Twelve isolates of lactic acid bacteria, belonging to the Lactobacillus, Lactococcus, Leuconostoc, and Enterococcus genera, were previously isolated from 180-d-old Serra da Estrela cheese, a traditional Portuguese cheese manufactured from raw milk and coagulated with a plant rennet. These isolates were subsequently tested for their ability to catabolize free amino acids, when incubated independently with each amino acid in free form or with a mixture thereof. Attempts were made in both situations to correlate the rates of free amino acid uptake with the numbers of viable cells. When incubated individually, leucine, valine, glycine, aspartic acid, serine, threonine, lysine, glutamic acid, and alanine were degraded by all strains considered; arginine tended to build up, probably because of transamination of other amino acids. When incubated together, the degradation of free amino acids by each strain was dependent on pH (with an optimum pH around 6.0). The volatiles detected in ripened Serra da Estrela cheese originated mainly from leucine, phenylalanine, alanine, and valine, whereas in vitro they originated mainly from valine, phenylalanine, serine, leucine, alanine, and threonine. The wild strains tested offer a great potential for flavor generation, which might justify their inclusion in a tentative starter/non-starter culture for that and similar cheeses.
- Starter cultures