Submitted to: International Journal of Dairy Technology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/3/2006
Publication Date: 2/16/2007
Citation: Van Hekken, D.L., Tunick, M.H., Tomasula, P.M., Molina-Corral, F.J., Gardea, A.A. 2007. Mexican Queso Chihuahua: rheology of fresh cheese. International Journal of Dairy Technology. 60(1):5-12. Interpretive Summary: Consumption of fresh Hispanic-style cheeses is increasing in the United States because of the increasing popularity of Hispanic foods and growing Hispanic population. In the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, the Mennonite community makes a semi-hard cheese similar to Cheddar cheese but with its own distinct flavor and texture. The cheese is made using raw or pasteurized milk. The traditional raw milk cheeses have stronger flavors but there are food safety concerns because harmful bacteria, if present, may survive the cheese making process. In pasteurized milk cheeses, the milk is heated to kill harmful bacteria but also kills much of the other bacteria responsible for the Mennonite-style cheese's unique flavor and properties. In a collaborative study with researchers from Centro de Investigacion en Alimentacion y Desarrollo (CIAD), Mexican Mennonite-style cheeses were obtained from 11 different producers (raw and pasteurized milk cheeses) and tested to determine the effect of pasteurization treatment on their texture. Results showed that the pasteurized cheeses were harder, more rigid, and less springy in texture than the raw milk cheeses and indicated that the different manufacturing steps and the components found in raw milk (extra bacteria) influenced the texture of the cheeses. The blend of the different rheological properties helps to define Mennonite-style cheese as a distinctly individual type of cheese and provides guidelines as ways to improve the production of Hispanic-style cheeses are explored.
Technical Abstract: This study establishes the rheological characteristics of a semi-hard cheese made primarily by the Mennonite communities in Chihuahua, Mexico (Mennonite-style cheese) and examines the property variations in the cheeses when made from either raw milk (RM) or pasteurized milk (PM). Cheese samples obtained from 11 different producers (9 RM and 2 PM cheeses) were tested 10 days after manufacture. As expected, compositional and rheological properties of the cheeses varied among manufacturers. Rheological data obtained using standard methods showed that the PM cheeses were harder, more rigid, and less springy than the RM cheeses, and that viscoelastic properties were similar for both RM and PM cheeses. Although manufacturing differences and microflora in the RM cheeses contributed to the variations noted between the cheeses, the Mennonite-style cheeses are well-defined within certain rheological ranges that identify them as different from other cheeses available today. Establishing the basic chemical and physical properties of Mexican Mennonite-style cheese is the first step towards understanding the unique quality traits of Hispanic-style cheeses and exploring ways to expand production and utilization.