• alkylmethoxypyrazines;
  • cheese flavor;
  • earthy/bell pepper flavor

ABSTRACT:  Farmstead Cheddar cheeses with natural bandage wrappings have a distinctive flavor profile that is appealing to many consumers. An earthy/bell pepper (EBP) flavor has been previously recognized in some of these cheeses. This study characterized the alkylmethoxypyrazine compounds causing EBP flavor in Farmstead Cheddar cheeses. Eight cheeses were divided into inner, outer, rind, and wrapper sections, and tested for descriptive sensory and instrumental analyses. To assess reproducibility of EBP flavor, cheeses from the same facilities were purchased and tested after 6 and 12 mo. EBP flavor was detected in four out of 8 Farmstead Cheddar cheeses by a trained sensory panel. 2-sec-butyl-3-methoxypyrazine and 2-isopropyl-3-methoxypyrazine were identified as the main sources of EBP flavor in these cheeses by GC/O and GC/MS. In general, those alkylmethoxypyrazines were prevalent in the wrapper (106 to 730 ppb) and rind (39 to 444 ppb) sections of the cheeses. They were either not detected in inner and outer sections of the cheeses or were present at low concentrations. These results suggest that 2-sec-butyl-3-methoxypyrazine and 2-isopropyl-3-methoxypyrazine are formed near the surface of the cheeses and migrate into the cheese during ripening. Threshold values in water and whole milk were 1 and 16 ppt for 2-sec-butyl-3-methoxypyrazine, and 0.4 and 2.3 ppt for 2-isopropyl-3-methoxypyrazine, respectively. Sensory analysis of mild Cheddar cheese model systems confirmed that direct addition of those individual alkylmethoxypyrazines (0.4 to 20 ppb) resulted in EBP flavor.