Nearly all varieties of cheeses are salted to some extent. NaCl has a number of functions in cheese:
- Controls microbial growth. In particular, starter growth is inhibited. Likewise, Propionibacterium freudenreichii, essential for eye development in Swiss-type cheese, is very sensitive to NaCl. Hence, Swiss-type cheeses have the lowest salt contents of any ripened cheese variety.
- Influences enzyme activity. In particular, NaCl promotes hydrophobic interactions of C-terminal region of beta-casein, inhibiting chymosin action (and the development of bitter peptides)
- Regulates the water activity of cheese
- Affects composition. In general, about 2 kg moisture lost per kg NaCl absorbed.
- Affects flavour, through its direct salty flavour, by controling activity of enzymes, and of microorganisms. In particular, by promoting hydrophobic interaction between molecules of beta-casein and this reducing the action of chymosin, it controls the development of bitterness.
- Affects texture by dehydration, effects on composition and proteolysis.