CeleBRIEting the science of cheese

A Moment of Science

Some of us may like to say cheese is a part of our daily lives, but that actually is the case for husband and wife team Pete and Heather Holmes who spend most of their time making, packaging, and selling cheese.

The different types of cheese here at the Charleston Artisan Cheesehouse have a similar backstory, beginning with milk. It may not look like it but milk isn’t just liquid, but a stable mixture of tiny bits of fat and protein suspended in water.

That doesn’t matter too much to us other than choosing how much fat we want in our milk. Whole. 2 percent. Or skim? But for cheesemakers like the Holmes, separating that mix of solid fat and water is the basis, and the science behind making cheese. 

The milk is helped through separation by two important additions: calcium chloride and rennet. Pete Holmes explains, “The calcium chloride enriches the milk, which helps the rennet coagulate faster. The milk separates into milk solid and whey, curds and whey. The whey is the liquid. We then drain the whey off, leaving just the milk solid, which is the curds. The curds then go into molds and that’s what forms the cheese.”

This is the basic process- but as we well know, cheeses drastically vary in taste and texture based on different starting bacteria cultures, different temperatures, and different aging times. The changes result in sharp, hard cheeses like cheddar or soft cheeses with a bloom like brie! This bloom, which eventually becomes a hard rind, shows that cheese is very much a living thing made of microbes!

Pete and Heather constantly manage and monitor both temperature and humidity to make sure their cheese stays happy through the process. A process with a basis in science that’s just a bit cheesy. 

Storm Team 2 Meteorologist David Dickson

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