soft cheeses

There are two main types of soft cheeses, ripened and unripened. Rainy Lanes offers the unripened varieties.

Unripened, or fresh cheeses, differ from the ripened varieties in that they are ready for consumption as soon as the manufacturing process is complete, there is no maturing period involved. They have a high moisture content (between 55% and 80%) and the range includes low fat, medium fat or high fat soft cheeses, cream cheese and fromage frais.

Although some differences exist in manufacture between the varieties of soft cheeses, as a general guide, the following basic principles apply. In large scale manufacture, milk used for soft cheesemaking is usually heat treated to destroy any harmful bacteria which may be present, and is sometimes homogenised to ensure that the cheese is of uniform fat content.

Starter cultures (beneficial bacteria) which initiate the production of lactic acid from lactose and naturally occurring sugar in the milk, are then introduced to achieve the desired level of acidity (pH) and flavour profile. As the lactic acid concentration increases, it has the effect of curdling the milk, producing particles which mass together to form a soft curd. The coagulation can be assisted by the addition of a little rennet (a natural extract from microbial sources). Heating facilitates the removal of whey, which is partially drained from the curd. Salt may then be incorporated and the cheese is finally packed.

Fromage Frais and soft cheeses are very versatile products, that can be used in sandwiches, dips, sauces, toppings and desserts.

Soft Cheese may be manufactured with a range of milk fat contents starting with skimmed milk soft cheese containing less than 2% butterfat to full fat soft cheese which contains at least 20% butterfat. Stabilisers and emulsifiers are added to some recipes to aid functionality in further processing steps.

Cream Cheese is a soft cheese with a buttery texture and rich, full, mildly acidic flavour containing not less than 45% butterfat.

Fromage Frais literally meaning fresh cheese, originated in France where it is widely used as a dessert. When the correct pH is reached, the curd is separated from the whey and cooled. Salt and cream may be added to produce finished products with fat content, which varies from less than 1 % to 8%. It is rich in nutrients, containing protein, vitamins, calcium, and other minerals.