In its patent application, filed in October 2014, Fonterra proposed to replace these steps, which involve the addition of an enzyme to produce a coagulum and the use of cutting technology to separate the curd and liquid whey, as it may lead to "considerable variability in the curd characteristics."
Instead, Fonterra suggests replacing these steps with a method to "disaggregate" the coagulated mass "into small curd particles" using "simple screen sieving or mechanical separation."
This method, Fonterra claims, "provides a more reliable and consistent curd for cheese making in general."
"Any method of cheesemaking that can reduce the variability and critically of one of the traditional cheesemaking steps yet maintain flexibility in the functional characteristics of the end cheese product, gives the cheesemaking industry a way of producing a cheese having the required functional characteristics in a consistent manner," the application reads.
"This is beneficial to the cheesemaking industry, large consumers such as the pizza industry, as well as individual consumers."
"It is an object of the present invention to provide such a process and/or at least to provide the public with a useful choice," it adds.
Cheddar, Gouda and Mozzarella
The patent-pending process - invented by Fonterra's Keith Johnston, Allan Main, Peter Dudley Elston, Peter Aaron Munro, and Robert J Buwalda - begins with the addition of a coagulating agent to a starting milk under a set of conditions that "suppresses the formation of a coagulum."
With the addition of an acidulent on a flow path, the pH of the milk is adjusted to between 4 and 6, before it is cooked at a temperature that "allows the formation of coagulated curd particles."
Using "simple screen sieving or mechanical separation" the coagulated curd particles are separated from the liquid whey.
The curd is then heated at between 50C and 90C before being “mechanically worked (stretched) such as in traditional mozzarella cheese making processes by either immersing the curd in hot water or heating and working in a substantially liquid-free environment.”
This process, Fonterra claims, can produce a range of pizza cheeses, including Cheddar, Gouda, and Mozzarella.
“In particular, mozzarella cheese made by this process has application in the pizza making industry that utilises mozzarella and mozzarella-like (pizza) cheese in significant quantities," it continues.
Source: Application number 14515919
Published: 05/02/15 Filed: 16/12/14
Title: Dairy product and process
Authors: Keith Johnston, Allan Main, Peter Dudley Elston, Peter Aaron Munro, Robert J Buwalda