Wilton's Aging Process
At Wilton cheese is aged naturally. Simply put, cases of cheese are placed in underground, temperature-controlled storage coolers and are left to age for one, two, three, four and five years. Periodically the cheese is sampled in order to make sure the cheese is aging properly and a superior taste and texture is being developed.
Like wine, cheese generally improves with age. During the aging process, also known as ripening or affinage, the sugars, proteins, acids, and fats in the cheese break down naturally.
Casein proteins and milk fat break down into a complex mix of amino acids, fatty acids, and amines. This breakdown transforms the texture and intensifies the flavour of cheese. In some cases, crystals are formed when the cheese loses or pushes out its moisture as it ages. This causes the calcium lactate (calcium salt) to become more concentrated, thus forming crystals. There are no health risks associated with eating the crystals as they are natural.
This process will not naturally happen if the cheese has been pasteurized as the cheese will not age because the bacteria that is needed to carry out the aging process has been killed off when the milk was heated for pasteurization. Pasteurized cheese will not change, it will just sit still. Flavouring and chemicals will need to be added to the cheese to make it taste old. Wilton's cheese is heat-treated and therefore the harmful bacteria have been killed off but the bacteria needed to age the cheese remain.