Searching for the ultimate blue cheese

February 3, 2011 By Emma Rayner

It’s the champagne of the cheese world and the gastronomic pride of the East Midlands but now blue cheeses like Stilton are literally under the microscope in a quest for the best possible quality.

Researchers at The University of Nottingham and The University of Northampton are working with a Nottinghamshire cheesemaker to examine what gives blue cheeses their distinctive taste, texture and smell.

The scientists hope to find out exactly how the microorganisms in blue cheese work which could lead to better quality, consistency and fewer defects in the manufacturing process. They are working with Stichelton Dairy on the Welbeck Estate in North Nottinghamshire which produces a classic English unpasteurised blue cheese, similar to Stilton.

Microorganisms, known in the trade as starter cultures, are added to milk in the manufacture of cheeses. But the final ‘flora’ of a cheese develops during ripening and contains many microorganisms not originally added in the production, known as ‘secondary flora’.

Previous work at The University of Nottingham has shown that in complex cheeses like Stilton the secondary flora is different in different parts of the cheese (core, blue veins and rind) and that these organisms contribute to the flavour properties of the product.

Also, some of these organisms may actually enhance the cheese’s ‘blue’ aroma characteristics whilst others may be undesirable as they have antifungal properties which can stop the mould growing and prevent the characteristic blue veins developing.

The research will look more closely at how secondary flora contributes to flavour development and which microflora may need controlling to allow blue veins to develop. The identification of any natural antifungal compounds may have a wide range of applications both within the food industry and outside.

The East Midlands is famous as the home of Stilton production and the project could ultimately help local blue cheeses to take a larger slice of the global market by making regional cheese producers more competitive. The research findings will also be shared with cheese producers across the UK.

Prof Christine Dodd from The University of Nottingham’s Division of Food Sciences, said: “We are very pleased to receive this grant from the Food and Drink iNet for our research, which will help us to progress our understanding of the way flavours develop in these complex cheeses and the contribution that the different microflroa components contribute to this.”

The research project is one of five Collaborative Research and Development grants worth a total of more than £245,000 announced by the Food and Drink iNet, which co-ordinates innovation support for businesses, universities and individuals working in the food and drink sector in the East Midlands.

Funded by East Midlands Development Agency (emda) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Food and Drink iNet is one of four regional iNets that has developed an effective network to link academic and private sector expertise and knowledge with local and drink business innovation needs.

Explore further: New processed cheese with 60% less salt could improve diets

Related Stories

Wonderful cheese is all in the culture

January 6, 2009

It's an age-old tradition that dates back at least 8,000 years but it seems we still have much to learn about the bacteria responsible for turning milk into cheese.

Wine and cheese: serious science

October 27, 2005

Twenty-seven food and wine experts recently met in Summerland, Canada, to determine ideal cheese-wine parings using scientific sensory methodology.

Gooda, Gouda! Solving the 800-year-old secret of a big cheese

March 4, 2009

Almost 800 years after farmers in the village of Gouda in Holland first brought a creamy new cheese to market, scientists in Germany say they have cracked the secret of Gouda’s good taste. They have identified the key protein ...

FDA issues contaminated cheese warning

January 31, 2008

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a consumer warning and recall of possibly contaminated Grassy Meadows Dairy Co. cheeses.

Heart-healthy yak cheese

March 17, 2008

In a finding likely to get cheese lovers talking, researchers in Nepal and Canada report that yak cheese contains higher levels of heart-healthy fats than cheese from dairy cattle, and may be healthier. Their study is scheduled ...

Recommended for you

Scientific advances can make it easier to recycle plastics

November 17, 2017

Most of the 150 million tons of plastics produced around the world every year end up in landfills, the oceans and elsewhere. Less than 9 percent of plastics are recycled in the United States, rising to about 30 percent in ...

The spliceosome—now available in high definition

November 17, 2017

UCLA researchers have solved the high-resolution structure of a massive cellular machine, the spliceosome, filling the last major gap in our understanding of the RNA splicing process that was previously unclear.

Ionic 'solar cell' could provide on-demand water desalination

November 15, 2017

Modern solar cells, which use energy from light to generate electrons and holes that are then transported out of semiconducting materials and into external circuits for human use, have existed in one form or another for over ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

geokstr
1 / 5 (1) Feb 03, 2011
Cheese is spoiled milk, and bleu cheese is spoiled cheese. That's redundant.

Go Pack!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.