Background Definitions And Classification

Semidry sausages are almost always considered at the same time as the dry sausages, probably because these two types of sausage products are most often fermented and consequently share many production similarities. However, there are significant differences between these two products in finished form. The semidry sausages are softer in texture and characterized by a markedly different flavor profile than dry sausages. Semidry sausages are typically products that are fermented and cooked but are not usually dried beyond the moisture lost during fermentation and heating. Because finished semidry sausages typically retain at least 80-85% of the moisture content of the initial formulation, these products remain softer in texture than fully dried sausages. Further, because the higher moisture content makes these products more susceptible to spoilage, they are usually fermented to a low pH, resulting in a very tart, tangy flavor.

Undoubtedly, both semidry and dry sausages developed simultaneously out of the need to preserve a very perishable food. History indicates that the ancient Egyptians were among the first to record the preservation of meat by salting and sundrying (1). Adding salt would have resulted in chance fermentations at warm temperatures. Once the preservation and culinary advantages of fermented products were realized, observant individuals began to deliberately encourage fermentation processes. China is believed to be another originator of fermented sausage products, some 2500 years ago (2); there large amounts of sugar were included for additional preservation effects. By the 1700s, fermented sausages had developed into several different versions such as the dry and semidry varieties. These products became relatively common around the Mediterranean and subsequently in Germany, Hungary, and upper Europe.

The traditional classification of fermented sausage types has been derived from historical origins, with ''Italian types'' most often meaning dry sausage without smoke and with a relatively mild acid flavor or tang. ''Germanic type,'' in contrast, most often describes semidry products that have been smoked and that have a greater tartness or tang from the fermentation. Semidry sausages have also been produced in a number of varieties. In addition to the Germanic type, found in Germany, The Netherlands, Scandinavia, and the United States, there are some French and Spanish products that are characterized by a short drying period in which external mold growth is encouraged (3). An unique semidry

Figure 1 Semidry summer sausage and thuringer available as several varieties, including garlic, lite, all-beef, and regular (beef/pork) formulations. (Photo courtesy of Klement's Sausage Co., Milwaukee, WI, USA.)

sausage is the Lebanon Bologna produced in the eastern United States. These products are all-beef, very heavily smoked, and fermented to a very low pH (about 4.5). In addition, high carbohydrate levels are included in the formulation of Lebanon Bologna to result in a significant amount of remaining sugar following the fermentation. The result is a sweet, tangy, smoked flavor that is unique to this product.

Semidry sausage is found in several different forms, but it is most often characterized by fermentation to relatively low pH, addition of smoke, heating for pasteurization, and little or no drying. Semidry sausage usually has a pH of 5.3 or less and a water activity of 0.86 or higher. Figure 1 shows a variety of summer sausage and thuringer available as garlic, ''lite,'' and all-beef formulations in addition to conventional beef/pork formulations.

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