Minced Meat Products

Products consisting of fractions of lean meat and fat submitted to fermentation processes, drying, and ripening, which will be referred to hereafter by their generic name of salami, are present in many regions of the world; they represent one of the most ancient forms of meat preservation. Characteristics common to all these products are the presence of salt and flavorings and sometimes of other ingredients (sugars) and of additives (nitrates, etc.), and their filling in a casing which is permeable to water vapor, traditionally obtained from animal gut (pig, sheep, horse, cow, etc.).

The compositions and techniques of preparation and ripening differ widely, reflecting the food traditions and climatic conditions of the differing countries of origin. Schematically, the preparation can be subdivided into two main stages: the preparation of the salamis (all the meat fraction cutting operations, the addition of the ingredients, and the filling in varying types of casing), and the drying/ripening phases (all those stages during which the salami is stored in suitable relative humidity and temperature conditions).

A. Main Physicochemical and Microbiological Processes

The physicochemical processes mostly used in the preparation of salamis are the lowering of pH, by the formation of organic acids, and of Aw by evaporation of the water and the consequent increase in the concentration of the various solutes (NaCl in particular).

The curves describing the behaviour of Aw with time are substantially similar in shape (continuous fall during the ripening) for the various types of salamis but differ significantly concerning the values reached, which depend on size, on characteristics (essentially salt water ratio) and on weight loss of the product—for example 0.81-0.87 pepperoni sausages (16), 0.89 salame Milano (17), 0.92 German sausages (18), 0.89 salchichon de cerdo Iberico (anonymous).

The pH curves present a different behavior: the pH initially decreases until a minimum value and, progresses the ripening, for several products (e.g., Italian and French sausages), tends to rise again. The minimum and final values depend on quantity and type of sugars, on temperature of fermentation, on Aw of product, on type of starter cultures, and on drying and ripening techniques and vary within wide limits (Table 2).

The choice of type of pH and Aw variation with time is one of the most important initial operations in the planning of a technology and/or in the modification of existing techniques; these parameters, in fact, have a decisive influence on the formation of various important sensory properties, including the following:

The texture of the slice

The formation of an oxidation-stable red color (nitrates and nitrites are generally present, whereas colorants are used only in some productions)

Table 2 Minimal and Final pH of Some Types of Salamis

Type of salamis

Reference

Time of phase

pH

German-type salami

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