Microbiology of Cheddar cheese made with different fat contents using a Lactococcus lactis single-strain starter.J Dairy Sci. 2013 Jul; 96(7):4212-22.JD
Flavor development in low-fat Cheddar cheese is typified by delayed or muted evolution of desirable flavor and aroma, and a propensity to acquire undesirable meaty-brothy or burnt-brothy off-flavor notes early in ripening. The biochemical basis for these flavor deficiencies is unclear, but flavor production in bacterial-ripened cheese is known to rely on microorganisms and enzymes present in the cheese matrix. Lipid removal fundamentally alters cheese composition, which can modify the cheese microenvironment in ways that may affect growth and enzymatic activity of starter or nonstarter lactic acid bacteria (NSLAB). Additionally, manufacture of low-fat cheeses often involves changes to processing protocols that may substantially alter cheese redox potential, salt-in-moisture content, acid content, water activity, or pH. However, the consequences of these changes on microbial ecology and metabolism remain obscure. The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of fat content on population dynamics of starter bacteria and NSLAB over 9 mo of aging. Duplicate vats of full fat, 50% reduced-fat, and low-fat (containing <6% fat) Cheddar cheeses were manufactured at 3 different locations with a single-strain Lactococcus lactis starter culture using standardized procedures. Cheeses were ripened at 8°C and sampled periodically for microbiological attributes. Microbiological counts indicated that initial populations of nonstarter bacteria were much lower in full-fat compared with low-fat cheeses made at all 3 sites, and starter viability also declined at a more rapid rate during ripening in full-fat compared with 50% reduced-fat and low-fat cheeses. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis of cheese bacteria showed that the NSLAB fraction of all cheeses was dominated by Lactobacillus curvatus, but a few other species of bacteria were sporadically detected. Thus, changes in fat level were correlated with populations of different bacteria, but did not appear to alter the predominant types of bacteria in the cheese.