In two February 9 US patents, 6183805: 'Continuous manufacture of process cheese' and 6183804: 'Continuous on-demand manufacture of process cheese,' technology can be seen to be working hand in hand with marketing. One patent deals with making cheese without using enzymes, cultures or microorganisms, clearly targeted at vegetarian and health conscious consumers. The other, if successful, will structurally change this industry: cheesemaking in two steps which can be done after a timelag, and at separate locations.

The inventors of the two patents are teams at Kraft Foods, both led by James Moran.

Other technological players in cheese are Schreiber Foods, Bongrain, Snow Brand Milk Products, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization/Australian Dairy Corporation, Commonwealth of Australia Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Société d'Assistance Technique pour Produits Nestlé and Pasilac.

6183805:
Abstract:

    A method for producing a cheese product directly from milk in a short period of time is provided. In the method, pasteurized milk is treated with lactic acid to provide an acidified milk product. The resulting acidified milk is then subjected to ultrafiltration (UF), and optionally diafiltration (DF), to form a UF retentate (or UF/DF retentate if diafiltration is used) which is concentrated by about a factor of about 4 to about 7 and which has a lactose concentration of about 2.5 to about 4.0 percent (UF retentate) or about 0.5 to about 2.5 percent (UF/DF retentate). After adding lactic acid and salt, the UF or UF/DF retentate is subject to an evaporation step to form a precheese. The resulting precheese has a total solid content of about 30 to about 70 percent. The precheese, with added flavorants and other additives (including, for example, emulsifying salts) is then subject to conventional cheese processing conditions in, for example, a laydown cooker. The resulting process cheese or process cheese-type product is ready for immediate packaging and does not require a separate curing step. The process cheese or process cheese-type product is similar in flavor and texture characteristics to conventional process cheeses.

First of 12 Claims:

A method for producing a process cheese-type product directly from milk, said method comprising:

    (a) treating pasteurized milk with a first edible acid to obtain acidified milk having a pH in the range of about 5.9 to about 6.5;
    (b) reducing the lactose content of the acidified milk to about 2.5 to about 4.0 percent and increasing the solids content to about 15 to about 50 percent using ultrafiltration to obtain a UF retentate;
    (c) adjusting the pH of the UF retentate to about 4.9 to about 6.3 percent by the addition of a second edible acid to form a treated UF retentate;
    (d) removing sufficient water from the treated UF retentate by evaporation to obtain a precheese having a total solid content of about 30 to about 70 percent; and
    (e) blending emulsifiers and flavor additives with the precheese at a temperature of about 150 to about 240' F. for a time sufficient to obtain a homogenous process cheese-type product;
    wherein enzymes, cultures, or microorganisms are not employed and
    wherein there is no formation or separation of curds and whey.

(Emphasis is by the author of this story, not in the patent).

6183804
Abstract:

    A two stage, on-demand, commercially-viable method for producing process cheese or process cheese-type products by the direct conversion of milk is provided. This method does not require fermentation, enzymatic treatment, and/or intermediate steps of forming and separating curds and whey. In the first stage, a powdered milk protein concentrate is form by ultrafiltering liquid milk, preferably skim milk, and then spray drying the concentrated ultrafiltered milk. The powdered milk protein concentrate, which is storage-stable, may be converted to process cheese or process cheese-type product immediately or may be stored for later conversion. The powdered milk    protein concentrate can be used to produce fat-free, reduced-or low-fat, and/or full-fat cheeses having similar organoleptic properties to cheeses prepared from conventional curds and whey processes.
    The present two stage process is especially adapted for semi-continuous or continuous manufacture of process cheese-type products. The present two stage process is especially adapted for on-demand manufacture of process cheese or process cheese-type product since the milk protein concentrate can be stored for later conversion to cheese product. By converting the milk to a storage-stable milk protein concentrate, the manufacturing of cheese products is uncoupled from, and is independent of, the milk supply.

First of 15 Claims:

A method for producing a process cheese-type product directly from milk wherein the process cheese-type product has a predetermined level of fat, said method comprising a first stage and a second stage, wherein the first stage comprises:

    (a) reducing the lactose content of the milk to about 2.5 to about 4.0 percent and increasing the solids content to about 15 to about 50  percent using ultrafiltration or reducing the lactose content of the milk to about 0.5 to about 2.5 percent and increasing the solids content to about 15 to about 50 percent using ultrafiltration with diafiltration; and
    (b) spray drying the product of step (a) at an elevated temperature to form a powdered milk protein concentrate which is storage-stable; and wherein the second stage comprises;
    (A) hydrating the powdered milk protein concentrate from the first stage by mixing the powdered milk protein concentrate with water at a temperature of about 35 to about 150° F. to form a hydrated milk protein mixture;
    (B) adjusting the pH of the hydrated milk protein mixture to about 4.8 to
    about 5.5 by adding an edible acid and adjusting the fat content of the process cheese-type product to the predetermined level by adding fat to the hydrated milk protein mixture at a temperature of about 100 to about 140° F.;
    (C) treating the hydrated milk protein mixture from step (B) with shear to form fresh cheese;
    (D) blending flavor additives with the fresh cheese;
    (E) blending emulsifiers with the flavored fresh cheese at a temperature of about 150 to about 240° F. for a time sufficient to obtain the homogenous process cheese-type product having the predetermined level of fat;
    wherein enzymes, enzyme cultures, or microorganisms are not employed and wherein there is no formation or separation of curds and whey.

By Navroz Havewala, just-food.com correspondent