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Fatty acids and the flavour of cheddar cheese

A video overview of final year student project at Harper Adams which investigated the flavours of maturing cheddar cheese.

Year of Publication2010

Jenny Candlish, from Lichfield, has recently completed her dissertation at the University College entitled: “The effect changes in the fatty acid profile of cheddar cheese has on flavour development during maturation.” The 21-year-old analysed cheese aged three, six and nine months old using a special machine (gas chromatograph) to profile the long chain fatty acids, and held a taste testing session to find out how the flavour of the cheese changes over time. Jenny, who is due to graduate in September with a BSc (Hons) degree in Food and Consumer Studies, said: “Fatty acids are the hydrocarbon molecules that make up lipids, or fats, and it’s the breakdown of these from each other that make the flavour molecules in the cheese. “We found that long chain fatty acids are fairly stable in a cheddar as it matures, so it’s the shorter chain ones that contribute to the flavour compounds and precursors. “It was also interesting to see that during the sensory evaluation, or taste test, people preferred the creamy and buttery taste of a mild cheese even though in their mind, they preferred mature cheeses.” The taste test was held in the Sensory Evaluation Room at the new West Midlands Regional Food Academy, based on the University College campus. A selection of staff and students were asked to sample the different aged cheeses in private booths and then answer a selection of questions. She added: “People know that they prefer buttery and creamy tasting cheeses but might buy the mature cheese instead because it’s something that they have always done. “It’s worth considering the flavours more opposed to the branding of a cheese and how it has been advertised, because as proven in my research, it’s actually milder cheeses that most people prefer. “Now I’m leaving Harper Adams, I hope that I can stay investigating cheeses by starting a career in the dairy industry.” Although the project has been completed, Jenny hopes that students will carry on her research in future dissertations, by using the cheese making facilities on campus to monitor the fatty acids from scratch. Jenny, who previously studied at Netherstowe High School, has now returned home and is hoping to enter the world of cheese making soon.

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food technologyfood studies
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Supporting the development of the national rural economy.

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