Sausages, Ham, Cheese or Yogurt are loved by almost anybody? I love them as much as anyone out there! Sausages and ham are processed meat whereas cheese and yogurt are fermented foods. I happened to do some deep research recently and found out that it wasn’t that difficult to prepare them either.
It is all about mastering some few steps that I have tried and tested and within no time you will be preparing these processed and fermented foods yourself.Let me walk you through the steps of processing some of the common loved foods by yourself right at home. Processed Fermented foods save on the time involved in cooking from scratch.
Origin of some of the processed and fermented foods.
Take sausage as an example; its origin dates back to Mesopotamia. About five thousand years ago, Sumerians in Mesopotamia poured minced meat into pork intestine and added some pink curing salt. This kind of sausage was popular. After that, sausage was spread to Europe and the Germans improved it. German sausages were majorly divided into three categories: gravy sausage, boiled sausage, and raw sausage. Munich white sausage, Bratwurst and red sausage in Thuringen are the three most famous.
Yogurt which is basically fermented milk originates from Bulgaria. In the olden days, Thracian often carried leather bags filled with ewe’s milk and followed their herds in the grassland. Because of the temperature and constant shaking of the leather bags, the ewe’s milk always went sour. The milk would be poured into boiled milk, the boiled milk would become sour as well. That’s the earliest yogurt. It is the favorite of Thracian. At the beginning of the 20th century, a Russian scientist discovered the macrobiotics in Bulgaria. He concluded that drinking yogurt is an important factor of longevity. A lot of research and development has been made to improving the taste of the yogurt we drink today.
Processed and fermented foods were created accidentally by ancient people. They found these foods can be kept for a longer time. They also found out that the processed foods had special flavors due to the use of traditional ingredients. Within a short time, these methods spread all over the world.
Food Processing Methods.
There are countless methods for use in processing meat. However, some kinds of processed meat are made by a combination of a few methods. Bacon, corned beef, and pastrami belong to this category. The major steps for making them include: curing, brining, smoking and cooking. By the way, corned beef doesn’t need smoking. If you want to make prosciutto, beef jerky, bresaola or dried sausages, you can dry them after curing, instead of smoking and cooking.
When we discuss processed meat and ferment foods, we cannot neglect salt as the major ingredient in the preservation. Salt as a preservative prevents bacteria from multiplying. Almost all the methods of processing and fermentation have salt as a major ingredient. For fish and meat; it reduces the smell, tenderizes the meat and maintains the flavor.Take Korean Kimchi an example.It was listed as the non-material cultural heritage by UNESCO. Lactic acid is also essential. This acid is responsible for the process of fermentation. Pickle salt which is larger permeates into vegetables easily and is, therefore, more suitable for use. Different kinds of meat have different processing time. Some require more equipment than others.
Some basic categories of food processing and fermentation. The difference between these methods in most cases is very slight. Some of these methods include;
It is the simplest meat preservation method.Salt curing uses solid salt while brining uses brine. Bacon, pastrami, salami, dried sausages, gravlax and smoked salmon all need this process. Some curing need more specific salts like the nitrate salts. These salts can prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum which can cause botulism. The nitrates, however, are a little poisonous if taken in large quantities.
Dry Curing mostly uses herbs. Additionally, salt and sugar are also used. Most commonly used herbs are as listed below;
It is always used in Italian cuisine.
It is popular among France, Italy, Greece and the Middle East. It has a light sweet flavor.
It has the same status as thyme. It has a strong taste and therefore doesn’t use too much of it in food. When cooking stew, add it later on during the cooking process because it produces a bitter taste when overcooked.
Sage and poultry are good partners. Its leaves are often placed under the skin of the poultry.
It originates from Italy, Algeria, and Tunisia. It is similar to Chinese celery. It is always applied to meat, poultry, seafood, and consomme. It can also be eaten directly. Curly parsley is a breed of it.
It is a kind of Italian herb. Compared with other herbs, it has a light taste. Famous Italian Seasoning consists of equal parts of oregano, basil, and sage. It is usually used in soup and sauce.
It originates from Asia. After that, it spread to Europe. It tastes like anise in Chinese cuisine. It is divided into French tarragon, German tarragon, and Russian tarragon.
It has lots of breeds.It can be planted in the courtyard. Not only is it a flower, but can also be applied in food. Provence in southern France is famous for purple lavender.
We are familiar with this herb and so is it’s cool refreshing taste.
Brining or wet curing
This is basically soaking meat or vegetables in a salty solution. Water or fruit juice can also be used in place of the salt solution.
Canned foods are very common in stores. The food is first sterilized by heating before put in these airtight cans. Take pork luncheon as an example. Canning was invented by Jay Hormel( the son of the founder of Hormel Company) in Austin in 1932. The canned food was basically made of ham, pork, sugar, salt, water and potato starch, and a bit of sodium nitrite. The advantage is that it can be kept longer and cheaper than fresh meat. Foods which are not seasoned, salted or pickled can be processed like this.
It reminds me of all kinds of pickles, such as fermented pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Vinegar is the major ingredient. It can reduce the loss of vitamin C and promote the dissolution of calcium, phosphorus, and iron. If you don’t have something acidic, you can utilize the process of fermentation to create an acid environment which can keep the food for a longer time and add more flavor.
Bacteria and yeast can change the compounds of the food into other beneficial substances to the human body. Take yeast as an example. Yeast is a kind of unicellular fungi which can ferment sugar and change it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. If you use them correctly, yeast will produce healthy compounds. They can grow in fermented foods naturally. Yeast can be bought from nearest food stores.
The Main Categories Of Fermentation;
Alcoholic fermentation and lactose fermentation. alcoholic fermentation involves some bacteria or sugars in the food or drink that can be converted to alcohol. The production of vinegar is an exception. Then you steam the rice until they become soft. When they cool down, add some distiller’s yeast. Put the rice in a big jar. After 24 hours, you can smell light bouquet. To saccharin completely, the rice needs to ferment 3 to 4 days so that much alcohol can be produced. When the alcohol becomes sour, add a proper amount of clean water to reduce the concentration of alcohol. In this way, acetic acid bacteria in the air can enter the jar and reproduce themselves. After that you still need to wait for sometime, then you get vinegar!
Another way is lactose fermentation. It still needs bacteria. These bacteria can change sugars into lactic acid. Lactic acid has a strong effect on preservation. It can be used in making fruit wine, drinks, meat, foods, sweets, vegetable fermentation, canned food processing and keeping fruits. It can adjust PH value, bacteriostasis, extend shelf life, season, make the food keep color and luster and improve the quality of food. With lactic acid, the PH value of food can be lowered to a reasonable level and get an unexpected flavor. It can also create an environment which can effectively fight against harmful bacteria. Think about kimchi and sauerkraut, they are the great work of lactic acid!
We can use this method to cook delicious smoking ribs and tri-tip roast. But it has another brilliant function–curing meat and preserving foods! It’s not so hard. Just keep a comparatively low temperature and a longer smoking time, we can get delicious bacon, pastrami, smoked salmon and other delicacies. The best thing about Smoking is that it does not alter the original taste of the food being smoked.
Drying or dry aging
Some cured meats need extra steps–drying or dry aging. This method can take liquid away, keep the original flavor of food and keep it for a longer time. You can use it to make beef jerky, prosciutto, bresaola, speck, coppa and dried sausages like salami. Remember, the smaller the meat is, the shorter the drying time will be. Such as beef jerky. You can buy a special food dehydrator, or keep your oven at a low temperature, then you will spend less time in making them. However, larger pieces of meat or sausages need to be hung in a ventilated place for several weeks. Proscuitto even needs at least a whole year. Proper maintenance of temperature and humidity is very crucial in this or else you risk having the food go bad.
As a food enthusiast, I really liked to write something about food processing because, with the growing society and the fast-paced-lifestyle, this is something we cannot avoid.
You might also Like: