Explore our cheese making process
Fewer things in life energise our team more than making the best cheese every day.
This is clearly seen throughout our process – perfecting recipes; carefully selecting the ideal starter culture; inquisitively following the cheddaring process and of course, respectfully and skilfully grading our cheeses. Added to this, we make significant investment into on-going improvements that will ensure Carbery meets the demands and needs of our customers.
We start with the highest quality milk, delivered freshly every day. There are two other special ingredients which help to make our great tasting cheeses; starter culture and rennet.
STARTER CULTURE: Cultures such as lactic acid bacteria are essential for producing lactic acid and creating the final cheddar cheese flavour and texture. Since 1968 we have developed the expertise to grow our own cultures and we’re one of the few remaining companies in Ireland to do this. With our own bank of cultures, we provide better opportunities to produce particular cheese recipes with specific flavours and texture.
RENNET: This is a vegetarian enzyme that clots the milk into a soft clot/gel in 30-40 mins. This enables it to be cut into curds and whey. Its added after the bacterial culture and once the vat is full of milk. We use a chymosin based rennet but can also use microbial types as requested by some customers. Our cheese is suitable for vegetarians.
We have 1400 farmers supplying high quality milk through the 4 Co-ops who also own our business. Their average herd size is 55 cows, producing in total 280,000 litres of sustainably sourced milk. Each farmer manages their farms with the help of their family, so we often have three generations working to provide us with the best quality milk.NEXT >
Irish cow's milk contains approximately 87.3% water, 5% lactose (carbohydrate), 3.5% fat, 3.5% protein, and 0.7% minerals. To make our cheddar and Dubliner brands, we typically use whole milk (3.5% fat). For our reduced fat varieties, we use skimmed milk (no more than 0.5% fat).NEXT >
Every farmer’s milk is tested against our rigorous quality standards before it is accepted onsite. Approved milk is pumped into a milk intake silo and further tested again for microbiological quality, protein, lactose and fat. Milk is usually made into cheese within 24hrs of arrival.NEXT >
All our milk is pasteurised for >72oC for 26 seconds.This is a food safety step to ensure all the milk is safe for consumption by destroying any microorganisms (pathogens) that may be present in raw milk and bacterial enzymes that potentially contribute to the reduced quality of the cheese. We adjust the fat and protein content depending on which recipe we’re making.NEXT >
The cheese vat stage takes approximately 3 hours to convert the milk to curds and whey. As the vats are filling with milk, we add the starter culture. (When we make our red cheddar, we add annatto colouring, a plant extract from the annatto bean which is suitable for vegetarians).
- Coagulation: Milk coagulates to form a clot (a soft gel) within 30-40mins.
- Cutting: When we achieve the right gel texture, the clot is cut to form curds & whey.
- Cooking: The curds are stirred and become firmer as we cook. The heat enhances acid production (important for taste) and removes moisture.
Curds and Whey
Once the correct pH is achieved, the cheese vats are emptied onto a screen which separates the curd from the whey, a process known as pitching. The curd is then moved along a belt and stirred to remove more whey liquid. This helps to control the cheese moisture. The curd is still warm ie > 30’C and will start to clump together. We use 2 possible cheddaring methods, a Tower or a belt system.NEXT >
The cheddaring process takes up to 2 hours. In the cheddaring tower. As it passes through the tower it continues to develop more acidity and it's critical for the final texture of the cheese.Upon exit from the bottom of the tower it is cut and milled into curd pieces. These are allowed to mellow before being blown to the blockformers. On the cheddaring belt. we can also cheddar our curd on an alfomatic belt system where the curd is allowed to further develop over 1-2 hours prior to milling, There is no compression of curd on this system and it lends itself to the development of different textures and flavours.NEXT >
The role of the blockformer is to compress the salted curd again into a solid shape – a 20kg cheese block. This is then vacuum-packed, boxed, X-rayed and put through a rapid cooler for 24hrs before being palletised.NEXT >
We have 6-8 highly trained Cheese graders from Carbery and the Ornua to grade our cheese. Cheese is first graded at 6-8 weeks and can be sold as mild or held for longer if the cheese has great potential to be classified as one of our more mature cheeses. A mild cheese is typically matured for 3-6 months, whereas the mature cheeses are held much longer; mature takes 9 months, extra mature takes 12 and our premium vintage cheese takes up to 2-years. During all that time, our graders are busy monitoring how the taste develops and typically regrade each cheese batch 2-4 times during maturation.NEXT >
Our cheese is stored so it can be matured until market ready. Carbery Cheese is shipped internationally and we retail to our local Irish market. Our cheese can be found on the shelf in your local supermarket as well as in many food service applications such as pizza toppings, in sandwiches.NEXT >
ach week we receive over 500 tankers delivering almost 400mLitres of fresh, sustainably sourced milk from our farm-owners. After rigorous quality analysis at intake, milk is pasturised before pumping to the cheddar vats where curds and whey are produced. Curds are fed to the Cheddarmaster where they are formed into cheddar cheese, and finally, packed into blocks for maturing in our cold stores. Depending on recipe, our cheese matures for 3 to 24 months, prior to dispatch to the international market place.NEXT >
Our milk is used to make our award-winning cheese, high quality dairy ingredients and our advanced whey proteins. During cheese production, we produce curds and whey. The cheese curd retains the fat and casein protein while the whey contains valuable nutrients, in particular whey proteins, lactose and minerals. We extract these nutrients, through advanced separation and filtration techniques, to produce the successful and highly nutritional Carbelac® range of whey protein concentrates used widely in the food and nutrition industry. We are always looking to introduce new techniques and optimise processes to ensure we achieve the best value from our milk.