Groups volatile compounds
Autooxidation of lipids
Oxidation of free fatty acids
Green, pungent, fatty
Strecker degradation of amino acids
Roasted cocoa, cheesy-green
Oxidative decomposition of lipids
Medicinal, onion, green, alcoholic
h-keto acid decarboxylation or fatty acid h-oxidation
Buttery, floral, fruity
Interaction of free carboxylic acids and alcohols
Maillard reaction of amino acids with carbohydrates
Meaty, nutty, toasted nuts
Sulfur-containing amino acids
Sulfur-containing amino acids with carbohydrates
Some of these tasty peptides, mainly di- and tripeptides, have been successfully purified and sequenced (37). Free amino acids may also serve as a source of volatile compounds during further ripening (75) or when the ham is heated, like the country-style ham (76).
Aroma development in dry-cured ham is a very complex process involving numerous reactions such as chemical or enzymatic oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids and further interactions with proteins, peptides, and free amino acids (61,77). In fact, more than 200 volatile compounds have been reported in dry-cured hams (60, 64,78-80) as summarized in Table 4. Some volatile compounds, such as 2-methyl propanal, 2-methyl butanal, and 3-methyl butanal, arise from Strecker degradation of the amino acids valine, isoleucine, and leucine, respectively. Some pyrazines formed through Maillard reactions between sugars and free amino acids, although in low amounts, also impart some characteristic aromas like nutty, green, earthy, and so forth. Final flavor depends on the mixture of characteristic aromas and odor thresholds for each compound, although, in general, ketones, esters, aromatic hydrocarbons, and pyrazines are correlated with pleasant aroma of ham (81). Some correlations have been found between some volatile compounds and specific characteristics of the process. For instance, the correlation of aged flavor of Parma ham with short-chain methyl-branched aldehydes, esters, and alcohols (66,82); hexanal, 3-methyl butanal, and dimethyl disulfide with short drying processes (64); or methyl-branched aldehydes, secondary alcohols, methyl ketones, ethyl esters, and dimethyl trisulfide with nutty, cheesy, and salty descriptors (83).
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