Have you ever wondered what the crunchy bits are in cheese? You’re not alone; it’s probably the most common question we get in our shop.
There are actually two types of “crunch” found in cheese - calcium lactate and calcified Tyrosine.
Calcium lactate is usually found on the exterior of cheeses, especially aged block cheddars. Calcium lactate is formed by the reaction of lactic acid (naturally occuring in cheese) on calcium carbonate (used to help set the curd in some cheeses).
Calcium lactate on the surface of an aged cheddar
Calcium lactate is sometimes mistaken for mold on the exterior of cheese - if you’re unsure, the easiest way to tell is by feel; calcium lactate is hard and crumbly and will flake off the surface of the cheese.
Calcium lactate is purported to have some health benefits; namely in promoting strong bones and teeth.
The other type of crunchy bit found in cheeses is Tyrosine - a naturally occurring amino acid in milk.
The white flecks clearly visible in this Parmigiano Reggiano are calcified tyrosine
Calcified Tyrosine is usually found in the interior of cheese - notice the white flecks throughout aged cheeses like Gruyere, Gouda & Parmigiano Reggiano. Typically, the more aged a cheese is the more crystals you’ll find inside.
While tyrosine itself is flavorless, it does offer a very pleasant crunchy texture to contrast with smooth cheese.
Tyrosine is said to have positive effects on general brain health and some studies show it even promotes the release of dopamine - cheese euphoria is real!
If you love either of these crunchy morsels, make sure to ask for aged cheeses, especially those over a year in age. Our favorites for calcium lactate are Prairie Breeze and our 9 Year old Quebec Cheddar. For tyrosine, try Parmigiano Reggiano or our 4 Year aged Gouda.
Tyrosine crystals visible in an aged gouda