Cheesemaking Ingredients: Acid, Cultures, Rennet, Water, Mold and Yeast, Salt

Learn about the components and science that make cheese CHEESE. Also, learn what to do with the main by-product of the process, whey.

| July 2019

Photo from Adobe Stock/lucky_elephant 


Acidification is one of the underlying processes in cheesemaking. As the milk or cheese acidifies (or cultures), it becomes tangy or tart, and the texture changes as a result. Part of what you are controlling with the timing of your cheesemaking is the rate of acidification: Acidify your curd too fast, and it can become grainy or brittle; acidify too slowly, and your pleasantly tangy flavor may turn full-on sour. To jump-start the acidification of milk for cheese, we often add lactic acid-producing bacteria or a pure form of acid directly to the milk.

When I teach tasting classes I like to describe the acidity of a cheese (or a wine, or a beer, or a chocolate, etc.) as the skeleton of the product. I think of it this way: Acidity provides the structure of the thing, which the producer can then adorn with flavor through different techniques and additions, as they see fit.

Here are a few of the acidification “vehicles” you will use to prepare cheese:

Lemon juice is the most recognizable acid. We will use it to coagulate the curd when making Ricotta.

Photo from Stocksy/Todd Lanz



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