Saturday, 27 April 2013

Ripening Crystals - what are they?

You may remember I recently reviewed Old Amsterdam cheese, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the cheese, I was puzzled by a term on the pack. It referred to "ripening crystals" in the cheese. Now I have a very scientific mind, in fact I have a degree in physics, and wanted to know what the term meant. I did a bit of research but it seemed to refer to ice formation, especially in ice creams and sorbets, and I couldn't work out how that applied to cheese.

However the lovely people at Old Amsterdam got on to their technical department and found an explanation for me, and I thought you would be interested in reading it

Taste and aroma and in cheese are formed during ripening of the cheese. For this purpose specific starters are added to the cheese milk.  These starters help in breaking down proteins from the milk into tasty components. When cheese ripens for long periods (e.g. >6 months) proteins will be broken down to harmless amino acids. As some of these amino acids are badly soluble in the remaining water in the cheese, they will form small crystals in the cheese as well as on the cheese surface. One of the main amino acids forming crystals is tyrosine. Tyrosine is very common, incorporated in proteins, present in almost all forms of life.




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