What makes your cheddar cheesy?

European researchers say a combination of teeny-tiny bugs are responsible for the lovely flavours of the cheddar cheese on your toastie. The team spent a year doing what most of us dream about – making and eating specially made cheese. They added different combinations of certain starter bacteria to their cheese, and found which ones created a cheddar’s buttery, nutty, fruity, and creamy flavours.

Journal/conference: Nature Communications

Link to research (DOI): 10.1038/s41467-023-41059-2

Organisation/s: Chr. Hansen A/S, Denmark

Funder: This project has received funding
from Innovation Fund Denmark (Grand Solution grant no. 6150-00033B;
FoodTranscriptomics) and Chr. Hansen A/S. C.M acknowledges support
from the Dutch Research Council, as part of the MiCRop Consortium
(NWO/OCWgrant no. 024.004.014). K.R.P. acknowledges support from
the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s
Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program (Grant agreement no.

Media release

From: Springer Nature

Microbiology: How microbes shape Cheddar cheese taste

The combinations of microorganisms responsible for shaping the taste of Cheddar cheese — including fruity, creamy, buttery and nutty flavours — are investigated in a Nature Communications paper. 

Cheese fermentation and flavour formation are influenced by complex biochemical reactions driven by microbial activity. Although the compositional dynamics of cheese microbiomes are relatively well mapped, the mechanistic roles of microbial interactions in flavour formation are not fully understood.

To investigate how microbial interactions shape flavour profiles, Chrats Melkonian, Ahmad Zeidan and colleagues prepared year-long batches of Cheddar cheese using variants of a starter culture containing different combinations of Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactococcus strains. The authors identified the important role of S. thermophilus in boosting Lactococcus growth and in shaping the flavour profile. In turn, a strain of Lactococcus cremoris limited the formation of diacetyl and acetoin, which have a buttery flavour but lead to an off flavour when in excess. Additionally, when L. cremoris was removed, four flavour compounds were detected. These included 2,3-pentanedione (which gives the flavour of nuts, cream, and butter), and heptanal and hexanal (which taste fruity and fatty). When L. cremoris was present, another set of flavour compounds was detected in higher amounts such as 2-methyl-3-thiolanone (which adds a meaty flavor) as well as the esters ethyl acetate and ethyl hexanoate (which add a fruity flavour) the authors note.

Overall, the authors suggest their findings highlight the important role of competitive and cooperative microbial interactions in shaping the flavour of Cheddar cheese.


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