We start early in the morning by bringing milk up from the farm bulk tank into our round, Dutch cheese vat. The milk is gently heated to pasteurisation temperature, and cooled down to our cheesemaking temperature. We then add our cultures to begin the milk’s fermentation.
Over the next 90 minutes or so, we hold the milk at a constant temperature while the cultures multiply which start converting the milk’s lactose into lactic acid.
We measure the lactic acid production and once it has reached the desired level we add traditional animal rennet. The rennet coagulates the liquid milk which sets like a jelly. After around 50 minutes we look at the firmness of the set and measure the temperature and pH. When we are happy with the set, we begin to cut the curd to release the whey. The hundreds of thousands of curd cubes sit at the bottom of the vat for a few minutes to rest. We then very slowly start to stir the curds in the whey, being careful not to damage the curd structure, but to keep the particles separate and free from one another.
Again, we take the temperature and pH of the curd, and constantly feel it for readiness. We draw off some of the whey until we begin to see the curds below, and the moulding can begin. We fill perforated cheese moulds with the curds, and the whey freely drains away. The curds knit together as they drain which forms the new cheeses. The new cheeses are turned over in the moulds repeatedly throughout the afternoon to help create a cheese which is well drained of whey and is evenly shaped.
The following morning, the cheeses are taken out of their moulds and salted. Once the cheeses have taken their salt, the new Rollrights are wrapped in a strap of spruce cambium (the layer between a tree's bark and wood) to maintain the structure of the cheese during ripening. Now the ripening can commence.
During the first few days of the cheese’s existence, yeasts begin to colonise its surface as any residual whey dries off. The yeast development at this point in ripening is important for the following reasons:
Firstly, the yeasts form the structural foundations of the rind.
Secondly, they contribute to the flavours and aromas of the cheese.
Thirdly, as the yeasts grow, they de-acidify the surface of the cheese, creating an environment which is more hospitable for the next sequence in the microbial composition of the rind.
Between four and six days after the make date, the young Rollrights are usually ready for their first rind wash. With soft bristled brushes, or small cloths, we apply a brine solution to the surface of the cheese. This washing process maintains a high level of moisture and salinity on the cheese surface, which when combined with the neutralised pH from the yeast growth, provides a good growing medium for specific species of bacteria which we want to develop over the outside of cheese.
The species which we are aiming to cultivate at this point create volatile aroma compounds, rich and savoury flavours, and pigment the rind anywhere from pale-peach to brick-red. We wash the cheeses every second or third day, depending on how they are ripening.
After around four weeks of having been turned daily, and washed every few days, the cheeses will have well established and healthy rinds, and the curd directly below the rind should be beginning to softer as it breaksdown.
The Rollrights are now moved from the ripening room, where they have been kept at high humidity and a relatively warm temperature, into a cooler maturation environment, where they are wrapped and stored ready for dispatch.