Many of the European-style sausages are ripened by mold. These products are particularly popular in Hungary and Romania, as well as throughout the Mediterranean region. For many of these products, fungal growth can be extensive, with the mycelia covering the entire surface. Mold-fermented sausages are not nearly as common in the United States. However, there are some whole meat products, in particular, country-cured hams, that are fermented by yeasts and fungi and that are very popular in various regions of the United States. Although technically not fermented, aged meat owes its improved flavor and texture properties, in part, to growth of surface fungi, in particular, Thamnidium elegans.
The role of fungi in fermented whole meats and sausages is similar to that of other mold-fermented products.That is, the fungi are not involved in the primary lactic acid fermentation, but rather their function is to enhance flavor and texture properties. This is accomplished by production and secretion of pro-teinases and lipases and their diffusion into the meat, generating flavor and aroma products or their precursors. Ammonia, released from protein and amino acid metabolism, and ketones and other rancid and oxidized flavor notes, derived from fatty acid metabolism, are among the end products that accumulate in mold-ripened sausages. In this respect,the fungi pro duce organoleptic properties not unlike that found in mold-ripened cheese.
The manufacture of mold-ripened sausages is similar to that of normal fermented sausage, in that ingredients are mixed and stuffed into casings. Inoculation of sausages or whole meats with fungi can occur either naturally, via the fungal spores present in the manufacturing environment, or by dipping or spraying the product with a defined spore suspension. Salt applied to the surface of country-cured and Parma hams reduces the water activity and provides a selective environment for resident yeasts and fungal organisms. Yeast and fungal starter cultures, which are becoming more widely available for fermented sausage and ham manufacture, are generally comprised of strains of Debaryomyces hansenii, Penicillium nalgio-vense, Penicillium camemberti, and Penicillium chrysogenum. The main problems with naturally-occurring fungi are (1) they may yield products with inconsistent quality; and (2) perhaps more importantly, they may also produce mycotoxins.Thus, the use of pure fungal starter cultures, selected on the basis of their functional properties as well as their inability to produce mycotoxins, have obvious advantages, since greater quality control and product safety can be achieved (Table 6-4).
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