This is what cheeses that have a spicy flavor in the background hide

This is what cheeses that have a spicy flavor in the background hide

This is what cheeses that have a spicy flavor in the background hide

Some cheeses made with only milk, salt, and rennet leave a spicy mouthfeel due to the chemical processes of ripening.

April 1, 2021 01:16


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Although there are many different types of cheese, there are people who do not like it. Spain is a very cheese country; Many of its regions have a typical one from there: there are fresh, cured and even blue ones . One of the most curious things about cheese is that they are all made with the same ingredients — milk, salt, rennet, lactic ferments — but the end product is very different.

The time during which the cheese matures and the environmental conditions in which it does so, to a large extent, mark the differences from one cheese to another . At the nutrient level, a cheese is very similar to milk: they have practically the same nutrients, but in different proportions . As a good part of the water disappears during the ripening process, cheeses have a higher percentage of fat and protein than milk.

Now, without a doubt, the most obvious changes that occur in the production of a cheese have to do with flavor and texture. From a sweet liquid, such as milk, it becomes a solid that, in most cases, is salty. But, in addition, some cheeses are surprising because, without having spices among their ingredients, they are spicy. And that milk is a very soft drink.

Why do some cheeses bite?

Cabrales cheese or Manchego cheese are two national examples of cheeses that leave a spicy aftertaste on the tongue. The doctor in Food Science and Technology, Miguel Ángel Lurueña , explains in his blog for the dissemination of Petroleum jelly beans how it is possible that a food as soft as milk can end up producing a spicy sensation on our tongue.

The first thing to explain is that spicy, contrary to what people think, is not a flavor, but a sensation that has more to do with the sense of touch . In fact, the effect of spicy food in the mouth is considered a sensation of pain , even though many of us like to experience it. The most characteristic example of a spicy substance is capsaicin – famous for being present in chillies – but it is not the only one.

If we find a cheese that is pungent and that, however, is made only with milk, salt and rennet, this is due to the action of enzymes. To make a cheese, producers must make the milk go through different treatments : first they sanitize it, then it curdles and the whey is separated, then it is pressed and salt is added and, finally, it is left to mature. During all these processes, enzymes are responsible for chemical transformations.

Chemical transformations

The transformations that these enzymes promote make “the compounds that were present in the starting milk (lactose, lactate, citrate, proteins and triglycerides) are transformed to give as a result other different compounds that will determine the characteristics of the cheese: appearance, smell, flavor, texture… and also, of course, the ability to cause a spicy sensation “, explains Lurueña.

However, whether a cheese ends up being spicy depends on other factors such as the milk with which it is made, the rennet chosen and the microorganisms and the ripening conditions involved in the process. In this sense, certain formulas are known that can be applied so that the cheese that we are going to make ends up being spicy , as the expert explains on his blog.

“If we wanted to obtain a spicy cheese, it would be advisable to start from sheep’s or goat’s milk, with high somatic cell counts and obtained in winter; add rennet and certain species of bacteria (for example, some of the genus Leuconostoc , lactic acid bacteria, etc.) and molds (for example, some of the genus Penicillium ) and finally subjecting it to long periods of maturation “.

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