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Profile: Hosta Hill – farmers, fermenters, and mold tamers

In an unassuming basement tucked in the hills of the Berkshires, Maddie Elling and Abraham (Abe) Hunrichs rot vegetables and grow mold. As “partners in business and partners in life,” their company Hosta Hill is providing farmers’ markets and stores in Massachusetts with some of the finest vegetable ferments and tempeh in the region. In this Profile, I’ll share what I learned at Hosta Hill about taming tempeh molds, the challenges of artisan fermentation production, and the joys of growing raw materials for fermentation.

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Microbe Guide: A visual guide to salami microbiology

Ever wonder what makes your salami fuzzy, crusty, and tart? Our Visual Guide to Salami Microbiology provides an overview of everything you need to know about microbes in and on your favorite artisan salami. Print it out. Hang it up.  Marvel at the microbiological wonders growing on your salami! Download our Visual Guide to Salame Microbiology here. [click to view the full story]

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Profile: Nicholas Bokulich – Using new technology to understand traditional foods

During his PhD research in the Mills Lab at the University of California Davis, Nicholas (Nick) Bokulich completely transformed how we view the microbial diversity of many fermented foods in the US. From wine to cheese to sake, Nick’s research opened up new dimensions of the microbial diversity of these traditional foods. In this Profile, Nick talks about improvements in DNA-sequencing technology, terroir, and the future of food microbiology.

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Microbe Guide: Yarrowia lipolytica

From biofuels to fish food to gold nanoparticles, Yarrowia lipolytica is all the rage these days as a powerful workhorse for biotechnology. But this yeast also has important roles in the flavor development and appearance of some traditional fermented foods. Here’s all you need to know about this versatile and beautiful yeast. [click to view the full story]

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Microbe Guide: Zygosaccharomyces rouxii

If Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the king of wine and beer, then Zygosaccharomyces rouxii is the king of soy sauce. The production of soy sauce is a multi-stage fermentation with many different microbes involved. But the production of the essence of soy sauce, that caramel-like odor that is the heart of any high-quality soy sauce, has been mastered by the yeast Zygosaccharomyces rouxii.

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Typical dimples or divots caused by the grown of Scopulariopsis on the surface of a natural rind cheese. Left unchecked, the fungus can bore into the paste of the cheese causing discoloration and allowing for the proliferation of cheese mites.

Microbe Guide: Scopulariopsis

When I first met Sister Noella Marcellino, the artisan cheese maker and advocate who is the star of the documentary The Cheese Nun, she enthusiastically declared that Scopulariopsis is one of the most important, but also most poorly understood molds in artisan cheese. Four years later, after observing hundreds of cheese rinds and thousands of isolates of cheese molds, I wholeheartedly agree with Sister Noella. This mold is incredibly widespread, often well-behaved, but sometimes causes severe problems for cheesemakers.

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Microbial diversity of kombucha

In the most comprehensive study of kombucha microbial diversity to date, a team of scientists recently uncovered new microbial dimensions of this popular fermented tea. In this Science Digested, I provide a summary of what you need to know from this exciting new work and how it may change our understanding of how kombucha is produced.

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Beyond B. linens: How cheese rinds get their color

When it comes to giving credit for those pungent orange rinds, most people cite the bacterium B. linens (formally Brevibacterium linens). But recent research suggests that B. [click to view the full story]

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Techniques: Using a microscope to explore fermented foods

Many producers and home fermentors often ask me what simple DIY tools are available to better understand the microbiology of their products. Unfortunately, identifying most microbes is challenging and requires some expensive equipment, extensive experience, and access to DNA sequencing technologies. But the use of a simple microscope has the potential to teach you a lot about the microbes in your product. [click to view the full story]

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Surveying cheese rind microbial diversity

What happens when you collect 137 cheeses from around the world and sequence their DNA? You end up eating a ton of cheese. But more importantly, you learn a lot about what bacteria and fungi live in a typical cheese rind, that sea salt may be a previously unrecognized source of cheese microbes, and whether the notion of ‘microbial terroir’ holds up in artisan cheeses. In this Science Digested, I provide a digested version of recent research that used new DNA-sequencing approaches to broadly survey the microbial diversity of artisan cheese rinds.

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