Pasteurised milk is pumped into fully enclosed 13,000-litre cheese vats which each produce 1350-1400kg of finished cheese. Starter bacteria (bacteria that produce lactic acid) are added to the milk, which is heated to 30C and allowed to incubate for 40 minutes. A clotting agent is added which causes the milk to set, similar to junket, in about 30 minutes.
When the right firmness is reached, the curd is cut into 1.5cm cubes which liberates the whey. The cubes are heated and stirred for about 90 minutes until the mix reaches the desired acid level.
The curd and whey are pumped from the vat onto a drying belt in the cheddaring unit. The whey is drained away for use in manufacturing ricotta cheese. The curd is allowed to fuse (the cheddaring process) for about 45 minutes.
Once the cheese maker decides the acid development is right, the curd is cut into long chips, 6x2x2cm, salted and pumped into stainless steel towers where it is pressed under vacuum into 18.5 kg blocks. These are placed in plastic bags, evacuated, sealed and packed into metal containers before entering the maturing room at 8C.
After a month, samples are graded to determine its stage and speed of development. The cheese maker judges how long each batch will be matured.
Mild cheese is left for between two and three months, semi-matured for three to five months, mature for six months and vintage for 10 to 12 months. When the cheese has reached its desired maturity, it is packed and vacuum sealed for dispatch.
Ricotta cheese is produced by separating the protein in the cheese whey. The whey is concentrated by ultra-filtration and heated to very high temperatures, causing agglomeration and separation of the protein.