¡Hello cheese lovers! I am Fabian and I would like to share with you my recent experience as an intern during my first days in La Antigua Dairy where I was able to learn all the processes of sheep cheese production, the factory and its staff.
The first day, I served me as a contact to know the factory, its facilities and the staff of La Antigua, a key piece in charge of adding quality in the manufacturing of their well-known cheeses both nationally and internationally for its expertise, quality and professionalism dedicated to the development of cheese.
The next day, I was able to immerse myself a little more in the world of cheese being a witness in first person as an intern in the process of making sheep cheese of the hand of the person in charge of production, Javier, who could explain me perfectly all the processes that are carried out from the receipt of the raw material, the milk, which is transformed at different stages, until the salting of the cheese.
During this whole process, I was able to learn that the milk since is treated until it carries out the ripening of the cheese, will be transformed at different stages, which can be briefly summarized in seven:
The first stage consists in the milk treatment (which is filtered to eliminate possible macro-foreign substances that come from its manipulation and, subsequently, transfer it to the processing vats).
Then, we go for the coagulation, in which, Javier, is in charge of raising the temperature around 35o Celsius -37o Celsius in the vats and adding lactic ferments and the rennet to transform the milk from liquid form to a semi-solid form, called curd.
Subsequently, after about 15-20 minutes, Javier is responsible of, in turn, transferring the curd to a machine which develops the task of filtering and separating it from the serum. It involves transferring it to vertical tubes, where it will be carried out the third stage, cutting the curd and draining. Once this first straining is done, the curd is cut using a fine blades called lire, so we let them to precipitate in the cheese moulds in which, in addition, we give the design of the “pleita” and the cinch that we want, simultaneously, the fourth stage that consists in the moulding of the cheese.
To shape the cheese and remove some more concentration of serum and air contained between the grains, I noticed that the cheese is transported on the belt to be ready for the fifth step, the pressing, which is performed in a mechanical way.
After a certain period of time, approximately 24 hours, the cheese leaves the pressing tool to be placed on the belt and be transported to a new room where it will be immersed in a brine tank (which contains water and salt) to, thereby, eliminate the serum that may still contain the cheese, to enhance their flavors and to work out the rind. This sixth stage is called the salting.
All these stages are carried out in a period apparently brief, and also, they are the preparation of the cheese to be finally transported to chambers or caves with conditions of temperature, moisture and aeration controlled in which, finally, it will take place the last stage, which consists in the refinement and maturation. During this stage, the cheese will undergo a series of changes, physical and chemical, resulting from environmental conditions, among which some of them are easily observable such as, for example, after a certain time in drying, we note that the cheese starts growing some mould on the rind and lateral, and, therefore, to remove that mould it has to be carried out a mechanical process that is referred to the cheese brushing.
For this reason, according to the period elapsed during their ripening and thinning, the cheese shall adopt specific conditions of aroma, taste and texture, which can confer themselves different types of cheese.
After experiencing as a intern in the factory all the stages that are carried out in the cheese-making, I was able to learn first-hand all the work, either handcrafted or coped with the new technologies, that is done in La Antigua Dairy for the manufacturing of this tasty and magnificent product in all its varieties that delight our palates, the cheese.