Then the Newer Cultures:
These same bacteria from the Alps became the study targets of scientists as our knowledge of these microbes increased.
Ever since Pasteur's work with bacteria, what has been found on the farm has been brought into the lab, identified, and studied. This is what has increased our understanding of what makes these cheese and how they do it.
As time has continued to advance knowledge, the isolation and study of the many bacteria and what they bring to the character of cheese has brought us new tools to work with.
When I am on the mountain with these cheese makers I almost always see two parts to their initial process:
- First, they carefully incubate the whey from the current cheese vat for the next days cheese and as they do every day throughout the season through.
- Then they add a minimal dose of a lab based culture provided by the AOC directors. They tell me it's an insurance to prevent problems that would otherwise diminish the regional standards, but they always believe that their own cultures dominate.
The research projects have gone even further in the 21st century and some of the new isolates are focused on specific characteristics of the final cheese such as sweetness, savory, and reducing bitterness and sulfur like notes.
When looking at these Alpine style mountain cheeses, there are several cultures to be considered as coming from the farm.
- Thermophilus: a common higher temperature working culture for drier long aged cheese. This is the primary culture in all of these cheeses
- Helveticus: the name refers to 'from the mountains' which partners with the thermophilus for the typical alpine flavor
- Propionic: another culture coming from the farms and pastures and known for producing the large gas holes depending on process and aging conditions.
- Bulgaricus: a bit uncommon in the mountains but some of the farms do use a yogurt culture.
The special addition I am adding for this particular alpine hybrid is of the Helveticus group. This comes to us as Choozit Flav54 from Danisco/Dupont, and is a special culture developed in the L.helveticus group. Work with this one has been proven to highlight the sweet, nutty and savory notes in cheese. This contribution occurs during the aging as the proteins are reduced.
We are using it here this month as the Helveticus component when creating our special Alpine hybrid.
Flav54 can also be used quite effectively in tandem with Propionic bacteria in recipes that require both.
Some cheese makers are also using this effectively in cheddars for a different character.