1. Generation of Taste Compounds

Glutamic and aspartic acids impart an acid taste and sodium salts give ham a salty taste. Bitter taste is mainly associated with aromatic amino acids such as phenylalanine, tryp-tophan, and tyrosine; sweet taste with alanine, serine, proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline (34). The generation of all these free amino acids is extremely important in dry-cured ham (36,39,41) and is somehow affected by levels of salt (41,73). For instance, lysine and tyrosine are well correlated to an improvement in the aged taste of Parma ham (66), although in other cases, such as in French-type dry-cured ham, only a small effect on flavor development has been reported (63). An excess of proteolysis (proteolysis index higher than 29-30%) is undesirable because it may give a bitter or metallic aftertaste (66,74).

Specific tastes for dry-cured ham have been found after fractionation by gel filtration chromatography in several fractions with low molecular mass, below 2700 Da, accompanied by some nucleotides and a few compounds from protein-lipid interaction (34).

Table 4 Main Groups of Volatile Compounds Generated During the Processing of Dry-Cured Ham

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