Effect of Salt on Structure-Function Relationships of Cheese

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Journal of Dairy Science



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Our objective was to determine the effect of salt on structural and functional properties of cheese. Unsalted Muenster cheese was obtained on 1 d, vacuum packaged, and stored for 10 d at 4 degrees C. The cheese was then cut into blocks that were vacuum packaged. After 4 d of storage at 4 degrees C, cheese blocks were high-pressure injected one, three, or five times, with a 20% (wt/wt) sodium chloride solution. Successive injections were performed 24 h apart. After 40 d of storage at 4 degrees C, cheese blocks were analyzed for chemical, structural, and functional attributes. Injecting sodium chloride increased the salt content of cheese, from 0.1% in the control, uninjected cheese to 2.7% after five injections. At the highest levels, salt injection promoted syneresis, and, after five injections, the moisture content of cheese decreased from 41 to 38%. However, the increased salt content caused a net weight gain. Cheese pH, soluble nitrogen, and total and soluble calcium content were unaffected. Cheese injected five times had a 4% increased area of cheese occupied by protein matrix compared with uninjected cheese. Hardness, adhesiveness, and initial rate of cheese flow increased, and cohesiveness decreased upon salt injection. However, the final extent of cheese flow, or melting was unaffected. We concluded that adding salt to cheese alters protein interactions, such that the protein matrix becomes more hydrated and expands. However, increasing the salt content of cheese did not cause an exchange of calcium with sodium. Therefore, calcium-mediated protein interactions remain a major factor controlling cheese functionality.

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