All articles written by Bronwen Percival

Arielle

Profile: Arielle Johnson – Head of Research, MAD

Arielle Johnson manages the research program for MAD in Copenhagen, Denmark. MAD is a non-profit organization founded by chef Rene Redzepi, devoted to improving both the practical and theoretical understanding of food. Arielle entered the food industry with a PhD in flavor chemistry and perception, but her interests and work are wide-ranging, encompassing new techniques for the kitchen and, of course, fermentation management. In her own words, “My role within the organization is to sort through the existing body of scientific knowledge and find things that we can apply to make the creative process more creative.” [click to view the full story]

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What brings kimchi to life?

Our last Science Digested piece on kimchi looked at the effect of red pepper powder on the progress of fermentation, and its impact on which bacteria dominate at the end. This paper backs up a step and asks: where do these lactic acid bacteria come from in the first place? Which ingredients bring microbial life to kimchi?

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The effects of red pepper powder on kimchi fermentation

When making fermented vegetables, we often add different kinds or amounts of spices. Their impacts on flavor may be obvious, but what do these spices do at the microbial level? A recent study took a careful look at how the addition of red pepper changes the course of microbial development in kimchi.

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Pink Salt Panel

Exploring the diversity of extremely halophilic archaea in food-grade salts

Henriet et al., International Journal of Food Microbiology. 2014. 191: 36-44. Full text available here.

Within the world of fermented food, salt is usually regarded as a tool for controlling microbial activity rather than as a source of microbial diversity. But recent studies are beginning to reveal that unrefined salts can carry viable and diverse microbial communities. This paper explores the incidence of members of the domain Archaea in a selection of food-grade salts from around the world. [click to view the full story]

Sirk vinegar

Profile: Mitja Sirk — Artisan vinegar maker

The Sirk family own and run the Trattoria La Subida outside the town of Cormons in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, nestled in the hills only a few miles from the Italian-Slovenian border. Led by Mitja’s father, Josko, the Sirks ferment their local Ribolla Gialla grapes into a very unusual and delicious long-macerated and barrel-fermented wine vinegar.  [click to view the full story]

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Dissecting the Microbial Diversity of Kefir

Kefir is a thick, sour, and sometimes slightly spritzy fermented milk drink produced through the action of the bacteria and fungi within kefir ‘grains’, a classic example of a SCOBY (Symbiotic Community of Bacteria and Yeasts). Despite a history that dates back several millennia, kefir and the microbes that produce it remain little-understood. Two recent papers from China and Ireland set out to explore the microbial diversity of kefir samples collected from a wide geographical area. One also provides insight into the physical structure of the kefir grain, and the distribution of yeast and bacteria across it. [click to view the full story]

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Wooden Boards for Cheese Aging: Reviewing the Science

Wooden boards are widely used for aging cheese in Europe and America. While their use has an established track record for utility and safety, it has also been the subject of debate. Food safety regulations on both sides of the Atlantic require food contact surfaces to be sanitizable, and wooden boards are rough and porous, and therefore difficult to disinfect. [click to view the full story]

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Techniques: Raw Milk Microbiology Preview

A consortium of French scientists recently published a practical guide to raw milk microbiology aimed at farmhouse cheesemakers interested in fostering the natural microbial diversity of their milk. They show that healthy and stable microbial communities contribute to cheese safety (as evidenced by some of the research into the microbial biofilms on wooden boards used for aging Reblochon), and are also crucial to cheese flavour.  [click to view the full story]

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Biodiversity of the bacterial flora on the surface of a smear cheese

Brennan et al., Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 2002, 68(2): 820-830. What organisms grow on the surface of a semi-soft, pasteurized washed rind cheese during the course of its development? How does inoculation with a commercial strain of Brevibacterium linens affect the development of the rind microbial community? This paper sheds some light on these very pertinent questions.  [click to view the full story]

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Profile: Julie Cheyney – Maker of St Jude Cheese

Julie Cheyney makes a raw-milk lactic cow’s milk cheese called St Jude in Hampshire, UK. Before starting to make St Jude, Julie was on the team that developed Tunworth, a Camembert-style cheese that won Supreme Champion at the British Cheese Awards in 2006. We spoke with her about making raw milk cheese and the microbes that play a role in the process.
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