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Composition of Ragusano Cheese During Aging

G. Licitra,1 P. Campo, M. Manenti, G. Portelli, S. Scuderi, S. Carpino, and D. M. Barbano 2

Consorzio Ricerca Filiera Lattiero Casearia—Viale Europa 134 Bis, 97100 Ragusa, Italy

Abstract

Ragusano cheese is a brine-salted pasta filata cheese. Composition changes during 12 mo of aging were determined. Historically, Ragusano cheese has been aged in caves at 14 to 16°C with about 80 to 90% relative humidity. Cheeses (n = 132) included in our study of block-to-block variation were produced by 20 farmhouse cheese makers in the Hyblean plain region of the Province of Ragusa in Sicily. Mean initial cheese block weight was about 14 kg. The freshly formed blocks of cheese before brine salting contained about 45.35% moisture, 25.3% protein, and 25.4% fat, with a pH of 5.25. As result of the brining and aging process, a natural rind forms. After 12 mo of aging, the cheese contained about 33.6% moisture, 29.2% protein, 30.0% fat, and 4.4% salt with a pH of 5.54, but block-to-block variation was large. Both soluble nitrogen content and free fatty acid (FFA) content increased with age. The pH 4.6 acetate buffer and 12% TCA-soluble nitrogen as a percentage of total nitrogen were 16 and 10.7%, respectively, whereas the FFA content was about 643 mg/100 g of cheese at 180 d. Five blocks of cheese were selected at 180 d for a study of variation within block. Composition variation within block was large; the center had higher moisture and lower salt in moisture content than did the outside. Composition variation within blocks favored more proteolysis and softer texture in the center.

Keywords: Ragusano, composition, proteolysis, lipolysis

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Giuseppe Licitra

Prof. DISPA Università di Agraria Catania