The fundamental nonmeat ingredients essential to semidry sausages include carbohydrates/ sugars, salt, curing agents, and spices. In addition, starter cultures or acidulants are essential in most cases unless a traditional fermentation or backslopping-type inoculation is being used.
A variety of carbohydrates will provide the necessary substrate for production of lactic acid during fermentation, but the simple sugars, such as dextrose, are preferred. Dextrose is most commonly used because it is very readily utilized by all lactic acid bacteria. Final product pH will be directly related to the amount of dextrose in the product formulation, up to about 0.6%-0.7%. Most semidry sausages are formulated with 0.7%-1% dextrose. Greater amounts of dextrose (1.0% or more) will not greatly affect final product pH because the culture cannot grow in the presence of excess acid. Sucrose will also provide acid production and pH change very similar to dextrose and may be used in product formulation. A number of other carbohydrates such as maltose and lactose have been studied as fermentation substrates and will result in lactic acid production. However, most of these carbohydrates result in somewhat slower fermentation and higher final pH compared with dextrose (13). Figure 2 shows the pH differences achieved by five different carbohydrate sources during a meat fermentation. Complex carbohydrates such as corn syrups can be fermented, but the rate and extent of the fermentation depends on the amounts of simple sugars present in the mixture (usually expressed as dextrose equivalent)(13). Excess carbohydrates may be used in some cases where sweetness is desired for part of the final flavor profile along with acid tartness. The Lebanon Bologna products produced in the eastern United States are one such example where as much as 2% dextrose may be included. Sweetness from residual sugar tends to moderate the tartness of lactic acid and provides for a less astringent flavor.
Salt is an absolutely essential nonmeat ingredient for nearly all processed meat products as well as semidry sausages. For example, salt immediately inhibits the gram-negative organisms typically found in raw meat and allows the gram-positive lactic acid bacteria to predominate. Thus, salt is essential to achieving fermentation. Most sausage products will contain 2.0-3.5% salt, with the level chosen dependent on the flavor and texture desired. Although the lactic acid bacteria are salt-tolerant, it has been demonstrated that salt levels over 3.0% are likely to slow down fermentation, especially at low temperatures of 75-80°F (~26°C). One concern for this effect of salt is that Staphylococcus aureus is somewhat more salt-resistant than the lactic acid bacteria. A high salt concentration of more than 3.5% could favor the growth of this pathogen during fermentation (1).
Curing agents used in semidry sausages are primarily sodium nitrite, though sodium nitrate may be used as well. Because nitrite is the active curing ingredient that results in the typical cured meat characteristics, nitrate is generally unnecessary, except in some cases such as dried meat products. In dried products, nitrate can provide a reservoir of nitrite to maintain color and other cured meat characteristics over extended periods of time. Because
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