Cheese by numbers

When you come to realise that milk is made up of water — 90 percent or more — it becomes clear that it needs to be turned into something a bit more user-friendly to be transportable. Making cheese has routinely been a convenient way of stabilising fragile milk and preparing it for a longer journey to its end user. Milk proteins will be retained and a proportion of the cream will be either removed or additional cream will be added, depending on the recipe. Cheddaring cheese is basically a technique for extending the working life of milk, using the existing solids. The progression is laid out in the table below.

Having made curd with the milk, there is inevitably some loss of the finely divided protein particles that are retained in the whey. The whey was traditionally fed to pigs, which is why the history of livestock farming in Denmark was so closely integrated. A significant component of Danish bacon in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries started out as whey from cheesemaking.

Depending on the density of grazing livestock — the example here assumes 20 lactating cows to the hectare — there will always be a certain amount of agricultural land that will be blocked from local use by the commitment to export the production it supports. This is a topic to which we will return. For now, it is sufficient to assume that dairy producers will need three lactations (integer values) for every tonne of milk solids that are recovered and transferred into cheesemaking. In addition, there will be a need for three twentieths of a hectare of grazing land to meet the Livestock Unit level in this model.

There is a greater diversity among cheeses, reflecting their moisture content and how the whey is removed during the cheesemaking process. As a cheese ages, it will go from being a crumbly wet curd and solidify into increasingly dense cheeses. Whole cheeses are matured for up to two years in the case of hard cheeses like parmesan or Grana Padana, a year or more for mature grades of Cheddar, to just six weeks for soft cheesses like Camembert or Brie. The protein can be more or less elastic, depending on how much heat has been applied to the curd and other factors in the process.

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