Letters from the SCD support group:

RybarAssoc@aol.com wrote:
> Are the allowable cheeses lactose free? Is all of the lactose removed in the
> process of making it? What about butter?

Don't know about butter, but according to the Encyclopedia Britannica cheddar and Swiss cheeses are completely lactose-free, so the other cheeses Elaine says can be eaten freely probably are too. I've tried to attach the article -- look at the section called "ripening."

Food Processing: CHEESE

Primitive forms of cheese have been made since humans started domesticating animals.
No one knows exactly who made the first cheese, but, according to one ancient legend, it was made accidentally by an Arabian merchant crossing the desert. The merchant put his drinking milk in a bag made from a sheep's stomach. The natural rennin in the lining of the pouch, along with the heat from the sun, caused the milk to coagulate and then separate into curds and whey. At nightfall, the whey satisfied the man's thirst, and the curd (cheese) had a delightful flavour and satisfied his hunger.

From its birthplace in the Middle East, cheese making spread as far as England with the expansion of the Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages, monks and merchants of Europe made cheese an established food of that area. In 1620, cheese and cows were part of the ship's stores carried to North America by the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. Until the middle of the 19th century, cheese was a local farm product. Few, if any, distinct varieties of cheese were developed deliberately. Rather, cheese makers in each locality made a cheese that, when ripened under specific conditions of air temperature and humidity, mold, and milk source, acquired certain characteristics of its own. Different varieties appeared largely as a result of accidental changes or modifications in one or more steps of the cheese-making process. Because there was little understanding of the bacteriology and chemistry involved, these changes were little understood and difficult to duplicate. Cheese making was an art, and the process was a closely guarded secret that was passed down from one generation to the next.

With increasing scientific knowledge came a greater understanding of the bacteriological and chemical changes that are necessary to produce many types of cheese. Thus, it has become possible to control more precisely each step in the cheese-making process and to manufacture a more uniform product. Cheese making is now a science as well as an art.

Fundamentals of cheese making.

Figure 30

The cheese-making process consists of removing a major part of the water contained in fresh fluid milk while retaining most of the solids. Since storage life increases as water content decreases, cheese making can also be considered a form of food preservation through the process of milk fermentation. The fermentation of milk into finished cheese requires several essential steps: preparing and inoculating the milk with lactic-acid-producing bacteria, curdling the milk, cutting the curd, shrinking the curd (by cooking), draining or dipping the whey, salting, pressing, and ripening. These steps, which are illustrated in Figure 30, begin with four basic ingredients: milk, microorganisms, rennet, and salt.

Inoculation and curdling.

Milk for cheese making must be of the highest quality. Because the natural microflora present in milk frequently include undesirable types called psychrophiles, good farm sanitation and pasteurization or partial heat treatment are important to the cheese-making process. In addition, the milk must be free of substances that may inhibit the growth of acid-forming bacteria (e.g., antibiotics and sanitizing agents). Milk is often pasteurized to destroy pathogenic microorganisms and to eliminate spoilage and defects induced by bacteria. However, since pasteurization destroys the natural enzymes found in milk, cheese produced from pasteurized milk ripens less rapidly and less extensively than most cheese made from raw or lightly heat-treated milk.

During pasteurization, the milk may be passed through a standardizing separator to adjust the fat-to-protein ratio of the milk. In some cases the cheese yield is improved by concentrating protein in a process known as ultrafiltration. The milk is then inoculated with fermenting microorganisms and rennet, which promote curdling.

The fermenting microorganisms carry out the anaerobic conversion of lactose to lactic acid. The type of organisms used depends on the variety of cheese and on the production process. Rennet is an enzymatic preparation that is usually obtained from the fourth stomach of calves. It contains a number of proteolytic (protein-degrading) enzymes, including rennin and pepsin. Some cheeses, such as cottage cheese and cream cheese, are produced by acid coagulation alone. In the presence of lactic acid, rennet, or both, the milk protein casein clumps together and precipitates out of solution; this is the process known as curdling, or coagulation. Coagulated casein assumes a solid or gellike structure (the curd), which traps most of the fat, bacteria, calcium, phosphate, and other particulates. The remaining liquid (the whey) contains water, proteins resistant to acidic and enzymatic denaturation (e.g., antibodies), carbohydrates (lactose), and minerals.

Lactic acid produced by the starter culture organisms has several functions. It promotes curd formation by rennet (the activity of rennet requires an acidic pH), causes the curd to shrink, enhances whey drainage (syneresis), and helps prevent the growth of undesirable microorganisms during cheese making and ripening. In addition, acid affects the elasticity of the finished curd and promotes fusion of the curd into a solid mass. Enzymes released by the bacterial cells also influence flavour development during ripening.

Salt is usually added to the curd. In addition to enhancing flavour, it helps to withdraw the whey from the curd and inhibits the growth of undesirable microorganisms.

Cutting and shrinking.

After the curd is formed, it is cut with fine wire "knives" into small cubes approximately one centimetre (one-half inch) square. The curd is then gently heated, causing it to shrink. The degree of shrinkage determines the moisture content and the final consistency of the cheese. Whey is removed by draining or dipping. The whey may be further processed to make whey cheeses (e.g., ricotta) or beverages, or it may be dried in order to preserve it as a food ingredient.


Most cheese is ripened for varying amounts of time in order to bring about the chemical changes necessary for transforming fresh curd into a distinctive aged cheese. These changes are catalyzed by enzymes from three main sources: rennet or other enzyme preparations of animal or vegetable origin added during coagulation, microorganisms that grow within the cheese or on its surface, and the cheese milk itself. The ripening time may be as short as one month, as for Brie, or a year or more, as in the case of sharp cheddar.

The ripening of cheese is influenced by the interaction of bacteria, enzymes, and physical conditions in the curing room. The speed of the reactions is determined by temperature and humidity conditions in the room as well as by the moisture content of the cheese. In most cheeses lactose continues to be fermented to lactic acid and lactates, or it is hydrolyzed to form other sugars. As a result, aged cheeses such as Emmentaler and cheddar have no residual lactose.

In a similar manner, proteins and lipids (fats) are broken down during ripening. The degree of protein decomposition, or proteolysis, affects both the flavour and the consistency of the final cheese. It is especially apparent in Limburger and some blue-mold ripened cheeses. Surface-mold ripened cheeses, such as Brie, rely on enzymes produced by the white Penicillium camemberti mold to break down proteins from the outside. When lipids are broken down (as in Parmesan and Romano cheeses), the process is called lipolysis.

The eyes, or holes, typical of Swiss-type cheeses such as Emmentaler and Gruyère come from a secondary fermentation that takes place when, after two weeks, the cheeses are moved from refrigerated curing to a warmer room, where temperatures are in the range of 20° to 24° C (68° to 75° F). At this stage, residual lactates provide a suitable medium for propionic acid bacteria (Propionibacterium shermanii) to grow and generate carbon dioxide gas. Eye formation takes three to six weeks. Warm-room curing is stopped when the wheels develop a rounded surface and the echo of holes can be heard when the cheese is thumped. The cheese is then moved back to a cold room, where it is aged at about 7° C (45° F) for 4 to 12 months in order to develop its typical sweet, nutty flavour.

The unique ripening of blue-veined cheeses comes from the mold spores Penicillium roqueforti or P. glaucum, which are added to the milk or to the curds before pressing and are activated by air. Air is introduced by "needling" the cheese with a device that punches about 50 small holes into the top. These air passages allow mold spores to grow vegetative cells and spread their greenish blue mycelia, or threadlike structures, through the cheese. Penicillium molds are also rich in proteolytic and lipolytic enzymes, so that during ripening a variety of trace compounds also are produced, such as free amines, amino acids, carbonyls, and fatty acids--all of which ultimately affect the flavour and texture of the cheese. (see also Index: blue cheese )

Surface-ripened cheeses such as Gruyère, brick, Port Salut, and Limburger derive their flavour from both internal ripening and the surface environment. For instance, the high-moisture wiping of the surface of Gruyère gives that cheese a fuller flavour than its Emmentaler counterpart. Specific organisms, such as Brevibacterium linens, in Limburger cheese result in a reddish brown surface growth and the breakdown of protein to amino nitrogen. The resulting odour is offensive to some, but the flavour and texture of the cheese are pleasing to many. (see also Index: flavouring)

Not all cheeses are ripened. Cottage, cream, ricotta, and most mozzarella cheeses are ready for sale as soon as they are made. All these cheeses have sweet, delicate flavours and often are combined with other foods.

Varieties of cheese.

As a result of the many combinations of milks, cultures, enzymes, molds, and technical processes, literally hundreds of varieties of cheese are made throughout the world. The different types of cheese can be classified in many ways; the most effective is probably according to hardness or ripening method. Table 11 groups several varieties of cheese based on these criteria

In recent years different types of cheese have been combined in order to increase variety and consumer interest. For example, soft and mildly flavoured Brie is combined with a more pungent semisoft cheese such as blue or Gorgonzola. The resulting

"Blue-Brie" has a bloomy white edible rind, while its interior is marbled with blue Penicillium roqueforti mold. The cheese is marketed under various names such as Bavarian Blue, Cambazola, Lymeswold, and Saga Blue. Another combination cheese is Norwegian Jarlsberg. This cheese results from a marriage of the cultures and manufacturing procedures for Dutch Gouda and Swiss Emmentaler.

Pasteurized process cheese.

Some natural cheese is made into process cheese, a product in which complete ripening is halted by heat. The resulting product has an indefinite shelf life. Most process cheese is used in food service outlets and other applications where convenient, uniform melting is required.

Pasteurized process cheese is made by grinding and mixing natural cheese with other ingredients, such as water, emulsifying agents, colouring, fruits, vegetables, or meat. The mixture is then heated to temperatures of 165° F (74° C) and stirred into a homogeneous, plastic mass. Process cheese foods, spreads, and products differ from process cheese in that they may contain other ingredients, such as nonfat dry milk, cheese whey, and whey protein concentrates, as well as additional amounts of water.

American cheddar is processed most frequently. However, other cheeses such as washed-curd, Colby, Swiss, Gruyère, and Limburger are similarly processed. In a slight variation, cold pack or club cheese is made by grinding and mixing together one or more varieties of cheese without heat. This cheese food may contain added flavours or ingredients. (D.K.B.) (see also Index: Emmentaler) Copyright © 1994-1998 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

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