Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited

Project title: Determining Optimal Cheese Brining Times

Project partner: Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited

Brief outline:

Salt is added to all varieties of cheese at some stage during the manufacturing process to perform a variety of functions, including: textural and flavour characteristics; reduction of moisture content and effect on the survival and growth of bacteria. For brine salt cheese, blocks of cheese curd are submerged in a brine solution which may be up to three days, until the desired salt content is achieved. The concentration of the brine bath and the brining time are key aspects to ensuring that the product obtains the composition required for the customer specification, with the brining time being the main lever to control the amount of salt absorbed by the cheese.

Currently brining times are estimated based on cheese specification, the desired final product salt content, initial cheese moisture and manufacturing experience. Brine bath concentration is monitored over the entire brining period, while samples of cheese are analysed when the estimated brining time is approaching.

The desired outcome of this project would be a tool to enable a more accurate prediction of brining times based on initial and desired final cheese composition and brine concentration, pH and temperature. A model that allows the exploration of the interaction or identification of the main variables the effect brining times would allow Fonterra to gain more control over the brining process.