Learning Objectives

  • Describe how the different factors of milk composition and quality influence cheese production
  • Articulate and understand the relationship between acid production and calcium, and how this influences everything in cheese production
  • Explore fundamental concepts of rennet, curdling methods, starter culture, ripening cultures, and salt
  • Describe farmstead methods for cheese production and techniques to be productive even on a small scale
  • Explore problem-solving tools and R&D methods including experiments, data collection, and the necessary tools
  • Explore Good Manufacturing Practices for farmstead milk production and cheesemaking
  • Explore food safety monitoring and testing programs for farmstead milk production and cheesemaking

Weekly Module Topics

  • Week 1 – Cheese and Culture: Students will explore the history and origins of cheesemaking, focusing mainly on the last century of making cheese in the United States and how this fits into the resurgence of artisan cheese. After listening to the stories of a handful of the best cheesemakers in Vermont, students will discuss the qualities and characteristics of a good cheesemaker.
  • Week 2 – Milk Chemistry and Quality: Students will learn how to identify the major characteristics and components of milk, as well as learn how the quality of the milk directly correlates to the quality of the final product.
  • Week 3 – 10 Steps of Cheesemaking: This module will categorize the 10 major steps in cheesemaking. Using three examples of cheeses (bloomy rind, cheddar, and alpine), students will compare how each step changes the course of the production and therefore the result of the final product.
  • Week 4 – Starter Culture and Acidification: The role of starter culture in the cheesemaking process will be examined in this module. By exploring the major varieties of commercial starter cultures that are available for farmstead cheesemakers, students will learn about the different adjunct and ripening cultures, and the roles they play throughout the production and aging process. Cheesemakers using traditional methods of making their own starter culture will be examined and students will discuss how these can be used in small-scale cheese operations.
  • Week 5 – Rennet and Coagulation: Students will discover the chemistry of rennet and coagulation. After learning what happens to the components of milk and the chemistry behind coagulation, students will examine different techniques for measuring and monitoring how much rennet to add, as well as techniques for determining cut time. Students will discover how and why this changes seasonally, depending on what type of cheese is being made, and the type of milk being used.
  • Week 6 – Salting and Molding: Students will compare major techniques of salting (brining, dry salting) to learn how salt influences the final cheese product. By exploring the chemistry of salt, students will understand what it is doing during production and throughout aging. Students will learn how to calculate the amount of salt needed for both direct salting and for maintaining brines.
  • Week 7 – Grading and Sensory Evaluation: Building on the previous modules in cheese production, this module will connect production to the grading and tasting process. Students will identify the key factors when creating a tasting program such as when to taste, who should be tasting, and what to be looking for. Different tools will be explored for tracking and monitoring the tasting program, including spider graphs and calibration kits.
  • Week 8 – Lab Practices and Continuous Improvement: This module examines the importance of continuous improvements in order to make a high quality product. Different in-house and external testing options that should be used to track quality will be discussed, as well as how to analyze the results. Students will look at examples of major common defects to identify points when quality was compromised and the best ways to avoid these situations.