Cheese and dairy products are truly one of those things that the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.
For example, its hard enough to to get your head around the notion and process that turns liquid milk into cheese. However, once you’ve conquered that, such questions naturally arise as “what makes a cheddar a cheddar” or “what makes brie a brie.”
Well, like any regular recipe, many different factors contribute to the overall result. That said, perhaps the single most critical factor in determining what variety of cheese is produced are the addition of starter cultures that give the cheese its main characterisitcs.
Starter cultures are usually added to the vat of milk at the beginning of the cheesemaking process. As their name suggests, they comprise a blend (often proprietory to the cheesemaker) of cultures and bacteria that, in conjunction with time and temperature considerations, determine the variety of cheese to be made.