We are very often asked this question. How can we obtain from the same ingredient, milk, such a wide variety of cheeses?
The magic happens during the cheesemaking process, which we have described in another post here (and which we recommend that you read to have a full understanding of the answer!).
There are various factors which determine what type of cheese will be made. Altering the nature of the acidification of the milk by the starter cultures (its speed and the final level of acidity), the amount of rennet (if any), how the curd is cut, all play an essential role. For example, generally, the smaller the curd is cut, the harder the resulting cheese will be. The curd of soft cheeses like Brie de Meaux or Camembert de Normandie is hardly cut at all, whereas the one for hard cheeses like Comté and Gruyère is cut into very fine texture.
We find the diagram below made by the Court Yard Dairy to be a very good summary of how it is achieved: