A new method of adding salt to mozzarella cheese, which will increase production and decrease environmental waste, has been developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in partnership with a Wisconsin company.
Adding salt to cheese gives it flavor, texture and stability, according to John Jaeggi, a food scientist and cheesemaker at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research. Conventional salting methods soak the loose curd in a brine solution, which can take up to eight hours for a five-pound block of cheese. Working with Basic Concepts, Inc., of Hartford, Wis., Jaeggi and his CDR colleagues have developed a way of infusing the curd with a concentrated salt solution that reduces or eliminates both the soaking time and the need to dispose of the brine solution.
Basic Concepts, Inc., which develops equipment for the dairy industry, came up with the idea for the new type of infusion system. However, they needed someone to advise them, design trials and analyze the product. “They came to CDR,” Jaeggi said. “As a dairy research center we continually work with industry.” Jaeggi and CDR colleagues helped Basic Concepts by advising them about different methods of manufacturing mozzarella, and how they affect texture and composition of the product.
By reducing the time the cheese must soak in brine, the new infusion system will increase the output of cheese plants and make the quality of the cheese more consistent within batches. Plants will no longer have to dispose of excess brine, which will reduce environmental waste and cost. And, depending on the techniques the plant uses, the new system may allow the cheese to be shredded more quickly.
The Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research is a national leader in research that links the dairy industry with UW-Madison faculty and staff experts who can help them become more competitive. The Center frequently partners with companies throughout the state to develop small-scale prototypes of new products, equipment or techniques. Such work is difficult for large-scale, industrial plants because a mistake could cost the plant a day”s production, according to Jaeggi. The Center works with companies to design trials, analyze results and move the new products to large-scale production.
At least one plant is preparing to use the new method, and several others are considering switching to the new system, according to Jaeggi. In the future, the system could be used to add other flavors, ingredients, spices or salts to cheese. The Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research receives financial support from dairy farmers through the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and Dairy Management, Inc.