For the professionals that have studied the Three-Year Undergraduate Degree a Master's course at the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG), milk and cheese hold no more secrets. Tastings, hands-on workshops and field visits to producers take them all the way from small-scale local products to highly developed industries while also learning what happens on a molecular level - how aromas are formed and cheese ripened - production protocols, nutritional aspects, the anthropologic and sociologic role of milk and cheese, marketing strategies, among other things.
The cheese courses are intended to cover every aspect of dairy production in a comprehensive yet specific way. Due to the extensiveness of this subject, great attention is paid to certain fundamental aspects that are applied to many, though not all, dairy products. Both popular and niche cheeses of proven quality are analyzed in a thorough and detailed way to cover the whole production chain, from animal breeding and feeding to milk production and collecting, to production technology, ripening, shelf life and final consumption.
The interdisciplinary aspect of this subject is underlined, highlighting the correlations between technology, chemistry and microbiology in the production and optimal ripening of certain cheeses, using the most representative of Italy's wide selection as examples as well as other similar products in European and non-European countries.
A strong focus is given to quality, control and improvement systems: organoleptic and chemical-physical characteristics, as well as the changes caused by thermal operations applied to milk in different transformation phases are studied in class and field trips, with a particular attention given to the differences between industrial and traditional methods along the entire production chain, including distribution and communications issues.
Field trips are an essential feature of the UNISG. Students visit different cheese producers during these trips, from the very small and artisanal one to big dairy factories and develop their knowledge by comparing the two different production processes, the different choices of raw materials as well as the differences between end products (raw milk versus pasteurized milk, natural rennet versus artificial rennet, among other aspects).
Students have visited a number of productions: Robiola di Roccaverano in the Piedmont Alps, Parmigiano Reggiano (with different breeds raised in mountain as well as in plain areas) and Grana Padano, both in Emilia Romagna, Epoisse Cheese in Bourgogne, France, Queso del casar e Torta de la Serena in Spain; Feta in Grece; Banon in Provence, France; Laguiole, France, etc.
Many students dedicate their final thesis to some aspect of cheesemaking and milk production. The German student Janna Kuehne, for example, studied the very specific aspect of the "Influence of wild cardoon flowers (Cynara Cardunculus) used as a vegetable rennet on the sensory properties of ewe's milk cheese and two related case studies", while Swiss Finnian Fuhrer explored "Yearning for authenticity, using the example fo cheesemaking in Switzerland and Ireland". Italian Fabio Donalti preferred a more global, "Multicriteria study of milk and dairy production".
Click here to view the complete list of courses given at the UNISG on cheese production (description in italian).