Traditional cheese making techniques with modern methods are used to produce Ashgrove Cheese.
Twice a day fresh creamy milk is delivered within hours of milking to the factory. The milk is tested to ensure it meets our quality standards. The milk is then pasteurised and placed into holding vats where it is selected for processing into our range of premium Tasmanian dairy products.
Milk – the process of cheese making beings with premium quality pasteurised non homogenised milk.
Pasteurisation – is a heat treatment to kill bacteria. The milk is heated to 72 deg C and held there for 15 seconds before cooling to 31deg C and running out into the cheese making vats. All dairy products produced in Australia for human consumption must undergo the pasteurisation process.
Starter culture – starter cultures are then added to the milk. The main function of the starter culture is to convert the lactose (milk sugar) to lactic acid. Different cultures are used to produce different flavours in the cheese
Rennet – once the vat is full of milk for cheese production an enzyme known as rennet is added to the milk. Ashgrove Cheese uses non-animal rennet and is used to coagulate (set) the milk.
Cutting to coagulum – once set the milk coagulum is cut into little cubes of curds and whey. The curd is what will become the cheese; the whey is a by-product of the cheese making process.
Curds and whey – the curds and whey are stirred and heated. The higher the temperature the more moisture is removed from the curd, the harder the matured cheese becomes. The curds and whey are separated by slowly draining the whey from the vat.
Working the curd – using the traditional cheddaring technique and the skills of our cheese maker we cut our curds by hand into pieces and then carefully hand turn them regularly for over an hour. This helps remove moisture and assists in the lactic acid fermentation.
Milling – once the desired level of lactic acid is achieved the curd is placed through a mill. The mill chops the curd blocks into smaller pieces.
Salting – the smaller pieces of curd are then salted. These small pieces allow a larger surface area to absorb the salt. This inhibits the fermentation process, removes moisture from the curd and acts as a preservative during the maturing process.
Pressing – the salted curds are ladled or placed into cheese moulds. The shape of the mould determines the shape of the finished cheese. The filled moulds are then stacked on presses where a weight is lowered squeezing out all the remaining moisture and forces the curd to matt back together. The cheese remains in the moulds over night and the next day the cheeses are knocked out of the moulds ready for the maturing room.
Maturing – the cheeses are taken to temperature controlled maturing rooms to sit on shelves to mature and develop flavour. The maturing process is the breakdown of fat and protein in the cheese. The longer a cheese is left to mature the more the fat and protein will break down and the stronger the flavour becomes in the cheese. Mild cheese is young cheese, mature or vintage cheese is a well aged cheese.