Figure 1. Diagrammatic representation of the processing procedure. Source: Ref. 3, courtesy of Food Trade Press.

• The reduction of raw material costs

• The possibility of using cheeses with poor curing properties immediately after manufacture

• The formation of a stable emulsion with high waterbinding capacity

• The production of a firm body, with good slicing properties of the finished product

The main disadvantages are

• the production of a tasteless cheese,

• an emulsifier-like off-flavor,

• excessive swelling,

• the tendency to harden during storage, and

• the presence of small air bubbles (developed due to the high viscosity of the blend).

The advantages of a high contents of extramature cheese in the blend include (2,5)

• the development of a full flavor,

• good flowing properties, and

• a high melting index (processed cheese melts easily).

The disadvantages are

• the possibility of sharp flavor development,

• A low emulsion stability, and

To ensure permanent production, the processed cheese factory needs a good stock of native cheese varieties of a constant quality (physicochemical and microbial). If the native cheese is not rindless (packed and ripened in plastic wrapping), the rind must be removed.

In addition to natural cheeses, various other dairy and nondairy ingredients are used in the production of processed cheese products, as shown in Table 2. The list of ingredients varies from country to country and some restrictions may apply. Because the quality of the final product is influenced considerably by all the components present in the blend, the noncheese components must also fulfill certain qualitative requirements. The most frequently used dairy, but noncheese ingredients are concentrated skim milk or skim milk powder, casein, whey protein concentrates, coprecipitates, various whey products, milkfat products, and so on.

Skim milk powder promotes the creaming properties and improves the spreadability and stability of processed cheese, but, if used in quantities exceeding 12% of the total mass, it may adversely affect the consistency or may remain undissolved. However, skim milk powder may be reconstituted first, its casein precipitated by citric acid or proteolytic enzymes and the resulting curd added to the blend (2,5). Discoloration of processed cheese due to the Maillard reactions is excluded if total lactose content is not over 6% in the final product. Skim milk powder could also be used in processed cheese manufacture by recombination and native cheese production (destined for processing).

Such a procedure was developed and published in Iraq in 1987 (6). Fat contents of the cheeses were standardized by using corn oil. Processed cheese produced from reconstituted skim milk cheese had a crumbly structure, which was overcome by blending reconstituted skim milk cheese with corn oil prior to processing. In addition to being low in price, this product is low in cholesterol and is recommended to heart disease patients.

Milk protein coprecipitates, characterized with high emulsifying capacity, if added to the blend, increase the stability of the cheese emulsion and improve the physical characteristics of the finished product. Acting as an emulsifying agent, they even enable the reduction of the amount of emulsifying salt added. This is important particularly for dietary and special food products, where limitation of the sodium content may be desirable. Milk protein coprecipitates should not exceed 5% in processed cheeses (5).

Whey products incorporated in processed cheese blends favorably influence both nutritive and economic characteristics of the finished product. Although ordinary whey powder is the most common whey product used in processed cheeses, in concentrations ranging up to 7% in the blend (7), whey protein products with lower mineral and lactose contents are preferable because they yield processed cheeses with better flavor characteristics. However, some other whey products could be successfully used in the processed cheese blend as well, such as whey concentrate (24%), precipitated whey proteins (up to 25% with flavor correction), and native whey protein concentrates obtained by ultrafiltration (5-20%) (7).

All milkfat ingredients (Table 2) used to adjust the fat content of the processed cheese to the desired level must be of high quality and free from off-flavors.

Attempts have recently been made to develop processed cheese blends with improved characteristics that can be produced at a lower cost. Egyptian authors (8) have produced processed cheese spreads with good spreadability by partially substituting calcium caseinate for natural cheese in the blend. Although full replacement, with cheese flavor added, failed to yield a spread with good characteristics, partial replacement improved spreadability. The best results were obtained using a blend composed of 6 to 8% skim milk powder, 5 to 7% calcium caseinate, 15% mature Cheddar cheese, 14% butter oil, and 3% emulsifying agent.

Numerous procedures have been developed for producing economically favorable cheese or cheese bases intended exclusively for processing. One of these processes for production of a cheese base by ultrafiltration (UF) and diafiltration of whole milk was developed and patented in Germany (9). The retentate (40% dry matter, 4.17% lactose) obtained after UF was pasteurized (high temperature-short time [HTST]), cooled to 30°C, inoculated with lactic starter, and, after 2 h, evaporated at 42°C to 62% dry matter. It was further incubated at 25°C until the pH reached 5.2 and was then packaged in plastic bags under vacuum. The vacuum-packaged cheese base can be stored and later used in processed cheese production in combination with ripe cheese, in a 80:20 ratio.

A group of authors from Utah State University produced a cheese for processing from ultrafiltered whole milk adjusted to pH 5.2 to 6.6. The melting properties of the

Table 2. Ingredients Used in the Manufacture of Processed Cheese

Cheese base

Shredded natural cheese

Milk protein ingredients

Skim milk powder Whey powder Whey protein concentrate Coprecipitates Previously processed cheese

Fat ingredients

Cream Butter Butter oil

Emulsifying agents

Melting salts Glycerides

Fat ingredients

Cream Butter Butter oil

Process Cheese Blend

Muscle food ingredients

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