Exploring savory options
Chilies and heat, along with cooking flavors such as smoked, toasted and burnt, feed into the savory trend. Smoke, in particular, has become increasingly popular because of its association with bacon and chipotle peppers.
Smoke flavor develops in a food when it is exposed to smoldering material, most often wood. An alternative is to add liquid smoke flavor to the food or ingredient.
The savory flavor profile is associated with the fifth basic taste of umami, which is a taste sensation that rounds out or completes other flavors in a system while functioning as an overall flavor enhancer. (See sidebar.)
To add authenticity to chili peppers as well as other ingredients used in many ethnic seasonings, Culinary Farm, Woodland, Calif., uses a smoke roasting process that mimics the cooking techniques native to many regions.
“Our products are smoked with a proprietary blend of woods with no added artificial flavors or ingredients,” said Kirk Bewley, president of Culinary Farm. “The layered complexity of these ingredients creates a complementary interaction with foods that adds to the overall taste experience.”
The chilies come in flake, ground and paste formats and may be used in all types of savory dairy foods, from cheese spreads to even cottage cheese.
The company believes there is great potential developing authentic regional Mexican cuisine through the use of its molés, which are shelf stable and available in concentrated and ready-to-serve forms. Inherent in Mexican culture, molés are deep, rich sauces whose origins are family recipes passed down from generation to generation.
“Highly complex, each composition is unique and made from a range of chilies, spices, seeds, nuts, even cookies and ingredients indigenous to their region of origin,” Mr. Bewley said. “The American consumer hasn’t really had the opportunity to enjoy a great many high-quality, true Mexican molés. This is because they are very time-consuming to make correctly where each ingredient has to be prepped or cooked separately and then added together to bring out the flavor.”
Pierre’s Ice Cream, Cleveland, offers Holé Molé, which is cinnamon ice cream blended with chili choco chips, chocolate-covered toffee pieces and molé fudge swirl. There’s also Croppy Road, which is chocolate ice cream that comes loaded with chocolate-covered marshmallow cups, almonds and a smoky salted caramel swirl.
In the refrigerated dip case, Blue Moose of Boulder emphasizes savory in its green chile and aged cheddar spread, roasted red pepper dip, smoked Gouda pimento cheese and truffle ricotta dip.
In some foods, savory ingredients are added for subtle flavor enhancement. Traditional savory ingredients include hydrolyzed proteins (animal and plant), monosodium glutamate (M.S.G.) and yeast extracts, all of which commonly are used in dairy dips and cheese spreads. By far, M.S.G. is the most cost-effective flavor enhancer; however, it is slowly getting replaced by yeast extracts and other alternatives due to the alleged and unsubstantiated health issues associated with its consumption, which include headache, flushing, nausea and weakness. Natural and clean label formulating trends are additional motivators for processors to seek out savory ingredient
alternatives to purified M.S.G.
Sensient now offers a proprietary, clean label blend of natural ingredients designed to bring harmony and balance to savory food products. Based on a blend of vegetable powders, the ingredient is void of added monosodium glutamate, salt, gluten and any synthetic ingredients.
Judson McLester, executive chef and manager of ingredient sales at Avery Island, La.-based McIlhenny Co., explained that the company’s original Tabasco red sauce is more than heat because of the fermentation that takes place during the aging process.
“This creates umami characteristics that enhance other flavors in food, rounding out a food’s overall flavor profile,” he said.