Cheese Production in Brazil: Processes, Regulation and Conservation

Have you ever thought about everything that happens before that cheese you love reaches your table? From the way milk is used to maturation and preservation processes, different cheeses have different ways of preparation, what gives them unique flavor and characteristics.

Brazilian production covers a huge variety of cheeses, including typical products from the country, such as creamy cheese, Minas Frescal and rennet cheese, as well as those inspired by cheeses from other countries, such as mozzarella, plate, brie and parmesan. The differences can be in the milk itself, both in its origin, which can be from cow, goat or buffalo, or in its use: raw or pasteurized.

In artisanal production, raw milk is used. In industrial production, pasteurization is an important part of the cheese manufacturing process. For 15 to 20 seconds, the temperature is raised to 70 to 80 ° C, to eliminate the presence of microorganisms that can be harmful to health. Subsequently, the milk still goes through the stages of coagulation and cutting, stirring and heating, mold placement, pressing, salting and maturation, until the last one, the packaging one.

Not all cheeses go through all these stages, and the maturation times, which is one of the most important steps for ensuring that the cheese's flavor is guaranteed, vary. Most of the time, maturation takes place in cold rooms, with temperature and humidity control. Frescal cheeses have little or no maturation time, while soft or half-matured cheeses can be matured for up to two months. In the case of hard cheeses, such as cured Minas or Emmental cheese, maturation can take years.

Regulation of sale of artisanal cheeses

Artisanal cheese is a typical product of some states such as Minas Gerais, Rio Grande do Sul and Pernambuco, and is very important in generating jobs and maintaining income for the rural population. Small-scale production is usually carried out on family farms, which have cheese as their main source of livelihood. Often, the process is passed on from generation to generation, in order to maintain the unique characteristics of the product, which are related to the soil and climate of these regions.

In December 2011, after years of claims by industry professionals, Normative Instruction 57 was published, which for the first time instituted some type of regulation for the sector. Until then, due to the use of raw milk, artisanal production was not included in Brazilian legislation, which hindered sales and increased the costs of small producers.

With the Instruction, maturation for periods of less than 60 days is now allowed, as long as it is based on scientific studies and research, carried out by technical-scientific committees designated by the authorities. In addition, raw milk must be analyzed monthly in laboratory of the Brazilian Milk Network in order to detect clinical and subclinical mastitis. As for inspection, the cheese producing property must follow the rules of the Program for Good Milking and Manufacturing Practices.

Another important aspect is that the producer must be responsible for the chlorination and the potability control of the water used in its production. With regard to exports, it is necessary to meet the specific health requirements of the country to which the product is going to be exported.

Salting, curing and refrigeration

Cheese production is not simple: it requires ideal conditions of temperature, humidity and ventilation. Refrigeration, for example, is not only important when transporting and storing the product. Processes such as salting and maturation (curing) of the cheese also need temperature control.

Salting, usually done after pressing, can be done dry or by immersion in a brine bath. As well as salt concentration, temperature also plays a key role in ensuring that the flavor of each cheese is guaranteed. For salting cheese in brine, for example, the temperature range indicated is between 8º and 12ºC.

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After salting, the cheese goes through the drying process, then goes on to maturation or cure. This step is equally important in defining the taste of the product, as well as its appearance and texture. Like salting, curing takes place in cold chambers, at temperatures ranging from -14º to 7ºC, depending on the cheese. During the process, however, the temperature must remain accurate and constant, unless the product itself requires variations. Likewise, humidity must also be taken into account. With a very dry air, the cheese rind may crack. Very humid environments facilitate the proliferation of fungi, which compromises production.


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