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1. WO2006026811 - METHOD AND APPARATUS TO PRODUCE A PASTA FILATA CHEESE

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CLAIMS:

1. A method of producing a pasta filata cheese product in a continuous process having the steps of:
preparing a typical pasta filata-type cheese curd without emulsifier or pH regulator additives;
supplying the curd to one end of an elongated processing chamber which contains at least one axially extending, rotating agitator;
injecting steam at a temperature of between 12O0C and 22O0C into the chamber at a plurality of injection points spaced along the length of the chamber to heat and cook the cheese curd;
maintaining the cooked temperature of the curd such that, adjacent an outlet end of the chamber, the curd is at a temperature of between 5O0C and 9O0C;
simultaneously mechanically working, stirring, kneading and stretching the cheese curd and moving the curd through the chamber from said one end to said outlet end using the rotating agitator by rotating the agitator at a speed of between 10 rpm and 1500 rpm, and
receiving the cooked product from the chamber and moulding to a desired shape.

2. A method of producing a pasta filata cheese product as claimed in claim 1 including the step of forming the pasta filata cheese curd from a milk composition which is pasteurised and formed into a coagulum.

3. A method of producing a pasta filata cheese product as claimed in claim 1 or claim 2 including the steps of dicing or cutting the coagulum into separate curd pieces and draining whey therefrom.

4. A method according to claim 3 including the step of further reducing the size of the curd pieces after the whey is drained.

5. A method according to claim 3 including the step of continuously feeding the curd to the inlet of a continuous cooker having said processing chamber.

6. A method according to any one of claims 1 to 5 including the step of continuously heating the cheese curd using direct steam injection while being mechanically worked by the rotating agitator until the curd is cooked and formed into a flowable, fibrous mass.

7. A method according to claim 6 including the step of injecting steam into the chamber at a temperature of between 140 and 19O0C.

8. A method according to claim 6 or claim 7 wherein the steam is injected into the chamber at a temperature of between 150 and 18O0C.

9. A method according to claim 3 including the step of injecting steam into the chamber at a pressure of between about 200 to 1200 kPa

10. A method according to claim 9 wherein the steam is injected at a pressure of between 300 and 900 kPa.

11. A method according to any one of claims 1 to 10 including the step of maintaining a pressure within the chamber of between 0 and about 400 kPa.

12. A method according to claim 3 including the step of cooking the cheese curd at a temperature of between about 55 and 850C.

13. A method according to claim 3 including the step of injecting steam using a nozzle shape which forms a steam jet to penetrate into the cheese curd.

14. A method according to any one of claims 1 to 13 including the step of secondary working/kneading of the product after receiving the cooked product from the chamber and before moulding.

15. Apparatus for producing a pasta filata cheese product from cheese curd in a continuous process including:
an elongated chamber having an inlet at one end to receive the curd and an outlet at the other end, at least one agitator extending through the chamber and adapted to be rotated to mechanically work, stir, knead, stretch and move cheese curd within the chamber;

a plurality of steam injector nozzles spaced along the chamber wall and adapted to inject steam directly into the cheese curd within the chamber; and
rotating means to rotate the at least one agitator at a selected rotational speed necessary to achieve the desired degree of working, stirring, kneading and stretching of the cheese curd product to impart the desired string, elasticity and other attributes to the product.

16. Apparatus according to claim 15 wherein the agitator includes an axial shaft having a diameter of between about 0.2 and 0.8 that of the internal diameter of the chamber such that the steam injected through the injection nozzles reaches the inner most part of the cheese curd which is adjacent the shaft.

17. Apparatus according to claim 15 wherein multi point steam injection nozzles are provided spaced along the length of the chamber and spaced around its circumference.

18. Apparatus according to claim 15 or claim 16 wherein the chamber has five or other number of injection nozzles aligned along one side extending from the inlet to the outlet and a further number of aligned nozzles diametrically opposed or otherwise in another spaced configuration of nozzles.

19. Apparatus according to any one of claims 15 to 18 wherein the agitator includes a plurality of arms extending outwardly from an agitator shaft and the arms having an end portion extending substantially towards the inlet end of the chamber.

20. Apparatus according to claim 19 wherein the arms are mounted on the shaft in opposed pairs or other combinations and extend along the length of the shaft.

21. Apparatus according to claim 16 wherein the diametrical thickness of the annulus between the outer surface of the shaft and the inner surface of the chamber and the pressure of steam supplied to the steam nozzles is chosen so that the injected steam passes through the cheese curd to the inner most portion thereof ensuring that all the cheese curd is evenly heated and cooked as it moves through the chamber.

22. Apparatus according to any one of claims 15 to 21 wherein the rotating means comprises an electric motor or an hydraulic motor drivingly connected to the agitator.

23. A method of producing a pasta filata cheese product in a continuous process substantially as hereinbefore described with reference to the accompanying drawings.

24. Apparatus for producing a pasta filata cheese product from cheese curd in a continuous process substantially as hereinbefore described with reference to the accompanying drawings.