From Cow to Cheese
Making cheese starts with cows in the pasture. The Dutch
black spotted cow is very popular worldwide. There
are about 1.5 million of them in the Netherlands.
The province of Noord-Holland has mainly black spotted
cows; they produce more milk than brown spotted
cows, which have more muscle and meat.
The grass cows eat (graze) is transmuted into milk
in their four stomachs. Producing cheese involves
concentrating the major part of solid substances in
milk (proteins, fat, and minerals), which are separated
from liquid. The production of one kilo of Gouda cheese
requires about ten litres of milk. A cow produces about
twenty litres of milk per day, obtained via the milking
machine and stored in a cooled tank. Tank lorries collect
milk from the farmers and take it to the factory.
In the factory, milk is first pasteurised, meaning that it
is heated to eliminate bacteria. Then, lactic acids and
coagulants are added: lactic acids ensure good taste
and longer storage life, and coagulants causes the solid
substances, milk proteins and milk fat to coagulate,
causing the milk to thicken.
In a round tank, the thick milk is cut into small white
grains, also referred to as “curd”. This is the first stage
of cheese. The remaining liquid is called “whey”, which
is used in drinks such as Taksi. Curd is pressed into
a tank, moulding the cheese into its form, and draining
liquid away. The Rijkskaasmerk is printed in the cheese:
this mark stands for quality and states the date and
place where the cheese was produced. After several
hours, the cheese is immersed in a bath with salt water
(brine bath). The salt soaks into the cheese, making
it firm, tasteful, and ensuring long storage life.
After the brine bath, the cheese is transported to the
cheese warehouse where it matures for at least another
four weeks. Cheese matures at a temperature of 12-15
degrees Celsius, during which it is regularly turned to
maintain its shape. Cheese comes with a plastic coating
to prevent mould and dehydration.