Flavor of Fermented Meats

Like other fermented foods made with a lactic acid starter culture, the main flavor compounds are acids, principally lactic and acetic, derived via metabolism of sugars. In many of the U.S.-produced products that are cured with nitrite, fermented at high temperatures for a short time, and cooked following fermentation, there is only a brief opportunity for development of other flavors. In contrast, a much more complex array of flavor compounds is produced in sausages in which nitrate is used as the curing agent, that are fermented slowly, and are uncooked.

Flavor development may be especially enhanced if micrococci are included in the starter culture.The ripening process for these sausage products is not unlike that for aged cheese, in that microbial as well as endogenous enzymes act on proteins and fats in the raw material, generating hydrolysis products that contribute to the flavor and texture of the finished product. Importantly, the source of the microbial enzymes may be the lactic or micro-coccal starter culture organisms or naturally-occurring bacteria, yeasts, and molds present in the raw meat material.

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