If the sausage is used as the ancestor of the ham, then the history of the ham has been for thousands of years. It is said that there is a record of sausage in Homer’s Epic. However, the difference between the ham and the sausage we have now is very large – the raw materials are basically the same, but the processing is far away, so the taste and taste are quite different.
In food engineering, ham sausage belongs to a system called “emulsified meat” – its key is to make fat into fine particles, and then evenly distributed throughout the intestine. Therefore, with the naked eye, it is almost impossible to tell whether the fat in it – in general, is fat – is more or less. In order to evenly disperse these fats, the protein in the lean meat is extracted and used as an emulsifier to stabilize the “grinded” fat particles. Protein extraction is not an easy task. Usually, lean meat is “made into” meat sauce, and more protein can be extracted at a high salt concentration.
Therefore, the ham is always salty, which is an unavoidable problem. A portion of the protein extracted into the water is adsorbed on the surface of the fat granules to prevent re-melting of the fat granules, while others remain in the water and crosslink each other when heated to form an interconnected network structure. The fibrous tissue that is not dissolved in the water and the protein network structure fix the fat particles, forming a unique texture of the ham. The taste of the ham’s intestines depends on the strength of the gelatinous structure.
Strictly speaking, the simplest ham sausage can be as long as lean meat and salt. In actual production, people still want to add fat, fat helps to retain a lot of vitamins and aromas that can only be stable in fat. However, too much fat is not welcome. First of all, not healthy enough – everyone does not like to eat too much fat; secondly, more fat needs to extract more protein to absorb, but the amount of lean meat is less, this is correspondingly less, this It will reduce the strength of the formed gelatinous structure and make it taste worse. In addition, some of the plant ingredients, such as soy protein and starch, are added to the production of modern ham. The addition of soy protein helps to lower the cholesterol content while maintaining protein content, and has the dual advantages of increasing nutrition and controlling costs. However, the addition of soy protein can affect the texture and taste of the final product, and usually cannot be added too much. Adding starch to the ham, like adding starch to traditional meatballs, helps to reduce costs, but it also affects texture. The national standard is to classify ham sausage according to the content of protein, fat and starch. The higher the grade, the less fat and starch it contains. Because there are a lot of salt, some sugar is needed to reduce the saltiness. Other seasonings are places where manufacturers are showing their talents.
As a processed food, ensuring safety is a vital part. Meat is a very perishable food, and the biological cause of spoilage is the growth of bacteria. The ham sausage contains all kinds of nutrients needed for the growth of bacteria, and the ham that has not been preserved is a paradise for bacteria. To protect the ham from bacterial harassment, first of all, to prevent bacterial seeds from mixing in. Some of the bacteria in the raw material of the ham are inevitably mixed, and they are “severely hit” when heated at a high temperature, and most of them are removed. The so-called “low temperature ham” in the market is usually only heated to 70 degrees Celsius, so that you can get different flavors, but the “strike hard” is not enough, and there are more bacteria in the net.
For food safety, production is only the first step. In any case, there are always some very strong bacteria that can withstand the “strike” of the sterilization process and lurk. During the transportation and storage of the package after heating, the bacteria also have the opportunity to sneak into the ham, and once the environment is right, it will start to proliferate. Therefore, people’s battle against bacteria has to continue until they eat into their stomachs. Good and effective packaging can prevent external bacteria from invading, and the internal bacteria can only control their growth environment. It is said that high salt concentration is needed when extracting protein. In fact, high salt environment also helps to curb bacterial growth. Low temperature is another effective means to control bacterial growth, especially those that are incompletely sterilized. The flavor provided must be at the expense of more stringent storage conditions.
But the vitality of bacteria is too strong. Even under such a chase, they are only slower and do not completely stop. In order to strike them harder, people have to use “chemical weapons” – preservatives. Preservatives greatly deteriorate the environment in which bacteria live, thus effectively extending the shelf life of the ham.
Preservatives can kill bacteria and can be potentially harmful to the human body. This is also the place where people pay most attention to processed foods. Food scientists are constantly looking for preservatives that can effectively prevent bacterial growth and have no significant harm to the human body at specific concentrations. The preservative that can be legally used in the ham is currently sodium nitrite (a type of nitrite). Excessive intake of this substance can lead to acute poisoning. Some cases of food poisoning are caused by excessive levels of nitrite in pickled unsuccessful sauerkraut. Nitrite is also considered to be a carcinogenic factor. However, it is not carcinogenic, but it can react with amines in an acidic environment to form nitrosamines, which are carcinogens.
However, nitrite in qualified ham is not worth worrying about. Nitrate is widely found in nature, and nitrates in many vegetables also have the opportunity to be converted to nitrite. Humans have conducted a lot of scientific research on how nitrite affects human health. According to these scientific findings, a small amount of nitrite does not pose a threat to human health. The United States stipulates that the maximum allowable amount of sodium nitrite in meat is 200 ppm (ppm is one part per million), that is, the FDA believes that the nitrite in meat is safe below 200 ppm. China’s standards are much stricter than this, it is 30ppm. Therefore, it can be considered that the effect of the preservative is negligible as long as it is a qualified ham.
Some studies have found that nitrite reacts preferentially with vitamin C or vitamin E when reacting with amines without generating harmful nitrosamines. Therefore, some vitamins will be added to the processing of meat to reduce the possible side effects of nitrite. In fact, no matter how effective this approach is, eating some fruits and vegetables while eating these foods is of great benefit.