Lactose, lactic acid and mineral equilibria in Cheddar cheese manufacture
Summary In experimental small-scale manufacture of Cheddar cheese a study was made of the movement of lactose, lactic acid, calcium and phosphorus between curd and whey, and of the effect of high acidity developed in the curd before whey separation, on the pH and physical properties of the cheese. It was found that while the curd particles remain in contact with the whey, the lactose fermented in the curd is replaced by lactose diffusing from the whey. Lactic acid produced in the curd diffuses into the whey rather slowly. When a high lactic acid level is attained rapidly the curd does not cheddar well, the pH of the cheese is low, the flavour is sour and bitter, the body is crumbly and the cheese is bleached. When a high lactic acid level is reached slowly, the curd also does not cheddar properly but the pH of the cheese may be within normal limits up to 3 weeks, at which age its body is coherent and its colour is normal. However, on maturing, the cheese becomes acid, the body crumbly and liquid separation occurs even at 2 months of age. This points to a risk in grading cheese at an early age. It is suggested that the abnormal behaviour in cheddaring of 'high-acid' curds is connected with an excessive loss of calcium. When high acidity is developed over an extended time in the whey, the curd retains more lactose but loses more phosphorus so that its buffering capacity is reduced. Cheese made from such curd becomes highly acid at maturity and this leads to the development of a bitter flavour. It is, therefore, concluded that both the rate of development of acidity, and the time the curd is in the whey, are critical factors in controlling the quality of Cheddar cheese.
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