The preparation of processed cheese started in Europe as early as the late 1890’s with commercial production in both Europe and the USA between 1910 and 1920. The limited shelf life of natural cheese around this time, mostly due to the absence of refrigeration, resulted in a pasteurisation technique being developed to extend the life of cheese products.
The basic principle of cheese processing is to produce a stable emulsion of butterfat droplets in a continuous hydrated protein phase. This is accomplished through the addition of emulsifying or processing salts such as Sodium Citrate or Sodium Phosphate which have no emulsifying capacity whatsoever but actually convert insoluble calcium para-casein in the natural cheese such a Cheddar to soluble Sodium Caseinate through the simple process of ion exchange.
This ion exchange process is combined with a pasteurisation process in continuous or batch cooking systems by means of direct steam injection to achieve a minimum temperature of 72°C for a period of 15 seconds.
Processing of cheese enables the cheesemaker to produce really functional properties in products to meet the exacting demands of todays consumer society. It enables the efficient production of cheese in a range of sizes, shapes, formats and functionality that is never possible to achieve with regular cheese.