Interaction of Brine Concentration, Brine Temperature, and Presalting on Salt Penetration in Ragusano Cheese

C. Melilli,* D. M. Barbano,†2 M. Caccamo,* L. Tuminello,* S. Carpino,* and G. Licitra*‡

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


Thirty-one 3.6-kg blocks of Ragusano cheese were made on each of 6 different days (in different weeks) starting with a different batch of milk on each day. On d 1, 3, and 5, the cheeses were not presalted and on d 2, 4, and 6, all cheeses were presalted (PS). One of the 31 blocks of cheese was selected at random for analysis before brine salting (i.e., on d 0). The remaining 30 blocks were randomly divided into 2 groups of 15 blocks each; one group was placed in 18% brine (18%B) and the other group was placed in saturated brine (SB). For the 15 blocks within each of the 2 brine concentrations (BC), 5 blocks were placed in a brine tank at 12°C, 5 at 15°C, and 5 at 18°C, and submerged for 24 d. The research objective was to determine the combined impacts (i.e., interactions) of PS the curd before stretching, BC (SB vs. 18%B), and brine temperature (BT; 12, 15, and 18°C) on salt uptake, moisture content, and yield of Ragusano cheese. Although BC, BT, and PS each had their own separate impacts on salt uptake, there was little interaction of these effects on salt uptake when they were used in combination. The PS most quickly delivered salt to the interior of the cheese and was the most effective approach to salting for controlling early gas formation. There were strong separate impacts of BC, BT, and PS on cheese moisture content, moisture loss, and net weight loss, with BC having the largest separate impact on these parameters. Reducing BT reduced salt content and increased moisture, but the effects were small. The more important effect of reduced BT was to reduce growth of gas forming bacteria. The 18%B produced higher moisture, and less moisture and weight loss than SB. The effect of interactions of BC, BT, and PS on moisture loss and net weight loss were small. To achieve the maximum benefit from the various  approaches to salting for controlling early gas formation in Ragusano cheese, PS combined with slightly lower BT (i.e., 15°C instead of 18°C) should be used. Although using 18%B instead of SB did increase salt uptake, the point at which improved salt uptake occurred due to use of 18%B did not provide benefit in prevention of early gas formation, as reported separately. However, use of 18%B instead of SB provided a 9.98% increase in cheese yield due to reduced moisture loss during brining; this would be very attractive to cheese makers. The increase in yield needs to be balanced against the risk of growth of undesirable bacteria
in the 18%B and the creation of another cheese quality defect.

Keywords: brine, salt penetration, cheese yield

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D. M. Barbano

Prof. Department of Food Science, Cornell University (USA)