Slickstring, welcome aboard! We're glad to have you here. You wrote that there was "no fermentation whatsoever".
Please realize that the only type of sausage safe outside of a refrigerator is a fermented sausage. Even "semi-dried" sausages are refrigerated, and certainly, the other two types of sausage - "fresh" and "cured-cooked-smoked" - must be refrigerated.
The answer to your question is that there are bacteria that are naturally occurring
in meat. Mother Nature put `em in there and they are responsible for (a.) converting nitrate to nitrite
by beneficial bacteria known as Micrococcus, Staphylococcus xylosus,
and Staphylococcus carnosus
(b.) improving flavor
bacteria (c.) increasing acidity
(which lowers the pH) by producing lactic acid through sugar metabolism by bacteria known as Pediococcus
, and (d.) produce mold on the casing to protect the contents. This is accomplished by the Penicillium nalgiovense
Next, in order to produce a safe product we can consume, it is necessary to (a.) prevent the growth of spoilage bacteria,
(b.) prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria
, and (c.) boost the production of beneficial bacteria
. We accomplish this by creating favorable conditions in which beneficial bacteria may establish themselves and multiply.
By providing a large colony of beneficial bacteria
, we find that it will quickly and dependably diminish the numbers of spoilage and pathogenic bacteria
by directly competing for their nutrition (sugars) and moisture. However, in most cases, Mother Nature didn`t provide enough beneficial bacteria to inhibit the spoilage
strains. This is the reason we add a bio-culture - a positive, beneficial, bacterium which grows quickly in numbers and "starves out" the bad bacteria. Sure you can add a little sugar to the meat and hope nature`s original amount of "good bacteria" will overtake the bad stuff within a few months. OR... you can scientifically measure a Bactoferm™ starter culture and know exactly how much and what type of bacteria are going to thrive. It is so precise, we may even know "when" it will finish, providing we keep the humidity and temperature at recommended levels. During the process, we lower the pH
(acidity) of the meat to 5.2, and lower the Aw
(water activity) by drying it to 0.89. What is safer and more convenient?
Stickstring, a few years back, an attempt was made by the Polish community to save the secrets of handmade sausage after the big companies were allowed to come into Europe after the war. The greatest techniques of hand-made meat products were being lost at an incredible rate, until a coalition of men and women formed Wedliny Domowe
. Among them was multi-linguist and author Stan Marianski, who has taken most of the mystery out of the subject. In his books available at Bookmagic.com., he has shared his knowledge and has also placed much technical information on this site at this link: http://www.wedlinydomowe....rmented-sausage
Home fermented-sausage makers today, are able to craft some of the finest products every made, having a basic knowledge of bacteria. Today`s informed hobbyist has got to know a little about microorganisms, especially "pathogenic" and "spoilage" bacteria. It is a good idea to read and understand the material at the above link. Stan has placed a wealth of knowledge here for your use.
When I first started to study pathogenic bacteria, it didn't take me long to realize that perhaps nature may be just a bit forgiving as it is truly a miracle that man has not completely wiped himself out somehow in his carelessness with food-born bactera. Each year, in the United States alone, food borne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses and 325,000 hospitalizations! Of this number, more than 5,000 Americans painfully suffer the clearly evident indications and symptoms of preventable
food contamination, breathe their last breath, and agonizingly die
! Just one look into my microscope and some of this stuff will have you shaking in your boots!
Incredibly, only a small number of pathogenic bacterial strains cause the millions of cases of food-borne illness each year and ironically, proper cooking or processing could prevent nearly all of them. The most dreadful is the notorious clostridium botulinum
- the killer. Then there are campylobacter jejuni
- the bacteria whose infection just makes us wish we were laid to rest. Clostridium perfringens
is called the "cafeteria bug" because so many cases have been reported from foods left on steam tables or at room temperature for long periods. Did you know that there are over 1600 types of salmonella
? We hear about salmonella enteritidis
most of the time because it`s the bug found in some raw and undercooked eggs. Then there are staphylococcus aureus
, streptococcus A
, (found in the ears, throat, nose, blood etc. of humans), and shigella
of 30 types, transferred to food mostly through human contact. Listeria monocytogenes
and escherichia coli 0157:H7
are two more nasty critters we could do without. There are also two non-bacterial, parasitic type organisms causing us great concern, and knowing how to destroy cryptosporidium paryum
and tricinella spiralis
One member on our forum said, "Cure the meat? Is it sick"?
No, it`s not sick. But we are at war with the bugs that can certainly make us that way.
"Battling Bugs By Restricting Their Available Water"
If the world were depending upon you
to eliminate pathogenic bacterial microorganisms, just how would you go about it? Can you think of the cheapest effective means to snuff `em out? You could starve `em out couldn`t you? If you dried up their food, they would expire... right? You know that bacteria cannot survive in an environment without moisture, so might it be possible to limit the amount of water available to bacteria in order to destroy them? Hey, what about salt? What does it do? How much would you use? All good questions! However, contrary to popular certainty, salt does not destroy bacteria. It doesn`t even force water to evaporate. It does, however, immediately immobilize or bind a specific, large amount of free water, preventing it from interacting with bacteria (or anything else). The measurement of "bound" water (not available to bacteria) is called "water activity"
, and is abbreviated Aw. Water Activity is measured on a scale from 0.00 (called "bone dry") to 1.00 - the measurement of pure water. So, how about serving a bacterium a dose of salt at first, while we deprive it of moisture? It works. For thousands of years it has worked! Bacon, hams, sausages, and all sorts of meat have been cured with salt, smoked, and dried safely for centuries. Your grandparents certainly knew that salting, drying, and par-cooking meats were positive steps adverse to microorganism survival! They were also aware that if they smoked meat, it not only tasted better but it was not likely to develop mold on its surface.
pH - The Measure Of Acidity
Another effective means of reducing numbers of bacteria is to introduce them to an acidic
environment. Have you ever thought about just how many foods we preserve in vinegar? In preserving sausage, we simply introduce a lactic acid - producing bacteria such as lactobacillus
. Of course, acidity affects flavor and the addition of an acid is not just a simple solution for every type of meat. Yet, without lactic acid - producing bacteria, we wouldn`t have wonderful, tangy, fermented type sausage.
In chemistry, potentiometric hydrogen ion concentration
is abbreviated pH
. Roughly, pH is the measurement of acidity or alkalinity in any substance using a scale from zero to fourteen. Pure water is said to be very close to neutral, having a pH measurement of nearly 7.0 at 77° F. Foods with pH less than 7 are said to be acidic, while foods having a pH greater than 7 are said to be alkaline or "base". Note that as we lower the pH factor, we increase acidity. Are microorganisms able to survive inside acidic foods? Not when the acidity is increased in a sausage by a drop below about 4 pH, depending upon the specific micro-organism we are referring to. Some are more resilient than others.
Let`s investigate a most effective way of preserving non-cooked, fermented sausages such as salami and pepperoni, using lactobacillus or pediococcus
- the bacteria that produce lactic acid when nourished with a sugar (powdered dextrose). For centuries, man has been able to make dry-cured sausage safely only because the meat he used was subjected to a long drying process (including large amounts of salt), as well as naturally occurring lactobacilli
bacteria found in the atmosphere and on the premises of the slaughterhouse or sausage maker. Of course, he did not realize why safe fermentation occurred, only that it did occur. Few families were privy to the processing information someone had previously, accidentally discovered, and had passed down for generations. Certainly, these families
marketed their product as being crafted using "secret" information and recipes
Often a technique called "back slopping" was used, in which a small amount of a previous batch (containing lactobacilli
) was introduced into a fresh batch of sausage. Civilizations throughout Europe employed this inoculating procedure, again not understanding the reason it worked - only that it did work. For the first time, sausages did not have to be cooked to be safely stored for any amount of time at room temperature.
Just what was taking place without the knowledge of the sausage maker? What mysterious force was rendering the sausage safe rather than being spoiled during the long process? Incredibly, the scientific secrets would not be entirely understood until the middle of the Twentieth Century! In short, man began to realize that as sausage "cures", a competition ensues between the good bacteria and the bad, both struggling for the same nutrition source. Time, (allowing lactobacilli
to accomplish their pH drop by increasing the acidity), becomes vitally important as the only initial protection of an air-dried sausage is the addition of salt, which immediately lowers the amount of "available water" accessible to any bacteria. Again, salt does not destroy bacteria, nor does it cause water to evaporate. It does, however, limit the amount of water available to bacteria - with much the same effect that freezing accomplishes. (As ice crystals develop inside meat cells, they simply limit the water available to bacteria - prohibiting bacteria from becoming nourished.)
So, to sum it up, as sausages become slowly dehydrated in a controlled, humid, atmosphere or chamber, they become safe for consumption as pathogenic and spoilage bacteria are not able to survive, once limited available water restricts their nutrition. While this is going on, lactobacilli
bacteria are slowly producing lactic acid to also limit pathogenic and spoilage bacteria. Given the proper amount of time, both these procedures work very well in making that great tangy sausage we call "dry cured" or fermented sausage. Now, where does Bactoferm™ fit in? The product is simply a high-quality, freeze-dried culture of controlled and measured bacteria in various strengths for slow, medium, or fast production. With Bactoferm™, the pH drop (increase in acidity) may occur in as little as 2 days to as much as several months. Other cultures are formulated to produce various, specifically desired qualities such as desired flaky-white mold formation (penicillium nagliovense
) or even protection against listeria.
Why We Use Cure #2?
In time, man`s discovery of nitrates in any number of the earth`s salt reserves, were found to assist in the curing process as micrococcus bacteria (usually staphylococcus) cause nitrates to break down into nitrites. Cure #2 (containing a "reservoir" of sodium nitrate) is used in dry-cured (fermented) sausages whenever curing time allows its sodium nitrate to gradually break down into sodium nitrite. Cure #2 in the United States, contains 6.25% sodium nitrite (NaNO2), 4% sodium nitrate (NaNO3), and 89.75 sodium chloride (salt). Why so much sodium nitrate as compared to that in Cure #1? As micrococcus bacteria (also called Kokuria) reduce nitrate to nitrite, nitric oxide is produced. It is actually this element that "cures" meat. Following two weeks dry-curing, only about a quarter of the 6.25 % sodium nitrite remains in meat. Nitrite simply breaks down too quickly to be of value over an extended period. In other words, in salamis requiring three or more months to cure, a certain amount of sodium nitrate must be added to break down into yet more nitrite over time.
In Defense Of Bactoferm
Some time ago, Stan Marianski wrote the following:
"Some eight years ago I stopped at the real Italian deli and saw a great variety of salamis. The owner proudly announced that the family makes all those sausages right on the premises. She even took me inside the kitchen where sausages were hanging in all over the kitchen and the oscillating fan was blasting air at them. I bought different salamis to find out how a real home-made salami compares with sausages I knew. Well, they were really bad, putrefied and all my friends agreed with me. They were simply not edible, too much spoilage. At that time I had a little knowledge about making fermented products and the above incident gave me plenty of motivation to study fermented products in more detail."
Allow me to defend Bactoferm, and then ask readers and members to make up their own minds. Long ago, man discovered that by adding salt to meat, it somehow "preserved" it! It took man literally ages to realize that "binding `available water` (Aw) in sausage", effectively confines it to the point where harmful pathogenic bacteria are no longer able to survive. The process is known as dehydration or limiting water activity. For centuries, this process, along with the chance or random addition of lactic acid-producing bacteria to increase acidity, has been responsible for safely preparing air-dried, fermented, sausages.
Today, adding carefully chosen strains of lactobacilli
, reducing the pH acidity to safe levels in fermented sausage has been most effective in destroying competing pathogenic bacteria. Historically, as the sausage maker unwittingly created ideal conditions for competing beneficial bacteria to thrive, pathogenic bacteria were deprived of nutrients by being literally crowded out of the way. By providing optimum temperatures and relative humidity for any number of previously unknown lactobacilli and pediococci bacteria, safe and tasty fermented, air-dried sausages have been crafted by man for centuries. Yet, only since about the middle of the nineteenth century have we known what was actually taking place inside the fermentation process. Without beneficial bacteria declaring war on pathogenic bacteria, we would not have salami, pepperoni, summer sausage, or any number of other tangy, fermented air-dried sausages."
Bactoferm™ is the trade name of bio-protective starter cultures made in Denmark and distributed in Germany by the Chr. Hansen Laboratories for use in the food and sausage making industries. Initially, Americans developed a lactobacilli
culture just before entering World War II. Although patents were granted, experimenting continued with pediococcus cerevisiae
as commercial food processors preferred using cultures not needing activation from deep freezing. We non-commercial, small home-hobbyist operations had no accessibility whatsoever to such products.
Perhaps the cultures of the 1940`s and 1950`s were "too effective" as they produced lactic acid so quickly, they robbed other curing bacteria of greatly needed time to develop the milder flavor Europeans have always accepted and actually demanded, even to this day. Consequently, the use of bio-cultures in fermented sausage throughout Europe, have been minimal. In America, although slow to catch on, the overly sour taste of rapidly produced, dry-cured, fermented sausage has become more accepted as commercial producers offered little alternative to the quickly fermented products to the general public.
In 1957, the bacteria strain known as micrococcus was produced (greatly improving flavor) and became the first real major step in mass-produced salami. Three years later, staphylococcus carnosus was developed and finally in 1966, lactobacillus plantarum was introduced as America`s first widely used culture. Food scientists and researchers throughout the `70`s continued to improve air-dried meats and sausages by developing multi-strain bacteria cultures. For the first time in history, we had a safe, consistent, and reliable culture containing lactic acid bacteria with the addition of other beneficial bacteria strains. Since that time, research has continued and improvements have been made continually.
So, why do we use bio-cultures these days in making fermented meat products? Safety, reliability, and consistent fermentation in much less time, are good reasons. The guesswork has been removed by the standard addition of up to 10 million bacteria per gram. Harmful pathogenic bacteria competing for nutrition are simply crowded out and finally eliminated.
Yes, although raw-meat, air-dried, fermented sausages have been made relatively safely without it for centuries, today`s modern cultures guarantee safety consistently! Best of all, as of late, it has become available to home hobbyists and smaller sausage kitchens in convenient packets at affordable prices.
I hope this information sheds a little light on your question. If you have others, please do not hesitate to ask. Good luck with your sausage-making activities and we encourage you to chat often with our members. Many are "in the know". Many think they are "in the know". Many are just plain fun to chat with and get to know... so welcome to the forum and smoke lots of sausage!