Butter Ripening Process

The thermal treatment of cream, referred to as ripening, stands out as the most time-intensive step in butter production, influencing the crystallization of fat and, consequently, the texture of the butter.

Ripening is pivotal for attaining a desirable flavor and aroma in butter, facilitating thorough churning. Although it improves the shelf life of unsalted butter, it has a detrimental effect on the keeping quality of salted butter.

The ripening procedure includes introducing a starter culture, meticulously blending it, and allowing the cream to incubate at a controlled temperature. Traditionally, cream for ripened cream butter undergoes fermentation by specific lactic acid bacteria, generating lactic acid from lactose and diacetyl (the primary flavoring component in ripened cream butter) from citric acid.

The starter culture comprises a mix of acid-producing organisms (Streptococcus lactis, S. cremoris) and flavor-producing organisms (S. diacetylactis, Leuconostoc citrovorum, and/or Leuc. dextranicum). The quantity of starter added varies based on several factors, typically ranging from 0.5 to 2.0 percent of the cream's weight.

Ripening continues until the cream achieves a pH of 5.5 at 21°C and then a pH of 4.6 at 13°C, arresting further acid development. Optimal flavor development occurs within the pH range of 5.5 to 4.6, as diacetyl biosynthesis is inadequate above pH 5.5.

A lower temperature during ripening results in more pronounced flavor development compared to acid production. Ripened butter is commonly exempt from washing or salting.
Butter Ripening Process

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