Flavour Compounds in Cheese

We take for granted the familiar flavors of our favorite cheeses because we do not need to concern ourselves with their origin or composition. However, the flavourist or food technologist seeking to control or simulate cheese flavours is only too aware that their development is extremely complex in most varieties. It depends on interactions between metabolic pathways, individual enzyme reactions and non-enzymic reactions, all taking place in the presence of a myriad of substrates, and often in the presence of an ever-changing population of microorganisms. The microbiology of cheese manufacture, and the general mechanisms of flavour development in cheese have been reviewed recently, but a summary of the factors which determine the overall properties of different cheese varieties is included here for those unfamiliar with the subject.

The vast range of cheese varieties can be grouped according to their moisture content and the complexity of their microfloras (Table I.) For example, soft cheeses have high (50-80%) water content and may be classed either as unripened (e.g., cottage cheese), with a simple mesophilic lactic acid bacterial flora (the acid-producing starter bacteria used to make the product), or as ripened, with a similar basic flora but with a surface mould growth which contributes the flavour compounds characteristic of the mature cheese (e. g., Camembert after 6-8 weeks’ storage).

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