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The production process
If we had to describe all the stages of our production process with one adjective, it would be: meticulous.
We receive the freshly milked milk from our Manchega sheep flock in a tank specially designed for our needs. The raw material enters the cheese dairy by gravity and is not pumped in order to preserve its nutritional and organoleptic properties as much as possible.
The milk is transformed from a liquid substance into a gel by the enzymatic reaction that takes place after the addition of rennet, in our case lamb rennet, to the tempered sheep’s milk. The coagulation happens in two phases: In the first, the rennet breaks down the kappa-casein protein in the milk, and in the second, these protein particles are combined with the remaining fatty and watery components to form the curd.
The purpose of cutting is to bring about the physical separation between the whey, which consists of water, salts, sugars, serum proteins and some fat, and the so-called curd grains, which contain most of the milk’s proteins and fats. Once the curd is cut, it is slightly heated and stirred to promote the gradual release of the whey mentioned above.
Moulding and pressing
The curd grains are taken to the draining tables and placed in the appropriate moulds with a cloth; the cloth helps the whey to escape by capillarity. The moulded cheese is then pressed until it has assumed its final shape and the ferments responsible for converting the lactose into lactic acid, a compound important for the taste and aroma of the cheese, take effect. Salting takes place in a brine room made of sea salt and water, where the substances (water, salts and minerals) are exchanged due to the difference in concentration between the cheese and the brine. Depending on the weight of the cheese, the salting times are adjusted.
During aeration, the cheese is stored at low temperatures and low relative humidity to lose much of its moisture and form the necessary rind that will protectit in the refining stage.
In this stage is when most of the biochemical reactions take place in the cheese and are responsible for taste and consistency.
The ripening chambers have slightly higher temperatures and relative humidity than the aeration chambers, and the ripening comes about on pine boards made by an artisan. The environment of each cheese is very specific: our master affineur controls the ripening process by successively turning, washing and brushing the rind according to the evolution of the pieces. During the first stages of ripening, the rind of the cheese takes on bluish-green or orange tones. Later, the structure of the cheese becomes more buttery in cheeses that undergo more proteolysis, or more crumbly in our harder cheeses. At the same time, lipolysis processes happens, which are responsible for the development of more complex flavours. The flavour of the cheese is given by the breakdown of sugars and their transformation into other compounds that produce sweet, toasted, citrus notes, among others.
To ensure that the consumer receives the product in optimum quality, it is packaged shortly before it reaches the consumer’s table. It is finally wrapped up in paper because it is simple and harmless.