Sunday, 13 October 2013

Mini Baby Bel

I have been doing some work for the Bel cheese factory at Evron, who make Mini Baby Bel cheeses.   I now know more about cheese than I ever though was possible.   In a town of some 8,000 people, the cheese plant is an important employer, with some 660 staff.  The Bel group owns various brands including Boursin, Baby Bel and The Laughing Cow.   At Evron they make nothing but Mini Baby Bel cheeses; millions of them per day.

One of the things that I didn't know about cheese, for example, is that there are two main processes going on in its production.  One is the fermentation of the lactose sugar in the milk to form lactic acid, the other is the curdling of the cheese using the enzyme rennet that coagulates the milk protein casein.  The fermentation goes on during the whole cheese-making process and is stopped by salting the cheese.  The enzyme reaction stops when the enzyme is used up.  If you don't use rennet and just do the fermentation you get yoghurt; if you just use the enzyme you end up with nothing useful.

Originally, Mini Baby Bel cheeses were a marketing gimmick, and were produced by hand, cut from the full sized Baby Bel cheeses.  But they caught on, and the result is the commercial success you see today.  I like stories like that; someone had the good sense to see the opportunity and exploit it.  Nowadays of course the process is highly automated.

I have always been suspicious of food manufacturers, since my friends from school returned from their vacation jobs with tales of filthy production lines, or birds getting sucked into air intakes and incorporated into crisps, for example.  Perhaps I'm just out of date.  Anyway the Bel factory is a masterpiece of cleanliness, I was impressed by all the hygiene-related procedures and checks, and the seriousness of the attention applied to them.

Mini Baby Bel.  Enjoy.

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