5 – MICROBIOLOGY-TECHNOLOGY          The Science Of Meat & Cultures

5 – MICROBIOLOGY-TECHNOLOGY The Science Of Meat & Cultures

Ya say you’re frightened by the latest news on ebola? Well, read on. The magical, microscopic world of Microbiology can be your friend, but if you aren’t careful, it can be your worst enemy.


Read. Post! Be merry, for tomorrow you… uh… live long and prosper, if you understand just a smidgen of this stuff. Please share those questions and answers with everyone else. You might say, we’re dying to know!

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93 thoughts on “5 – MICROBIOLOGY-TECHNOLOGY The Science Of Meat & Cultures

  1. A Baffling Mystery!

    In Sweden during the 1970’s, a single case of food-borne bolulism completely baffled medical authorites for more than a week. A father had been out with his 7-year old son hunting roe deer and since they lacked a freezer, they made meatballs and preserved them in jars. Experienced as they were, they followed all safety rules with sterilization of the jars etc. After a couple of months, the son opened a jar to have a taste and ate ONE meatball. He fell sick with botulism and was admitted to the emergency room at a hospital. Only because of quick diagnosis and treatment, the boy finally recovered following several weeks in a hospital, as authorities investigated every possible clue for answers. (In Sweden, the law requires an investigation regulated by their bureau for Infectious Disease Control). The contents of all the jars were examined by specialists, though only one jar in particular seemed to be the only one infected! Investigators were completely puzzled! What had caused the infection of merely one jar? Following further investigation, it eventually turned out that when the deer was shot, the bullet had slightly grazed against the trunk of a tree before killing the game. A few spores from the tree had obviously followed the bullet into the wound to eventually end up in the preserved meat. Boiling the jars killed LIVING bacteria, but not the spores that found ideal growth conditions during the subsequent storage.

    Do you know how the rod-shaped pathogenic bacterium was first isolated? It has only been a little over a hundred years ago. Yup, some crazy home-sausage makin’, cow biscuit kickin’, dude with a bad comb-over just like mine… made a “bad” ham. (Meaning no curing agent was used). That was in 1896. Several people consumed the bad ham and it was later discovered that due to the enzyme superoxide dismutase, the bacterium actually tolerated very small traces of oxygen. All fell victim of the bad ham and died! Scientists finally identified and named clostridium botulinum.

    Now, get this! Botulinum spores are extremely persistent and will survive heating up to 250°F. (121°C), freezing, smoking, and drying. When the right conditions occur they become active but give no foul smell or taste, making the bacteria even more treacherous.

    In non-cooked fermented sausages, the microorganism must be destroyed using a combination of salt, sodium nitrate cure, a drop beyond 5.0 pH, and a minimum drop in Aw water activity to 0.97 or less.

    Best Wishes,

  2. In Defense Of Bactoferm (P.1)

    Some time ago, author 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 or pediococci, 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.”

    (Continued in next post)

  3. In Defense Of Bactoferm (P.2)

    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.

    Best Wishes,

  4. Types Of Bactoferm Available: (P.1)

    Bactoferm™ is a trade mark of Chr. Hansen… and it is the very best! I’ve used it many times and highly recommend it.

    Meat Starter Culture Bactoferm™ LHP (Fast: 5.0 pH in 2 days)
    LHP is a freeze-dried culture well suited for all fermented sausages where a relatively pronounced acidification is desired. This culture is recommended for the production of traditional fermented, dry sausages with a sourly flavor note.
    Each 42-gram packet of LHP will treat 500 pounds (225 kilo) of meat. You can use half of the packet in 100 pounds of meat, and refreeze remaining culture.
    Note: Cultures must be stored in a freezer and have a shelf life of 14 days unrefrigerated or 6 months frozen.

    Meat Starter Culture Bactoferm™ F-RM-52 (Medium: 5.0 pH in 4 days)
    Bactoferm™ F-RM-52 is a freeze-dried culture well suited for all fermented sausages where a relatively fast acidification is desired. The culture is recommended for the production of traditional North European types of fermented, dry sausages with a sourly flavor note.
    Each 25-gram packet of Bactoferm™ F-RM-52 will treat 220 pounds (100 kilo) of meat. You can use the whole packet in 100 pounds of meat or use half of the packet and refreeze remaining culture.
    Note: Cultures must be stored in a freezer and have a shelf life of 14 days unrefrigerated or 6 months frozen.

    Meat Starter Culture Bactoferm™ T-SPX (Slow: Assists with drying a month or more) Also: Semi Dry Cured
    Bactoferm™ T-SPX is a freeze-dried culture well suited for all fermented sausages where a relatively mild acidification is desired. T-SPX is particularly recommended for the production of Southern European type of sausages, low in acidity with an aromatic flavor. The culture is suitable for moulded as well as smoked fermented sausages. (Semi Dry Cured)
    Each 25-gram packet of Bactoferm™ T-SPX will treat 440 pounds (200 kilo) of meat. You can use the whole packet in 100 pounds of meat or use half of the packet and refreeze remaining culture.
    Note: Cultures must be stored in a freezer and have a shelf life of 14 days unrefrigerated or 6 months frozen.

    Mold Culture – Bactoferm:Mold 600 (Previously M-EK-4)
    Meat culture for production of moulded dried sausages with a white/cream coloured appearance. Mold-600 is a single strain culture containing spores of Penicillium nalgiovense in a convenient freeze-dried form.
    P. nalgiovense is a fast growing, traditional white mold culture for controlling the surface flora.
    Mold-600 is particularly recommended for the production of traditional sausages dried at low temperature and/or low humidity.
    Mold-600 suppresses the growth of undesirable organisms such as indigenous molds, yeasts and bacteria. The culture has a positive effect on the drying process by preventing the emergence of a dry rim. Furthermore, the mold degrades lactic acid during maturation resulting in a pH increase and a less sourish flavor.
    Note: Cultures must be stored in a freezer and have a shelf life of 14 days unrefrigerated or 6 months frozen.

    Bactoferm™ F-LC (Short or Traditional Fermentation Time / Also: Added Listeria protection)
    Bactoferm™ F-LC meat culture with bioprotective properties for production of fermented sausages with short or traditional production times. F-LC is recommended for the production of all types of fermented sausages. Depending on fermentation temperature, acidification is either traditional, fast or extra fast. F-LC is a mixed culture containing Pediococcus acidilactici, Lactobacillus curvatus and Staphylococcus xylosus in a convenient freeze-dried form. P. acidilactici ensures reliable acidification whereas S. xylosus results in strong flavor development and a good, stable color. Due to bacteriocin production both L. curvatus and P. acidilactici contribute to suppressing growth of Listeria monocytogenes.
    Each 25-gram packet of Bactoferm™ F-LC will treat 220 pounds (100 kilo) of meat. You may use the whole packet in 100 pounds of meat or use half of the packet and refreeze remaining culture.

    (Continued in next post)

  5. Types Of Bactoferm Available: (P.2)

    Other favorite Bactoferm™ cultures include:

    Cultures for fermentation below 75˚F. (24˚C.)
    T-RM-53……Slow (European style)

    Cultures for fermentation from 70˚- 90˚F. (22˚- 32˚C.)
    F-RM-52……..Medium (American style)
    FLC (with Listeria protection)

    Culture for fermentation from 80˚- 100˚F. (26˚- 38˚C.)
    LHP……………Extra Fast

    Culture for fermentation from 86˚- 115˚F. (30˚- 45˚C.)
    CSB……………Extra Fast

    Culture for fermentation from 90˚- 115˚F. (32˚- 45˚C.)
    HPS……………Extra Fast

    I’ve found these cultures to be most reliable. Herein lies the future of safe, uniform, and convenient sausage making! If you’d like to know more, please contact me via pm @ Chuckwagon. I’m always happy to help anyone interested, especially beginners.

    Best wishes,

  6. A Hard Look At Lactic Acid Bacteria And Nutrient Sugars (P.1)

    In the sausage making world, two specific families of lactic acid bacteria have been almost universally chosen to meet the needs of fermented type sausages. These are lactobacillus and pediococcus – both are symbiotic, facultative anaerobic, and gram positive. Each includes its own strains and depending upon the qualities desired in a specific product, more than one strain may be combined in one culture. Some do well in higher salt content, others do not. Some do better than others at higher (or lower) temperatures. The strains most beneficial (therefore most commonly used), of lactobacilli include: lactobacillus pentosus, lactobacillus curvatus, lactobacillus plantarum, lactobacillus farciminis, lactobacillus sakei, et.al. Of the pediococci, two widely used strains are pediococcus pentosaceus and pediococcus acidilactici. These are the workhorses of fermentation, thriving on sugar – dextrose ideally – as glucose (dextrose) is the most simple of all forms of sugar, being utilized quickly to produce rapid fermentation. Glucose, produced from cornstarch, is only about 70% as sweet as sucrose refined from sugar beets or sugar cane, then being combined with fructose from fruit. Lactose (called milk sugar) binds water very well but has poor fermenting quality and non-fat dry milk contains about 52% lactose. For this reason, I choose to add dextrose to fermented sausage rather than powdered milk composed of more than half lactose – the worst choice of fermenting sugars. Also, there are limits to be considered in using added sugar as the more that is used, the more sour or “tangy” the product will become.

    Although lactobacilli and pediococci bacteria are ideal acid-producers for fermentation, they also produce acetic acid, bacteriocins, various enzymes, but do almost nothing to contribute to the development of flavor and color. This is where the use of strains from the micrococcaceae family becomes vital – especially the bacterial strains staphyloccus and micrococcus (now called Kocuria). These are the strains chiefly responsible for the reduction of nitrate to nitrite. In checking with Professor Ron Ragsdale, head of the Chemistry Department at the University Of Utah, he further explained that as nitrite reacts with oxygen, additional nitrate is created which must subsequently be broken down into nitrite by micrococcaceae.

    (Continued in next post)

  7. A Hard Look At Lactic Acid Bacteria And Nutrient Sugars (P.2)

    Chr. Hansen’s Bactoferm™ LHP – (With Pediococcus Acidilactici And Pediococcus Pentosaceus)

    Bactoferm LHP is for extra fast acidification where a pronounced sour flavor is desired. Bactoferm LHP culture induces the pH to drop to under 5.3 in 30 hours or under 5.0 in 2 days. LHP is ideal for thin products similar to pepperoni or sausages less than 1” in diameter or any extra-fast culture targeted for fermentation temperatures 90°F-105°F. where both pediococcus pentosaceus (optimal growth at 95°F.) and pediococcus acidilactici (optimal growth at 104°F.), do very well. Dextrose is recommended as the nutrient for growth (not table sugar). Typically, LHP is used in products requiring less than 2 weeks to completely develop, including drying. Note: Use Cure #1 with this culture. *Bactoferm L-HP is so fast, it requires a nitrite cure instead of a nitrate/nitrite cure. It works in far less time than it would take for nitrate (in Cure #2) to break down into nitrite for curing the meat.
    For every 10 lbs. of meat, dilute ½ teaspoon LHP culture in ½ cup distilled water (or chlorine-free tap water). Allow the mixture to sit for 15-20 minutes while the bacteria “wake-up”. Use the time to mix the seasonings, spices, and cure into the minced meat, developing the proteins of the actomyocin. Finally, pour the solution over the mixed meat and distribute it thoroughly, being sure the meat stays cold throughout the entire mixing process. Be sure to use Cure #1 with this culture.
    Keep any remaining culture sealed and frozen. The shelf- life of frozen cultures is 6 months. Unfrozen, cultures will last only a couple of weeks.

    Best Wishes,

  8. You Can Make Your Own Professionally – Fermented “Dry-Cured” Sausage! (P.1)

    Yeee Hawww! Wranglers… you have no more excuses! Have you been hesitating to make “dry-cured” sausages because you’ve heard that it is difficult or not safe unless you have “special knowledge”? Well, procrastinate and postpone no more! It just isn’t that tough… IF… you just realize what you are doing… when you are doing it!

    First, you’ve got to know a little about microorganisms, especially “pathogenic” and “spoilage” bacteria. It is a good idea to read and understand all you can about the subject. Actually, the elemental but essential material for us “home hobbyists” has been placed into my friend Stan Marianski’s book, “The Art Of Making Fermented Sausages”. Stan has taken the mystery out of the subject in his books available at his own company Bookmagic.com.

    Second, you will have to build a “fermentation chamber”. In the hardware section, our pal “Uwanna” has posted complete instructions and details of his own. It is very well done. There is also information about curing chambers in Stan Marianski’s book, “The Art Of Making Fermented Sausages” at Bookmagic.com

    Stan is also the author of “Home Production Of Quality Meats And Sausages”. This publication is recommended if you are making any type of sausage, and vital if you are going to make “dry-cured”, fermented sausage. Stan has expertly placed a wealth of knowledge in his books for you to use. For the first time in history, the “jealously guarded secrets” of the craft are shared without having been clandestinely “handed down in secret” throughout generations. Today, thanks to Stan, we can simply order them online at Bookmagic.com or obtain them from our favorite sausage-supply company.

    Understanding Bacteria

    When I first started to study pathogenic bacteria, it didn’t take me long to realize that perhaps Mother 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. Some of these pathogenic bacteria species are deadly! Just one look into a microscope and this stuff will have you shaking in your boots! On the other hand, we must recognize the benefits of beneficial bacteria if we are to make fermented meat sausages. At the same time, an understanding of a third type of bacteria – the “spoilage” bacteria – is indispensable. However, although the spoilage bacteria is unpleasant, it is the pathogenic bacteria with which we are most concerned, as its presence in contaminated food is not always made evident by irregular odor, color, texture, or other normally perceptible means.

    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 although we hear about salmonella enteritidis most of the time because it’s the bug found in some raw and undercooked eggs. Then there arestaphylococcus 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 types of organisms causing us great concern, and knowing how to destroy cryptosporidium paryum and tricinella spiralis is imperative. Read about sub-zero temperatures for treating meat for these “nematode worms”.
    (Continued next page)

  9. You Can Make Your Own Professionally – Fermented “Dry-Cured” Sausage! (P.2)

    “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? And, what about salt? What does it do and 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 or pediococcus. 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. What’s this? Shucks pards, I “aced” college chemistry… mostly because I intimidated the teacher with my garlic jerky breath! Uhhh… 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 microorganism we are referring to. Some are more resilient than others.

    (Continued next post)

  10. You Can Make Your Own Professionally – Fermented “Dry-Cured” Sausage! (p.3)

    Lets investigate a most effective way of preserving non-cooked, fermented sausages such as salami and pepperoni, using lactobacillus or pediococcus – the bacteria that produces 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 or pediococci 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 or pediococci 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 or pediococci 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.

    (Continued next post)

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