Nature Knows Best.
To pasta and pizza dishes, often is added a sprinkle of grated parmesan on top. But the flavour quality of the popular cheese can be inconsistent. Now scientists are using “molecular food engineering” to help ensure its good taste. In a report in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, they identify key components that contribute to the cheese’s signature flavour.
In recent years, the food and beverage industry has increasingly been turning to science to analyse products and come up with systematic ways to improve them. Some of these studies have been geared toward identifying components in cheeses that give them their savoury blend of salty and bitter notes. But no one had thoroughly investigated parmesan’s particular suite of tasty compounds. Hedda Hillmann and Thomas Hofmann from the Technical University of Munich, Germany, took on the challenge.
The researchers extracted the active, key taste compounds from samples of parmesan and identified 31 that were critical to the cheese’s savoury and bitter flavours. Several peptides were identified for the first time in parmesan and were found at high concentrations. The researchers say knowing this taste profile could help manufacturers tweak their processes to produce a better tasting cheese.
(P.S. Parmesan cheese has been crafted in the same way by skilled artisans for more than 800 years. Natural variations in animal husbandry and the grasses and hay fed to the cows would no doubt produce subtle changes in their milk and therefore as well, their calves rennet and the resulting cheese. I liken it to how climate, irrigation and other variables affect wine grapes’ characteristics of sugars and yeasts that introduce similar subtle changes to the wines they produce. I think it’s these inconsistencies that give us the nuances that keep life interesting.
Through a series of tests, independent inspectors determine whether the cheese meets the high standards of the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano.
It’s the addition of foreign matter to pre-grated and packaged parmesan that is of more concern to me. Some but not all product labels, identify the addition of less expensive cheeses, but few labels identify the addition of cellulose (wood pulp).
Better high standards of product than absolute uniformity of taste I say.)