Cheese production is expensive and takes a long time. Especially the ripening of the cheeses, which in addition to the space requires specific temperatures and humidity, is costly. Therefore, it would be a great advantage if the storage time could be cut down.
Researchers from the DTU National Food Institute have succeeded in this. They have developed a new solution that can reduce the storage time of Danbo cheese by 3-4 weeks days.
"The new method for maturing Danbo cheese can potentially make production more sustainable because it brings down the amount of time the cheeses have to mature in a cold room with high energy consumption. In addition, a faster ripening time minimizes the risk of the cheese being exposed to mold and other unwanted microbial growth," says Associate Professor Christian Solem from the DTU National Food Institute, one of researchers behind the innovation.
Surface culture matures in a fermentation tank
Danbo is a so-called surface-ripened cheese that ripens from the outside by certain microorganisms growing on the surface of the cheese. It has a characteristic aroma because the surface microorganisms break down proteins while growing on the surface of the cheese. They secrete various enzymes that speed up the ripening process. By quickly establishing a dense layer of ripening microorganisms on the surface of the cheese, ripening can be accelerated.
"Today, it takes about a month to cover the cheeses with ripening microorganisms. But by propagating the surface culture in a fermentation tank, you can obtain a concentrated culture that can be applied to the cheeses and enable the cheeses to be covered by ripening microorganisms within a few days," explains Associate Professor Christian Solem.
In the fermentation tank, the microorganisms are cultivated, e.g. on whey, a liquid by-product of cheese production. For every kilo of cheese produced, nine kilos of whey are formed.
"We have created a shortcut for faster cheese ripening by cultivating the microorganisms in a fermentation tank under optimal conditions, rather than cultivating them over a longer period on the surface of the cheese," says Christian Solem.
“The method, which is 100% natural, represents a new way of dairy production. It has been tested at a large Danish dairy with good results, and we hope the new solution can also be used by others," Christian Solem adds.
The initial experiments are published in the article 'A novel approach for accelerating smear development on bacterial smear-ripened cheeses reduces ripening time and inhibits the growth of Listeria and other unwanted microorganisms on the rind' in the scientific journal LWT – Food Science and Technology.
Read more about the Research Group for Microbial Biotechnology and Biorefining in the DTU National Food Institute, which has been working with sustainable solutions for the dairy sector for a long time.
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