Microbiological, chemical and technological analyses were used to characterize nine natural starter cultures used for the manufacture of Pasta Filata cheese in Basilicata (Southern Italy). The cultures were either dominated by thermophilic rods or mesophilic and/or thermophilic cocci. Principal component and cluster analysis discriminated between rods and coccus cultures and helped to estabilish relationships between the cultures and to evaluate the variability of cultures obtained from the same plant. A total of 156 isolates of lactic acid bacteria were obtained from the cultures and tentatively classiﬁed using biochemical and physio- logical tests and cluster analysis. Most of the lactobacilli were identiﬁed as ¸actobacillus helveticus. Most cocci were classiﬁed in the genera ¸actococcus or Enterococcus but identiﬁcation at the species level was often impossible. The acid production and proteolytic activity of the isolates in skim milk were evaluated. Cluster analysis was used to group the isolates according to technological properties. Isolates belonging to some phenotypic clusters were consistently associated with some technological clusters.
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