Flavor development in fermented products results from a series of (bio)chemical processes in which the starter cultures provide many of the enzymatic activities. Particularly, the enzymatic degradation of proteins leads to the formation of key-flavor components, which contribute to the sensory perception of the products (93-95). In the following section, the flavor-forming enzymes of lactic acid bacteria will be discussed, with dairy products as the main example. On the other hand, it is important to note that very similar activities can be found in other fermented products, such as meat and sourdoughs.
The formation of flavors in fermented dairy products is a complex and, in the case of cheese ripening, rather slow process involving various chemical and biochemical conversions of milk components. Three main pathways can be identified: the conversions of lactose (glycolysis), fat (lipolysis), and caseins (proteolysis) (Fig. 6). The enzymes involved in these pathways are predominantly derived from the starter cultures used in these fermentations.
In the case of the lactose fermentation, the main conversion obviously leads to the formation of lactate by lactic acid bacteria, but a fraction of the intermediate pyruvate can
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