Cheese expenditure in the UK has been on the rise over the last 10 years and currently stands at £2.81 billion, with soft cheese accounting for a significant proportion of that figure. There’s little surprise then that the Meadow Foods team at Holme on Spalding Moor was pleased to be adding soft cheese to the company’s growing product portfolio.
The versatile soft cheese can be spread over bread, baked potatoes, stuffed into meats, mushrooms and peppers and even used to make cakes. But what exactly is soft cheese? As there is some debate over whether the spread is technically a cheese or a cream.
This confusion arises from the higher fat of content, its texture and the ingredients that go into the making of soft cheese as opposed to other, more conventional cheeses.
Well after consulting with experts the verdict is in; soft cheese is without doubt, a cheese! The great news however is that it is a hugely versatile soft cheese that can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes from cheese cakes and icings through to spreads for bagels or with delicious canapés. It’s soft texture also makes it easy to work with and a staple in food manufacturing sites as well as restaurants, professional kitchens or caterers’ cupboards.
Soft cheese is an unripened variety of cheese with a slightly acidic and mild diacetyl taste. With its distinct, smooth taste and many different uses the product is a very popular staple in many people’s diets across Britain. Its consistency ranges from hard to spreadable and is usually sold as either hot packed soft cheese or the treated curd variety, which is packaged directly as cold-pack soft cheese.
The product is relatively easy to make (and is often even made at home), however the challenge in the manufacturing process is to produce a consistent and reliable product. To achieve the creaminess, lactic acid bacteria are added to pasteurized milk during the fermentation process at around 22 °C (72 °F) to decrease the pH of the milk (becoming more acidic). This process also makes the amino acids on the surface of the milk proteins lose their charge and become neutral which in turn causes the milk to coagulate.
If the bacteria are left in the milk too long, the pH lowers further and the product can return to liquid form. The key therefore is to kill the bacteria by heating the mixture to 52–63 °C (126–145 °F) at the moment the cheese is at the right point. Inaccurate timing of the heating can produce inferior or unsalable cheese due to variations in flavor and texture.
At Meadow Foods we’re experts in manufacturing bulk dairy ingredients from our three UK factories based in Chester, Yorkshire and Holme on Spalding Moor. The team in Holme on Spalding Moor who are responsible for manufacturing the business’ cultured dairy range have perfected the soft cheese making process to deliver a consistent and quality product every time. There’s little wonder why there are so many smiles in the factory now, you just have to say “soft cheese”.