Starter culture development
NIZO food research has coordinated the successful collaborative EU-funded demonstration project “Safesmear” in which development of defined surface starters for smear cheeses was studied. The project, performed with six partners from industry and international research institutes, has shown that it is possible to efficiently construct tailor-made smear starter cultures for surface-ripened cheeses and that the technology is commercially viable.
Surface-ripened red smear cheeses, such as Tilsit, Danbo, Munster and Kernhem, are important varieties in Europe. They are characterised by a distinctive flavour and surface colour due to a complex mixture of micro-organisms on the surface. Traditionally, the smear micro-organisms are transferred from the surface of mature cheeses to a smearing solution for treating young cheeses. This process of “old-young” smearing, though effective, actually involves the transfer of a complex, undefined and variable micro-flora. A significant improvement in production and – as important – control of smear cheeses was achieved by defining and selecting tailor-made surface starters.
Construct new starters
The approach designed and applied in the Safesmear project for constructing such defined starter cultures also has excellent potential for the development of smear cheeses with novel flavour properties. In addition, the technology can be used for rational construction of new (adjunct) starters for any cheese variety in which diversification of flavour and other sensory characteristics is desired.