The culturing of milk with lactic acid bacteria

Lactic acid bacteria are used in the manufacture of all cheeses except those in which curdling is effected by the application of acidification with or without heating. The classification of bacteria is given in Table 10.3. Important characteristics of the individual strains include their ability to generate lactic acid at various temperatures and their capability for producing carbon dioxide and diacetyl that are important for the appearance (e.g. 'eyes' in Gouda) and flavour (e.g. in Cottage cheese). Diacetyl may also serve a valuable role as an antimicrobial agent, as might also organic acids and hydrogen peroxide generated by lactic acid bacteria. The natural antimicrobial nisin is permitted for use in some countries, but a more common preservative is potassium sorbate.

Various sizes and shapes of vats are employed. Commodity cheeses such as Cheddar will tend to be produced in very large mechanised vessels. Speciality chesses however will emerge from small, less extensively mechanised vats.

The rate of addition of lactic acid bacteria must be carefully regulated not only for efficiency in the process but also to ensure consistency in the product. Modern cheese making facilities will incorporate sophisticated propagation and inoculation control regimes. It is increasingly the case that the organisms are supplied as starter cultures from commercial suppliers.

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