To make a good piece of cheese, curds must be made to love each other. Without a helping hand from a cheesemaker-slash-curdy-matchmaker, curds can remain aloof and choose to stay single, eventually living in a house with a zebra print rug, a bar built into the bedroom, and window blinds that can be moved with a remote control. To make cheese, we need closeness. Intimacy. We need to get those curds on the same wavelength. For this to happen, the curds must knit. This does not mean they whip out their needles and knit-one-perl-two a scarf to sell on their Etsy shop. In the cheese world, knitting means encouraging curd particles to fuse together into one giant mass, e.g., your cheese. This fusion occurs in three ways:
- Vat knitting: Curds are placed in a large tank and the whey is drained out slowly, though a series of holes.
- Vessel draining: Curds are placed in a basket or bag and forced into a particular shape as the whey drains out.
- Pressed: Cheeses are placed in baskets or molds with a weight placed on top to push out whey and form a denser cheese.
One or all of these processes can be used, sometimes many times and sometimes simultaneously. Cheddaring is an additional process that encourages a higher pH level, and the end product is a denser, drier, sharper cheese. For cheddaring, curds are allowed to knit in a vat until they coalesce into huge slabs that can be as thick as your thigh. These chunks are then stacked on top of each other to force out even more whey. Next they’re milled down into tiny bits before salting, pressing, and curing. The result is a sharp cheese, the likes of Fiscalini, Grafton, and Cabot. To make the process a bit more clear, here’s a nifty video of cheddaring via the milling process set to a Lady Gaga soundtrack (as it darn well should be).