Pecorino Toscano is an ovine P.D.O cheese produced in soft and semihard varieties. In relation to the inconstant availability of the sheep milk during the different periods of the year, due to the largely seasonal nature of the sheep milk production, the supply of the soft variety, characterized by a short period of ripening, is not regular and sometimes not sufficient for the market, particularly in the summer months. For this reason it is interesting to carry out studies on storage practices, in order to maintain as long as possible the peculiar organoleptic characteristics of these type of cheese. In this work, some packaging practices useful to prolong the shelf life of the product, commonly employed (under vacuum and modified atmosphere packaging) were studied up to 90 days after the packaging of cheeses. Moreover the frozen storage of the cheese after the salting phase, followed by a delayed ripening period, was tested. The following microbiological and physico-chemical parameters were evaluated: total bacterial count, mesophilic and thermophilic lactic acid cocci, mesophilic and thermophilic lactobacilli, yeasts and moulds, Micrococcaceae, Enterobacteriaceae, total coliforms, enterococci; pH, aw, moisture, total nitrogen, pH 4.6-soluble nitrogen. The packaging procedures showed to influence the evolution of some of the examined microbiological and physico-chemical parameters but did not result able to maintain the shelf-life of the cheese up to the end of the trials. For the freeze-thawed cheeses the analyzed parameters revealed values similar to those of the control cheeses, thus indicating that further studies on longer times of frozen storage could be of interest.
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