Edam

Soft cheese:

The soft curd is enclosed in an edible mould or red-smear rind and ripens over several weeks from the outside inwards. Depending on the production and ripening period, the taste of soft cheese ranges from mild and creamy to tangy.

Key facts:

  • Water content approx. 60%, dry mass approx. 40%
  • Ripening period: 2 to several weeks
  • Rind: White mould rind, natural rind, blue or green internal mould, double mould, red culture

Examples: Camembert, Brie

Cream cheese

Cream cheese has a very soft, easy to spread consistency and can be eaten immediately after production without ripening. Cream cheese is often embellished with ingredients such as herbs.

Key facts:

  • Water content approx. 70 %, dry mass approx. 30%
  • Ripening period: unfermented, unripened cheese

Examples: Gervais, cottage cheese

Sour milk cheese

Sour milk cheese is made from low fat quark and is, therefore, very low in fat. The malleable curd ripens from the outside inwards and has a yellowish transparent colour, in the centre often white, and is sealed, depending on type, with white or red-smear mould.

Key facts:

  • Water content approx. 60%, dry mass approx. 40%
  • Ripening period: unfermented cheese produced from quark with a ripening period of just a few days to approx. 3 weeks, in the case of Quargel, with red culture

Examples: Quargel

Processed cheese

Processed cheese typically has a fine creamy, easy to spread consistency and is made from various types of cheese. The cheese used has a fine basic cheesy taste and is often embellished with a variety of ingredients such as herbs, ham or paprika.

Examples: Triangles, slices, tubs, fondue

What fat levels are there?

The fat content in cheese is given as a percentage of dry mass and not as a percentage of the total weight. The reason for this is that cheese as it ripens and stored can continue to lose moisture and weight. The relative fat content can thus vary whilst the ratio of fat content to dry mass in the cheese remains constant.

The Austrian Food Code places cheese, depending on its fat content in dry mass, in the following fat levels:

  • Double cream level: 65-85% FiDM
  • Cream level: up to 55% FiDM
  • Full fat level: up to 45% FiDM
  • Three quarter fat level: up to 35% FiDM
  • Half fat level: up to 25% FiDM
  • Quarter fat level: up to 15% FiDM

What does the term “fat in dry mass” mean?

The fat content of cheese is usually indicated in the form of fat in dry mass, abbreviated as FDM or FiDM. This measurement relates to the percentage of fat to be found in the cheese’s mass after all the water has been removed.

Are there cheeses with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)?

The Protected Designation of Origin states that preparation, processing and production of a product take place in a specific geographic location according to recognised and fixed procedures.

In Austria there are six cheese products with Protected Designation of Origin such as Vorarlberger Bergkäse g.U., which are labelled “g.U.” on the basis of the EU community symbol for products with Protected Designation of Origin.

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