Fermented Meat Products

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Traditionally, fermented meat products, such as salami, pepper-oni, and summer sausage, were produced by enabling the small numbers of lactic acid bacteria naturally present to multiply to the point of dominance. Relying on the natural fermentation of meat is inherently risky, however, because the incubation conditions used to initiate fermentation can potentially support the growth and toxin production of pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium botulinum. The development and use of reliable starter cultures assures rapid production of lactic acid, inhibiting the growth of pathogens and enhancing flavor development. Starter cultures used by U.S. sausage-makers typically contain species of Lactobacillus and/or Pediococcus, depending on the type of sausage.

To make fermented sausages, meat is ground and combined with a starter culture and other ingredients including sugar, salt, and nitrite. The sugar serves as a substrate for fermentation, because meat does not naturally contain enough fermentable carbohydrate to produce sufficient amounts of lactic acid. Salt and nitrite contribute to the flavor of sausage; they also inhibit the growth of spoilage microorganisms and, most importantly, C. botulinum. After thorough blending, the mixture is stuffed into a casing and incubated from one to several days. When the desired amount of acid has been produced or the fermentation is complete, the product may be smoked or otherwise heated to kill bacteria. It is then dried.

Alcoholic Fermentations by Yeast

Some yeasts, such as members of the genus Saccharomyces, ferment simple sugars to produce ethanol and carbon dioxide. These yeasts are found naturally on the skin of many fruits, and so it is not surprising that early humans learned to make alcoholic drinks. As many as 10 million yeast cells may be found on the dull waxy film or "bloom" that covers a single grape.

32.3 Microorganisms in Food and Beverage Production

Table 32.2 Foods Produced Using Alcoholic Fermentation by Yeast

Food

Characteristics

Alcoholic Beverages

Wine Sake Beer

Distilled spirits Vinegar Breads

Sugars in grape juice are fermented by Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Amylase from mold (Aspergillus oryzae) converts the starch in rice to sugar, which is then fermented by S. cerevisiae. Enzymes in germinated barley convert starches of barley and other grains to sugar, which is then fermented by S. cerevisiae. Sugars, or starches that are converted to sugars, are fermented by S. cerevisiae; distillation purifies the alcohol. Alcohol produced by fermentation is oxidized to acetic acid by species of Gluconobacter or Acetobacter. S. cerevisiae ferments sugar; expansion of CO2 causes the bread to rise; alcohol is lost to evaporation.

Yeast is also used to make bread, but in this case, the alcohol is lost to evaporation during baking. Instead, the production of carbon dioxide is critical to bread-making. The expansion of the gas in the dough causes bread to rise.

Table 32.2 describes some of the products made utilizing alcoholic fermentation by yeast.

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