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pH important for world-class hard cheese

Published 2022-08-10

pH important for world-class hard cheese

Almnäs mill
The former distillery at Almnäs Bruk produces 50 tons of world-class hard cheese annually.

Almnäs Bruk in Hjo on the western shore of Lake Vättern produces Sweden’s oldest cheese brand and hard cheese that is among the best in the world. The farm dairy has increased production rates to meet growing demand from customers around the world.

We had a chat with Kerstin Johansson, cheesemaker at Almnäs Bruk, where a long tradition of craftsmanship lives on in a modern, sustainable spirit.

Can you tell us briefly about Almnäs Village?
– Almnäs Bruk is first mentioned in a monk’s letter from August 14, 1225. To celebrate this, we have a cheese called Anno 1225. Almnäs Bruk has been run by the Berglund family for four generations and is today an organic and environmentally certified farm with agriculture and forestry, milk production and cheese making.

How long have you been making cheese?
– Cheese has been made here since the mid-1830s. Wrångebäck, the cheese we produce most, was registered in 1889 and is Sweden’s oldest cheese brand.

– The current cheese factory is the fourth of its kind and was set up in 2008 after cheese production had been suspended since 1961. We are located in the old distillery on the farm. So if we get tired of cheese, we can always switch to cheese (laughs).

How many types of cheese do you make and how big is the production?
– We make four different cheeses. Wrångebäck and Almnäs Tegel we make the most of. In addition, we also produce Almnäs 1 liter and Anno 1225. We currently make about 50 tons of cheese per year.

All cheeses have a clear historical link. Is it important to you?
– It is very important that there is a connection to the farm and that each cheese has a history. Almnäs Tegel, for example, is named after a former brickworks on the farm. 35-40% of our cheese is exported, including to North America, where they are very interested in the history of the cheese and really go for it.

You have won several awards over the years. Which award are you most proud of?
– The coolest success was when we took fourth place in the World Cheese Awards with Almnäs Tegel. We competed with 3 472 cheeses from 41 countries, including Gruyère, Comté, Parmigiano Reggiano (better known as Parmesan).

Kerstin measures PH

The pH meter is our most important tool.

Kerstin Johansson


What makes cheese making so interesting and exciting?
– Even though I’ve been making cheese since 1990, I’ll never be fully trained. I am constantly facing new challenges and learning new things. Milk is such a living and breathing commodity that is highly influenced by what cows eat, how they feel, milking hygiene and so on. And by changing some small parameter, like temperature or the lactic acid culture used, you can change the cheesemaking process and thus the cheese. It is so fascinating how such a small change can make such a big difference. Mastering the raw material and craftsmanship is what I find so cool and exciting about cheese making.

You have two testo 206-pH2. Where do you use them in production?
– We always start the day by taking the pH of the milk we use to make the cheese. We then pour the milk into a large pot and add lactic acid culture which consumes the lactose and lowers the pH. After about an hour, rennet is added, allowing the milk to solidify into curd. Then, before breaking the cheese, i.e. using a harp (frame with thin cutting blades) and dividing the mass into small cubes, we check the pH value again to make sure the milk has the right acidity.

What should the pH be and how does it affect the cheese?
– The most important pH value is the one measured when we take the cheeses out of the molds on day two. Then we should have a pH of between 5.1 and 5.3 – depending on the cheese we make. By then, the lactic acid culture and bacteria should have “eaten” all the lactose and lowered the pH as much as possible. A cheese that has a low pH when we take it out of the mold will have a more brittle texture. A higher pH makes the cheese a little more elastic and springy when it has been aged for some time. If the pH is a bit high, we may have to let the lactic acid bacteria work for a while longer and maybe even increase the heat in the fermenter to speed up the process.

How are the cheeses prepared and how long do you store them?
– After heating and stirring the curd to release the whey and get the pH and consistency we want, the curd is placed in molds. The cheeses are pressed for three to four hours and turned a few times during the day. On the second day, we remove the cheeses from the molds and place them in cages that are immersed in a large pool of saturated brine for two days. We then place the cheeses on wooden shelves and wash them with lightly salted water. First daily and then less frequently, but at least once a week until they are sold. This forms a fine surface that both protects against mold and adds flavor to the cheeses. We store Wrångebäck for about one year and Almnäs Tegel for about one and a half years. Almnäs 1 liter and Anno 1225 are aged for eight and four-five months respectively.

What challenges do you face going forward?
– We constantly strive to develop our processes to ensure stable production with as little waste as possible. And the best cheeses possible! We will now expand from four to five days of production per week. Demand is increasing all the time. We have some customers around Europe who are waiting for our cheeses but unfortunately we are not yet able to deliver them.

Finally, what cheese do you eat yourself and what do you have with it?
– It varies a bit what I’m in the mood for, but in general I prefer to eat Tegel. This is my favorite type of cheese. It has notes of grass and herbs, and a slightly crunchy flavor. I think it’s delicious! I cut the cheese into pieces with a knife and prefer to eat just the cheese without anything else, to really feel what it tastes like. I’m not particularly fond of marmalade and such, but I might have a glass of decent red wine with it.

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Ove Södergren

Area of responsibility: Food, Life Science , Industry
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