How may the shelflife of Cottage cheese be extended

Cottage cheese has a shelf-life of 2—3 weeks under refrigerated storage. Good quality skim milk and ingredients as well as establishing critical control points and strict adherence to good manufacturing practices and sanitation standards operating procedures to ensure that cheesemaking equipment, utensils and environment (e.g. air in processing and packaging areas) are clean will improve product quality and shelf-life.

After cooking and whey removal, Cottage cheese curd is washed successively in water to firm up and cool the curd, and remove residual lactose. Hence, controlling quality and pH of wash water are important in enhancing shelf-life. Wash water must be potable and preferably at slightly acidic or neutral pH. Hard water, alkalinated water and poor quality well water are unacceptable. Wash water may be chlorinated to give 5 ppm available chlorine prior to use. Hard water and water at alkaline pH may be acidified to pH < 6.5 with food-grade acids (e.g. phosphoric or citric acid). Acidic conditions enhance the effectiveness of chlorine. To increase shelf-life of dry cottage cheese curd, it can be stored in cold brine until it is time for cream addition and packaging.

The shelf-life of creamed Cottage cheese can be increased by adding preservatives such as propionates and sorbates (-0.075%, w/w) when permitted by law. These products are usually added to the cream dressing. Commercially available natural bacteriocin-like compounds that are effective in inhibiting Gramnegative psychrotrophs, yeasts and moulds may be added to cream dressing to extend shelf-life. Also, lactic acid bacteria that produce bacteriocins may be used as starters for cheesemaking. In addition, technologies to inject CO2 directly into the dressing or flushing the headspace of packaged Cottage cheese with pure CO2 can control the growth of psychrotrophic spoilage bacteria and extend shelf-life.

Packaging and lids should be stored in clean dry areas. Also, it is important to prevent temperature abuse during manufacture, distribution and storage (both in warehouse and in refrigerated cases in supermarkets) to help increase shelf-life. It is important to keep wash water temperature less than 40C, and the curd should be creamed and packaged immediately after washing. Temperatures less than 4 0C must be maintained during transportation and storage. Temperatures close to 0 0C will extend shelf-life.

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