Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/22/1998
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Interpretive Summary: Much like Country ham in the United States, dry-cured hams of Europe are popular products because of its flavor, convenience (ready-to-use) and its long shelf-life. The ripening-drying process of the highly flavorful Spanish "Serrano" dry-cured ham (SSDCH) is typically 12 months. This time period not only adds significantly to product cost to both consumers and producers, but also involves numerous time-temperature interactions that act as a major source of flavor variability. We set out to see if the developed technology of conducting polymers, known as electronic-noses, would be a valuable tool to determine the differences in short and long processed hams. We also examined the instrument's ability to distinguish among processed hams, e.g., Proscuitto, Country, Virginia, and Deli. Analysis of the data showed that the instrument and its associated software were able to separate various ham types. While more studies should be performed, this data suggests that continued development of electronic nos technology will permit processors to have a rapid means of assessing the flavor quality of their product (e.g., short vs. long stored) with the end- point being production of high quality, cost effective, dry-cured ham for both the processor and consumer.
Technical Abstract: Dry-cured ham is popular in Spain and other European countries not only because of its flavor, but also because it is convenient, ready-to-use, and has a long shelf-life. The salt and nitrate used during the curing process play an important role in development and fixation of the characteristic cured-meat color, in prevention of growth of spoilage and/or pathogenic microflora, and in developing and stabilizing product flavor. The ripening drying process involves numerous time-temperature interactions that serve as a major source of flavor variability. Some studies have been performed to demonstrate the relationship of dry-cured ham flavor to chemical data (direct and indirect instrumental methods) and sensory attributes. However, studies are often too expensive or too time consuming. Therefore, developing a rapid, reliable, and effective method to distinguish differences in dry-cured ham products is desirable. Using an electronic nose with 32 sensors (AromaScan A32/50S multisampler) we were able to differentiate between Spanish "Serrano" dry-cured hams processed for 7- month (short) and 12-month (long) periods. Since the conducting polymers of the electronic nose distinguished between "Serrano" ham processing times we examined its ability to distinguish among other processed hams including Prosciutto ham, Country ham, Virginia ham and Deli ham; the instrument effectively distinguished these products.