Effect of Sodium Citrate on Structure-Function Relationships in Cheddar Cheese

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Journal of Dairy Science





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The objective of this study was to determine the effect of sodium citrate on the structure and functionality of Cheddar cheese. The hypothesis was that citrate (sodium citrate) injection would affect cheese properties mainly through its effect on bound calcium (calculated as the difference between total calcium and the water-soluble calcium content of a cheese extract). A 9-kg block of Cheddar cheese was made, vacuum-packaged, and then stored for 2 wk at 4 degrees C. After storage, the cheese was cut into 0.5- to 0.6-kg blocks that were vacuum-packaged and stored for 1 wk at 4 degrees C prior to injection. Cheese blocks were then high-pressure injected with a buffer solution (pH 5.27) containing 40% (wt/ wt) citric acid trisodium dihydrate and 6.25% (wt/wt) anhydrous citric acid, from zero (control) to five times (successive injections performed 24 h apart). Increased citric acid content of cheese from 0.22 (uninjected) to 1.39% (after five injections) caused phosphate solubilization. Thus, the calculated bound phosphate content of cheese decreased from 0.54 to 0.45 mmol/g of protein. However, unexpectedly, the soluble calcium content decreased from 0.34 (control) to 0.28 mmol/g of protein (after five injections), whereas the bound calcium content remained unchanged (0.42 mmol/g of protein). The decrease in soluble calcium probably resulted from the formation and concentration of crystals in the cheese surface, which was not included in samples for analysis, and from the expulsion of serum from within the cheese. Higher concentration of solutes in the water phase of cheese would increase the volume of serum, but the cheese had limited holding capacity and serum was expelled. Citrate injection increased the sodium content of cheese from 0.63 to 0.93%, but it had no effect on cheese pH (5.2). After five injections, the protein matrix expanded, occupying an increased area of cheese matrix (83 vs. 78%). Even though citrate injection had no effect on bound calcium, and thus the rate and extent of cheese flow were unaffected, increased phosphate solubilization, and possibly decreased ionic calcium content, resulted in expansion of the protein matrix and increased cheese hardness.