The production process: this is how we work
The variety in our cheese product range shows in our production process. We are used to quickly and effectively switching between the various cheese types in small to mid-size batches, ordered by our customers. On the other hand, there is also an increase of large scale production for international retailers.
Our cheese dairies have a capacity of about 5500 tonnes of cheese a year. The main production facility for Henri Willig is located in Heerenveen.
Henri Willig collaborates with about 40 Dutch milk suppliers. They supply regular, organic and biodynamic cow milk and the regular and organic goat and sheep milk. We use strict standards regarding freshness and quality of this milk. Each supplier is subject to a rigorous audit. For each delivery a sample is taken for chemical and microbiological analysis.
Cheese-making, a discipline in its own right
Making curd out of milk
Our own dairy trucks collect the milk from the farms and transport it to the factory. The milk is standardised and pasteurised within 24 hours. After adding the starter culture and rennet, the curd (the first cheese stage) is traditionally made with a curd preparation. The starter culture is an excipient, consisting of natural lactic cultures, and converts the sugar (lactose) in the milk into lactic acid. The starter culture also encourages renneting of the milk and influences the taste and durability of the cheese. Rennet ensures the milk protein coagulates and the fat is solidified to form cheese curd.
After curd preparation the curd is cut and the lactose is washed out, making it a mild cheese. The curd is filled into moulds and pressed. Before the cheeses leave the dairy, a detector is used to check it for metal. The herbs for the varieties concerned are added just before the moulds are filled. They are specifically selected for their delicate aroma and high quality to guarantee the best possible flavour for the cheese.
From curd to cheese: salting and ripening
The pressed curd is salted in brine for a while. During this process salt is absorbed in the cheese. It firms the rind and the cheese can be preserved for longer. Salt also influences the flavour. That is why Dutch cheeses are immersed in a salt or brine bath for approximately two days and then placed on wooden shelves to ripen. We call this naturally ripening. The cheese quietly ripens in our store room under ideal conditions. During this process the cheese is regularly treated, turned and visually checked to guarantee the best possible flavour and quality.
During ripening the cheese is given a thin plastic coating. This serves as a means to regulate the moisture content of the cheese to prevent too much moisture from evaporating from the cheese, but also not too little. Depending on the age of the cheese it can be left on the shelf for anything from a minimum of 21 days (young cheese) to over 1 year (extra matured cheese). When the cheese is at the right age, its ripening is slowed down by applying a layer of paraffin on the cheese, which also serves as a protective layer. Depending on the customer, before or after this process a label and band are applied. Before packaging the cheeses are once again checked for metal particles and then individually packaged in a cardboard box.
An optimum and constant cheese quality can only be achieved when the production process is systematic and safe. That process – from purchasing to logistics and after-sales service – has been carefully detailed in our quality manual. In order to ensure that these processes and procedures have actually been standardised, our production process is periodically audited in accordance with the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points), BRC (British Retail Consortium) and IFS (International Food Standard) standards.
Having these quality system certificates means we comply with the standards regarding production and packaging of foodstuffs required on a European and international level. These standards guarantee uniformity and food safety on a high quality level.