Influence of the Temperature of Salt Brine on Salt Uptake by Ragusano Cheese

C. Melilli,* D. M. Barbano,† G. Licitra,*‡ G. Portelli,* G. Di Rosa,* and S. Carpino*

*- CoRFiLaC, Regione Siciliana, 97100 Ragusa, Italy
†- Northeast Dairy Food Research Center, Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
‡- Dipartimento di Scienze Agronomiche, Agrochimiche e delle Produzioni Animali, Catania University, Via Valdisavoia 5, 95100 Catania, Italy


The influence of temperature (12, 15, 18, 21, and 24°C) of saturated brine on salt uptake by 3.8-kg experimental blocks of Ragusano cheese during 24 d of brining was determined. Twenty-six 3.8-kg blocks were made on each of three different days. All blocks were labeled and weighed prior to brining. One block was sampled and analyzed prior to brine salting. Five blocks were placed into each of five different brine tanks at different temperatures. One block was removed from each brine tank after 1, 4, 8, 16, and 24 d of brining, weighed, sampled, and analyzed for salt and moisture content. The weight loss by blocks of cheese after 24 d of brining was higher, with increasing brine temperature, and represented the net effect of moisture loss and salt uptake. The total salt uptake and moisture loss increased with increasing brine temperature. Salt penetrates into cheese through the moisture phase within the pore structure of the cheese. Porosity of the cheese structure and viscosity of the water phase within the pores influenced the rate and extent of salt penetration during 24 d of brining. In a previous study, it was determined that salt uptake at 18°C was faster in 18% brine than in saturated brine due to higher moisture and porosity of the exterior portion of the cheese. In the present study, moisture loss occurred from all cheeses at all temperatures and most of the loss was from the exterior portion of the block during the first 4 d of brining. This loss in moisture would be expected to decrease porosity of the exterior portion and act as a barrier to salt pene-tration. The moisture loss increased with increasing brine temperature. If this decrease in porosity was the only factor influencing salt uptake, then it would be expected that the cheeses at higher brine temperature would have had lower salt content. However, the opposite was true. Brine temperature must have also impacted the viscosity of the aqueous phase of the cheese. Cheese in lower temperature brine would be expected to have higher viscosity of the aqueous phase and slower salt uptake, even though the cheese at lower brine temperature should have had a more porous structure (favoring faster uptake) than cheese at higher brine temperature. Therefore, changing brine concentration has a greater impact on cheese porosity, while changing brine temperature has a larger impact on viscosity of the aqueous phase of the cheese within the pores in the cheese.

Keywords: brine temperature, salt uptake, Ragusano cheese

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Prof. Northeast Dairy Foods Research Center, Cornell University (USA)