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From milk to cheese

In order to guarantee fresh milk processing, the milk must be delivered to the dairy twice a day. Tête de Moine AOP is produced in nine village dairies which use modern procedures, but also traditional and time-consuming methods to make the cheese. The know-how of the cheese-makers from the Swiss Jura is of paramount importance in every step of the making of Tête de Moine AOP as described in the following chapter.

 

Milk delivery

The milk used to make Tête de Moine AOP has to be of impeccable quality and from the AOP region. The only admissible treatment is a slight skimming. The milk is not pasteurised, but used raw so as to preserve its full flavour, taste and aroma that give this cheese its unique character. The milk is collected and processed within the AOP region, just a few kilometres away from the cheese dairies, and it is supplied to the cheese dairies twice a day. To preserve its quality, the milk is processed as soon as possible, 24 hours after milking at the latest. The village dairies process the milk according to traditional procedures the requirements of which are set down in the AOP specifications and guarantee absolutely fresh raw material.

Rennet curdling

First the milk has to be tested, then it is poured into a copper vat and carefully stirred so that the supplies of the evening before and the morning can mix well, i.e. have the same temperature, but do not exceed 38°C, which is the natural temperature of the milk flowing from the cows' udders. Then the rennet, a natural product, is added which curdles the milk. The curdling solidifies the milk to a jelly-like mass in about 30 minutes.

Heating

The jelly-like curd is cut with a cheese harp to form grains and to separate the whey. The cheese mass is heated to 46-53°C which removes the water from the cheese grains.

Moulding and pressing

The cheese mass is now filtered or pumped off and pressed into moulds to form small cylinder-shaped Tête de Moine AOP wheels. The moulds are about twice the size of the cheese since the curd still contains a lot of water. The cheese is pressed and turned until the whey has been drained off. Then a casein mark, showing at least the accreditation number of the dairy and the production date, is affixed onto each cheese so that they may be traced back to their origin.

Brine bath

The cheese wheels from the previous day are immersed in a brine bath for at least 12 hours. By absorbing salt they expel more water, the rind starts forming and the maturing period begins.

Storage and maturing

The young cheeses are put onto pine boards and mature for at least 75 days in a humid cheese cellar (about 90% humidity) at a temperature of about 13-14°C within the geographical AOP region. During that time they have to be cared for and turned regularly.

The cheeses are brushed with a mixture of saline and bacteria culture so that they form a smear on their rind, a process that promotes maturing from the exterior to the interior of the cheese. No colours or chemical surface treating agents are allowed.