Making CheeseAt Hunter Belle Cheese the process of making cheese uses traditional methods with almost every step done by hand.

First the milk is pasteurised, where it is gently heated to 72 degrees to kill bacteria and then brought back down to around 39 degrees ready to add starter cultures.

Cheese making is essentially a fermentation process like winemaking or beer making. The started cultures are added to the milk and these begin consuming the milk sugar (lactose) and producing lactic acid. They continue to do this throughout the cheese making and maturation process. Different cheese varieties use different starter cultures.

Rennet is the enzyme added to ‘set’ the vat. It coagulates the milk and the vat sets like jelly. At Hunter Belle Cheese vegetarian rennet is used in all of the cheese making.

Once the vat is set the curd is cut using curd knives. These are frames with fine wires that are pulled through the curd, cutting it into small cubes. The size and amount of cutting also has a lMaking Cheesearge effect on the eventual variety of cheese. Soft cheeses are cut gently to form large curds. Hard cheeses are cut finely to form small curds.

Once the curd is cut, whey begins to be expelled and the curd shrinks over time. Stirring the curds and whey help this process along. In hard cheeses the curds and whey are cooked to drive more moisture out of the curds.

Once the desired acidity level is reached, the whey is siphoned off and the curds are ‘hooped’ into moulds, trays or baskets that form the final shape of the cheese. The cheeses are turned in the moulds and left overnight to assist draining.

The next day the cheeses are brined to add salt for preservation and placed in the maturing room for surface ripening.

All cheeses are turned regularly until wrapping. Some cheeses are washed with different cultures. Soft cheeses have a short maturation time (2 weeks) while hard cheeses take much longer to mature (6 months or more).