Health conscious consumers desire the benefits of low fat diets; however, acceptable flavors and textures have not been acceptable. Cheese with reduced fat is usually rubber, grainy, dry and elastic.
A unique highly ropy strain of Lactococcus lactis ssp cremoris (JFR) has been isolated and used at SDSU to make low fat cheeses with superior functional properties. The produced cheese has textural characteristics similar to those in the full fat counterpart. EPS has the ability to bind water and increase the viscosity of the aqueous phase. Among all ropy cultures tested, JFR produced the highest water holding capacity, yield stress, consistency coefficient and viscoelastic moduli.
Research has been performed to improve the texture of reduced and low fat cheeses. This allowed certain microbial cultures to replace fat in cheese. The above mentioned strain produced 33 and 50% reduced fat cheddar cheeses with similar textural characteristics to those in the full fat counterpart. Numerous EPS-producing cultures have been tested in reduced fat cheeses in our laboratory. None of them showed the same level of improvement in the texture of reduced fat cheeses as did JFR.