Acidification

Fermented sausages are acidified by the deliberate or natural inoculation with specific microorganisms, incubated to ferment a sugar source to lactic acid, and subjected to heating and/or drying to alter pH and the moisture protein ratio, and to prolong shelf life. An update of the technology of meat fermentation with a list of key references on the topic is provided by Prochaska, Ricke, and Keeton (13). Fermented sausages have been produced for centuries. Salamis, mettwurst, thuringer, cervelat, teewurst, Lebanon bologna, and some summer sausages are produced by fermentation and drying without any cooking step. Others such as cooked salami, cooked summer sausage, and mortadella are cooked. Traditionally, fermentation, drying, and smoking of these products are done at 12 to 25°C (54-129°F) during times ranging from weeks to several months. Fermentation is done at 20 to 25°C (68-129°F) with a relative humidity of 92 to 95%. The subsequent smoking and drying are done at less than 20°C (68°F) and gradually decreasing relative humidity to about 78% (14). In the United States, fermented sausages are often produced by the addition of pediococcal starter cultures, fermented at 24 to 43°C (75-108°F) and greater than 85% relative humidity to a pH of approximately 4.8 and then dried at about 13°C (55°F) and 65% relative humidity to a moisture protein ratio of 1.6:1. However, emerging pathogenic bacteria such as Escherichia coli 0157:H7 are not destroyed by this treatment (15). Acidification can be accomplished in meat via direct addition of acids. Citric acid is used at 0.001 to 0.01% together with antioxidants to prevent oxidative rancidity in dry sausage, fresh pork sausage, and dried meats. Citric and lactic acids are also encapsulated in coatings of lipids for direct addition to sausage products to lower the pH and mimic the flavor and preservation effects of natural fermentation. Glucono-^-lactone, a neutral ester of gluconic acid crystallized through dehydration, is a mild acidulant and is used for the same effect. Direct acidification is most widely used on the less expensive snack sticks, which are also cooked and are shelf stable.

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