The ability to gain a deeper understanding of cheese and the technology of cheese was at the heart of topics discussed by researchers during the Dairy Foods – Cheese symposium at JAM 2013 in Indianapolis, Ind.
The symposium started with an interesting take on a traditional cheese making ingredient, enzymes for milk coagulation. Brazilian Quejio Prato cheese made using an alternate coagulation enzyme has shown promise in proteolytic and storage ability compared to traditional cheese making enzymes, explained C. Merheb-Dini of the University of Campinas in Brazil.
Following in the vein of new technologies in cheese, G. Tansman of the University of Vermont was excited to share with the audience a improved method for the analysis of crystals which are present in aged cheeses using X-ray diffraction technology. Due to its economical approach to analysis, Tansman believes that the X-ray technology can be very impactful for cheese producers to characterize and improve upon their products.
The symposium also delved into how different microorganisms and protein concentrations in cheese milk would affect the texture and flavor of Cheddar cheeses. Using novel cheese making cultures, M. El Soda of Alexandria University in Egypt explained that reduced-fat Cheddar cheeses with comparable or better flavor and texture to that of normal Cheddar cheeses could be produced, giving hope to low-fat cheese researchers in the room.
During the subsequent presentation, the effect of the milk protein concentration on the microstructure of full-fat Cheddar cheese was discussed by K. Soodam from the University of Melbourne, Australia. Her research concluded that higher concentrations of milk proteins had an effect on the stretchability (think cheese on a pizza) and hardness of resulting cheeses. Implications from her research include the importance of dairy protein structure during cheese aging.
Finally, the cheese symposium turned toward a discussion of sodium (salt) in cheese. J. Stankey (University of Wisconsin) reached into the non-foods area of mineral mining to create a method for the rapid detection and quantification of sodium in cheese using X-ray fluorescence. The X-rays interact with the cheese sample in such a way as to quickly, and accurately, assess the quantity of sodium in both natural and processed cheeses.
Wrapping up the symposium, T. Vasiljevic, from Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, presented findings from his laboratory explaining how proteolysis impacts the microstructure of cheese during aging in salt-reduced cheeses. Salt plays many important roles in cheese flavor and structure, and Vasiljevic reinforced that notion by stating that reduced salt cheeses showed increased proteolysis and a more open structure than its normally-salted equivalent.
Continuing to improve the knowledge about the chemistry, structure and analysis of cheese will serve to help dairy foods researchers and manufacturers create better, more consistent cheeses that consumers will love. This symposium proved that, while a lot is known about cheeses attributes, there is still much work to accomplish.
Steve Beckman is a graduate student in dairy science at South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota.