There are so many types of cheese, and each has its unique taste or flavor.
Some types of cheese however have a salty taste, and this is because salt is used for various reasons during cheese production.
Salt affects microbial growth as well as enzyme activity, and when salt is used in cheesemaking, these effects could contribute to the final flavor and texture of the cheese.
In this post, we are going to explore why salt is added to cheese, how salt is added, and the types of salt used in cheesemaking.
Why is salt added to cheese?
Salting is an important step in the production of cheese.
Various concentrations of salt are added to the cheese being produced, and this can determine several qualities of the type of cheese.
A specific concentration of salt is usually required for the production of certain types of cheese. At concentration greater of lesser than the required range, the cheese might not be properly produced.
The knowledge of how salting interacts with several qualities of cheese is therefore important in order to make cheese properly.
Cheesemakers make use of salt in cheese for the following reasons:
- To Control pH
- To control moisture
- For Texture
- Taste or flavor
- To Improve shelf life
To control pH
A starter culture containing bacteria is first added to milk at the beginning of the cheesemaking process.
This starter culture produces lactic acids and therefore reduces the ph.
Since salt can be used to inhibit the acid producing bacteria in the starter culture, Cheesemakers also use salt could to control the pH.
To control moisture
As salt absorbs water, salting can be used during cheese production to control the amount of moisture in the final product.
Salt is used to remove whey from the curds of cheese.
The salt could be rubbed on the surface, or the curds could be immersed in brine to pull moisture out.
Texture of cheese is also affected by salting.
The texture of cheese with high salt is hard while cheese with low salt has a soft texture.
This means that the more salt is used or the longer duration curds spends in brine, the cheese becomes firmer in texture
Taste or flavor
The flavour of cheese is also determined by microbial and enzymatic processes, and salt could be used to regulate these processes.
Salt could be added to stimulate certain enzymatic processes that may be required for cheese to develop its taste or inhibit certain bacterias that could change the taste of the cheese being made.
The added flavour of the salt also contributes to the taste of cheese.
To improve shelf life / food safety
Salt also functions as a preservative to improve the shelf life of cheese.
It could be used as they age to prevent cheese from spoiling.
Spore forming bacteria such as clostridium could cause changes in the cheese.
The bacterial growth and the acid production from these bacteria can alter the flavor of cheese.
At a particular concentrations, salt could help inhibit these bacteria and the undesirable changes they cause in cheese.
Salt is also important for food safety as it inhibits harmful bacteria.
How salt is used in cheese production
The process of adding salt to cheese has to be done at the appropriate concentration.
Following salting, the salt diffuses into the surface of the cheese and moisture goes the opposite direction.
Salt can be applied through a number of techniques, sometimes a combination of the following techniques could also be used:
- dry salting
Salt can be mixed, sprinkled or rubbed on the surface of the cheese. This method of salting is used for cheese varieties such as blue cheese. The salt could also be added before and after moulding the cheese. Before moulding, the curds may be broken into smaller pieces, a process named milling and then salted
Brine salting makes use of brine. Brine is a highly concentrated mixture of salt and water. The cheese is immersed into the solution for a period of time ranging from hours to days so that salting can take place.
What salt is used to make cheese?
Iodine has antibacterial properties and can affect the flavor of the cheese.
The salt that is used in cheese making does not contain iodine and other additives that could affect the cheese.
Various types of salts can be used for cheesemaking including sea salt, pickling salt, koscher salt and cheese salt.
What cheese is the saltiest?
Salt content varies among different types of cheese. Some cheese are made with more salt that the others to enable them get the desired flavor or texture. They may also use more salt to control bacterial action.
Blue cheese are known to have a high salt content, and certain varieties of blue cheese such as the Roquefort which has 1.8g of sodium in 100g are among the saltiest types of cheese.
Parmesan cheese contains 1.5g of sodium in 100g.
Feta cheese is also very salty with about 1g of sodium in 100g.
Processed cheese like American cheese is also high in salt.
Read also: cheddar cheese vs. processed cheese?
What cheeses are less salty?
A high salt diet has a risk of heart disease, and some cheeses are known for their high salt content.
However, there are some cheeses made using lesser amount of salt.
A lower amount of salt was reported in fresh mozzarella, cream cheese, ricotta.
For large eyed cheese such as the Swiss cheese, a small amount of salt is required for the eyes to form.
Cottage cheese also has a lower salt content.
Salt has a significant effect on the qualities of the cheese being produced.
The high amount of salt used in producing cheese could be a problem especially on those who are supposed to be a low salt diet. However, there are some cheeses with lesser salt content.
The growth of starter bacteria can also be inhibited through the salting process, that’s the reason why salt concentrations have to be tightly regulated to ensure that the cheese achieves its optimum flavor, texture and consistency.
Salt is an important ingredient, but using too much salt or too little salt can be problematic in the cheesemaking process.