A variety of products can be processed from milk, like cream,yogurt, cheese, butter and various dessert options, and the processing methods for each of these will differ in important ways.
At Idaho Milk Products, we are proud to offer several different milk protein solutions, milk permeate powder and fresh cream. Here’s a primer on everything you need to know if you’re just being introduced to this realm.
Cream or Milkfat
One of the simplest and most common dairy products available is cream. In its most basic form, fresh or “sweet” cream is a liquid derived from milk that has not been mixed with any other ingredients. It’s packed with a healthy fats, minerals, water and a small amount of naturally occurring sugar called lactose – making it nutritious for human consumption.
The main difference between “sweet” or fresh cream and other creams with additives is the lack of thickeners (like xanthan gum) or emulsifiers (like lecithin), which are typical additives in items like coffee creamers. Depending on the variety of cream it may have a different thickness and density, depending on the fat content and milk-by-milk variations in the product.
After the cream has been skimmed off the milk, it has several potential destinations. It might become butter, ice cream, sour cream, half and half, liquid dary cream, whipped cream, and other products. We typically think of cream as a beverage, usually added to another beverage to improve taste and texture. It can also be used to add moisture and fats into other recipes, since its consistency will provide plenty of volume without making the end product too thick or heavy.
Yogurt is one of the most recognized fermented dairy products. In its basic form, yogurt is a fermented milk product made by inoculating warm milk with modified or “good” bacteria, then letting it incubate at specific temperatures for several hours to ferment.
Yogurt’s taste comes from a variety of organic acids produced during the culturing process, while its unique texture is created by beneficial bacteria, protein and milk sugar. Depending on what type of yogurt you’re consuming, this final product could also include a variety of fruit purées or concentrates, as well as vegetable extracts to create a wide range of flavor profiles. Water is frequently added during the culturing process; this helps keep the final product fresh for longer periods without refrigeration.
The King of Desserts – Ice Cream
Ice cream is another delicious dairy product, but it’s one that requires a rather complex manufacturing process. This frozen dessert is typically made from milk and sweetened with different types of sugar (usually cane or beet) or sugar substitutes. Additional ingredients are added to create a variety of flavors and textures, such as eggs to create a silky texture or corn syrup that prevents the finished product from freezing too hard.
“Light” ice creams will often add vegetable gums like carrageenan or xanthan gum to make them more creamy and easy to work with.
After all the ingredients have been prepared, ice cream is mixed with emulsifiers (like soy lecithin) to improve consistency, then churned in a large machine that freezes it into its final form. Different recipes will incorporate different amounts of these ingredients, some may contain more milk or cream to enhance texture and flavor or use more sugar to create a sweeter end product.
Ice cream’s consistency is dependent on its final fat content as well as the amount of air incorporated into it during processing. A higher fat content will typically produce a softer and more creamy texture, while higher amounts of air will result in a harder but less fatty ice cream. Lower-fat varieties are often sold as “light” ice creams or gelato.
What About Cheese?
Cheese is a dairy product, derived from milk and produced in wide ranges of flavors, textures and forms by coagulation of the milk protein casein. It comprises proteins and fat from milk, usually the milk of cows, buffalo, goats, or sheep.
The first step to producing cheese is separating the curds from the whey – this ensures that you have enough solids to stabilize your end product. These curds are drained of excess liquid, then heated and pressed into a dense form with more moisture, flavor and texture.
Cheese can then be flavored in many different ways, either by adding further ingredients or by aging the final product at specific temperatures and conditions for several hours or even weeks or both. This process allows the cheese to develop a variety of tastes and textures, including salty, spicy and sweet options that can make it an ideal ingredient for any dish. The consistency of this final product will also be determined by how much moisture is left in the cheese. It’s possible to produce a variety of textures, from soft and creamy to hard and dry.
To learn more about any of these dairy products, or for information on our various dairy and milk concentrate products that allow for processing of numerous different dairy items, speak to the staff at Idaho Milk Products today.