Rennet-Induced Aggregation of Heated pH-Adjusted Skim Milk

Heated (20–100 °C/0–30 min) skim milks (pH 6.5–7.1) were diluted in buffer (pH 7.0). Rennet was added, and the particle size with time was measured. For all samples, the size initially decreased (lag phase) and then increased (aggregation phase). Milks heated at ≤60 °C had short lag phases and rapid aggregation phases regardless of pH. Milks heated at >60 °C at pH 6.5 had long lag phases and slow aggregation phases. As the pH increased, the lag phase shortened and the aggregation phase accelerated. The aggregation time was correlated with the level of whey protein associated with the casein micelles and with the level of κ-casein dissociated from the micelles. Heated milks formed weak gels when renneted. It is proposed that the milks heated at low pH have whey proteins associated with the casein micelles and that these denatured whey proteins stabilize the micelles to aggregation by rennet and therefore inhibit gelation. In the milks heated at higher pH, the whey proteins associate with κ-casein in the serum and, on rennet treatment, the κ-casein-depleted micelles and the serum-phase whey protein/κ-casein complexes aggregate; however, the denatured whey proteins stabilize the aggregates so that gelation is still inhibited.