Queijo Serra da Estrela is a PDO Portuguese cheese produced through coagulation of raw ewe’s milk using cardoon (Cynara cardunculus L.) flowers. The present research was aimed at depicting an up-to-date and comprehensive overview of the microbiota of Queijo Serra da Estrela cheese. To this end, viable counting and metataxonomic analysis were carried out on cheeses sampled from four Portuguese artisan producers. Physico-chemical and morpho-textural analyses were also performed, together with the analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Finally, nonstarter lactic acid bacteria (NSLAB) isolated from the cheeses were characterized for their enzymatic activities using a semi-quantitative method. According to the metataxonomic analysis, Lactococcus lactis and Lactococcus piscium were the species occurring at the highest relative abundance. The isolates collected from the cheeses were assigned to Enterococcus durans, Enterococcus faecalis, Enterococcus faecium, Enterococcus lactis, Levilactobacillus brevis, Latilactobacillus graminis, Leuconostoc mesenteroides, and the Lacticaseibacillus casei group. The enzymatic characterization of these cultures highlighted esterase, aminopeptidase, acid phosphatase, beta-galactosidase, alpha-glucosidase, and beta-glucosidase among the major enzymatic activities. Fungal populations were dominated by Debaryomyces hansenii and Kurtzmaniella zeylanoides; however, species rarely found in cheese (e.g., Candida boidinii, Vishniacozyma victoriae, and Starmerella) were also detected. The volatile compounds characterizing the analyzed cheeses were carboxylic acids and esters, followed by carbonyl compounds and alcohols.
Giorgia Rampanti;Roberta Foligni;Federica Cardinali;Vesna Milanovic;Cristiana Garofalo;Cinzia Mannozzi;Massimo Mozzon;Andrea Osimani
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