Reducing the salt in Parmigiano Reggiano cheese might not negatively affect its flavor

Aged cheeses have a strong nutty flavor. Before it is fully ripe, old cheese is either waxed or placed in brine for weeks to create a natural crust. However, the high salt content of salted cheese discourages some consumers. Now, researchers write in ACS Food Science and Technology Offers a shorter purity time for Parmigiano Reggiano resulting in a less salty product, while preserving the characteristic cheese texture and flavor compounds.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is a lactose-free, crumbly and hard cheese. Manufactured in select provinces of Italy, its Protected Status of Origin requires certain production processes, such as a maturity period of at least 12 months. Ripening imparts a distinct flavor to cheese as the milk solids are converted into flavor compounds. But before that, the cheese wheels are placed in saturated brine for weeks. Added salt plays a major role in the ripening process by modifying microbial growth and enzyme activity and separating solids from liquids, resulting in hardening of the final product. One enzyme-mediated reaction is lipolysis, in which the triglycerides in milk are broken down into their main components – free fatty acids and diacylglycerides. Not only do free fatty acids contribute to the flavor of cheese, but they are also precursors to other flavor molecules. Therefore, Silvia Marzucci and her colleagues wanted to test the effect of fermentation time on the lipolysis reactions responsible for the free fatty acids included in the Parmigiano Reggiano flavor profile and their distinctive properties.

The researchers had five Parmigiano Reggiano Dairies sweetening several cheese wheels by submerging them in a saturated salt solution for either 18 days or for 12 shorter days. The wheels then mature for 15 months under typical conditions for this type of cheese. The salt content of the fully matured cheese was 9% lower in the salted samples for a shorter period than the group with the longer procedure. Unexpectedly, the researchers found no difference in the moisture, cholesterol, and total fat levels of the two cheese groups. The team also noted that there were no significant differences in the compounds involved in the flavor profile, as most of the 32 free fatty acids had overlapping concentration ranges between the two groups. However, in cheeses with a shorter salting time, in general, the total free fatty acids and total diacylglyceride concentration ranges were 260% and 100% higher, respectively, than the conventionally salted type, indicating a lower salt-to-moisture ratio resulted in more From the water is available for lipolysis reactions and rapid enzymatic activity that breaks down triglycerides. Researchers say reducing the intake time of the Parmigiano Reggiano solution could lead to an attractive product for salt-conscious consumers, but sensory testing is still needed to determine if they can detect differences in overall taste and texture.


The authors acknowledge funding from the PARENT project, the European Fund for Regional Development for the Emilia-Romagna region and the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientifi? Cass and t?

The paper is freely available as an ACS AuthorChoice article here.

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