How Queso Castellano is made
The techniques used when handling the milk and cheese, the production control, and the maturing and conservation processes used ensure that the cheeses obtained are of the highest quality, and that they retain the traditional characteristics of cheese sold under the "Queso Castellano" brand name.
- Preparation of the milk: The milk used to make the different cheeses can either be raw or pasteurised. After the milk reaches the factory it is unloaded, and then passed through a strainer to remove any impurities before being stored in a refrigerated storage tank where it will be kept until it is used.
- Addition of rennet, coagulation: The milk is heated in the cheese vat until it reaches the temperature at which it coagulates (between 27ºC and 37ºC), at which point natural rennet, or other coagulating enzymes permitted by the legislation in force, are added in order to coagulate the milk. During this stage lactic acid bacteria and additives permitted by the legislation in force may be added if considered necessary. This process lasts for approximately 15 to 55 minutes.
- Cutting the curd: The curd obtained is cut into particles of varying sizes, depending on the type of cheese. Next the mass is gently stirred while simultaneously being reheated until it reaches a temperature no higher than 38ºC. As a result of these processes the curd is properly drained.
- Draining, stirring, heating: the cutting and stirring of the curd produces whey in the vat which is separated from the curd using perforated strainers which let the whey through while retaining the curd particles. Heating the curd to a temperature of no higher than 38ºC helps the curd to expel the whey as it causes the curd particles to contract, while at the same time the pH decreases due to the growth of lactic bacteria, and the particles acquire greater firmness.
- Moulding and pressing: After the whey has been expelled the curd is inserted into cylindrical moulds. These are of a specific size to ensure that the cheeses are the shape, size, and weight specified in article 17 after they have matured. After this they are pressed, in presses specifically designed for this purpose.
- Salting: The salting process can either be done by brine salting or by dry salting, although at times a combination of both can be used. Only sodium chloride is used, and the process lasts for a maximum of 72 hours in the case of immersion in brine solutions. This stage is omitted for salt-free cheeses.
- Drying: Process during which a series of physical-chemical processes take place which promote water loss and the development of the characteristic aromas and flavours of each type of cheese. It is carried out in ripening rooms or premises specifically adapted for this purpose. They have a relative humidity of between 65% to 95% and a temperature which ranges from 3ºC to 18º C throughout the maturation process.
- Maduration: the cheeses are stored in premises with appropriate facilities and conditions, and which have a temperature of less than 15ºC and a relative humidity of between 70%-95%. They will remain in these storage rooms until they are sent for sale.
Cheeses which are sold under the "Queso Castellano" brand name will be washed and turned regularly during maturation and conservation to help them acquire their unique characteristics.