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June 2008

Crunchy bits in Parmesan Cheese

 

I notice in Parmesan cheese sometimes that there are crunchy little grains.  What are they and what causes them?  Do they mean that the cheese is no longer good?

--Anja

The grains you are noticing are crystals of either calcium lactate or the amino acid tyrosine.

Tyrosine is formed by the breakdown of proteins in the milk.  It precipitates out as crystals as the cheese loses moisture, rather in the same way that crystals form in a sugar water solution as it cools down.

Calcium lactate crystals are formed by the bacterial conversion of lactic acid into a mirror image form during ripening.  In either form, lactic acid will chemically bond with the calcium in the milk to form calcium lactate.  Because the mirror image form of lactic acid is less soluble, it precipitates out and forms crystals.

I recently encountered the same crystals in a delicious cheese called Beemster that I got at the Bulk Cheese Warehouse in Saskatoon.  Beemster is a Dutch Gouda-style cheese that has been aged for 18 to 26 months or longer.  It is sometimes referred to as Extra Aged Gouda.  The taste is somewhat like Parmesan, but with a caramel, nutty flavor slightly reminiscent of Gjetost.  The texture, however, is more buttery probably due to a fat content that may be nearly twice as much as that of Parmesan.

Other softer cheeses may also form crystals due to changes in the acidity of the cheese.

These crystals are a normal phenomenon, and do not mean that the cheese has gone bad.


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Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered.
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward



Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered, nor can we guarantee we will answer questions immediately
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward


Flour Mix-up

Hi! I have two containers of flour one of which is self-rising. The labels have gotten mixed up. Is there a way to tell which flour is the self-rising? Best,

--Mike

 

Your question got me to thinking about all sorts of different ways to tell the difference, but after a little head scratching,  I think this is maybe the easiest.

Take two tablespoons of flour from one of the containers and mix it with about three tablespoons of plain vinegar.  The consistency should be about that of pancake batter or heavy cream. If necessary, add more liquid. Make another similar mixture with flour from the second container.  Leave them sit for a couple of minutes.

Self-rising flour is regular flour with baking powder and salt already added to it.  Baking powder is a combination of baking soda and a powdered acid (see Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder). The surface of the mixture made with self-rising flour will have small bubbles over it from the reaction of the vinegar with the baking soda.

The mixture made with regular flour may have a few bubbles from air that got mixed in, but far fewer than the other one.

The same thing will happen if you just use plain water, but the vinegar makes it easier to see the difference.


If you have food or cooking questions, send them to Questions@KitchenSavvy.com



Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered.
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward



Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered, nor can we guarantee we will answer questions immediately
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward