f. Ditching. When the curd has reached the proper texture and the desired
amount of acid has developed, the whey is removed from the vat by a process known
as ditching. Ditching is done by drawing the curd to the sides of the vat and letting the
whey drain down the center to an outlet.
g. Matting and Cheddaring. After the whey has been removed, the curd,
which is about 6 to 8 inches deep along the sides of the vat, is allowed to mat together
for 10 to 15 minutes. After proper matting, the curd is cut into slabs about 8 inches
wide. These slabs are piled on one another, usually 4 slabs high, and the piles turned
every 10 to 15 minutes. This piling increases the weight on the lower slabs, which
forces more whey from the product. This process of piling the slabs on one another is
called cheddaring, the distinctive process in making Cheddar cheese.
h. Milling. After cheddaring, the slabs of cheese are run through a machine
called a mill which cuts the slabs into cubes about 1/2-inch in size. The purposes of
milling are to permit the further escape of whey, permit the curd to cool more quickly,
and provide more surface area for salting.
i. Salting. After the curd has been milled, it is spread over the bottom of the vat
and forked until the cut surfaces have dried slightly. Salt is then spread over the curd in
two or three applications. The amount of salt added varies, but it is usually about 2 1/2
pounds of salt per 1,000 pounds of milk.
j. Hooping and Pressing. After salting, the cheese cubes are ready to be
pressed and formed. The hooping and pressing operation is the same for Cheddar
cheese whether it is to be rindless or rinded and paraffin coated. Hooping is the placing
of the curd in hoops or molds lined with cheese cloth. Pressing is done by forming the
style or shape of the cheese under pressure. The pressure exerted may be up to 60
pounds per square inch for 14 to 16 hours.
k. Curing. Curing or aging is the process of holding the cheese for varying
periods of time under controlled temperature and humidity. The temperature range is
35 to 50F (2 to 10C), and the humidity must not exceed 80 percent. Both rindless
cheese and rinded and paraffin coated cheese are cured. Curing increases the acidity,
improves the flavor, changes protein to a more soluble form, and changes the body of
the cheese from a rubbery to a waxlike texture. The end item must contain no more
than 39 % moisture. The total solids must have at least 50% fat. For example, if the
cheese consists of 38% moisture and 62% solids, there must be a minimum of 31% fat.
Cheese is aged to increase the acidity, which further breaks down the protein. The
cheese increases in sharpness with age and this sharpness is due to the increase in
acid content of the cheese.