There are many variables to consider when adding inclusions to sausages. Appearance, flavor and texture must all be addressed.
“First and foremost, the desired final appearance of the product should always be considered,” said Michelle Wetzel, director of research and development, meat seasonings, Kerry, Beloit, Wis. “Consumers want products with recognizable labels, with pure and simple ingredients. If a specific inclusion is listed on the label, consumers want to be able to see and recognize it in the final product. Therefore, for greatest visual appeal, it is best to add inclusions at a point in the process where their identity and piece size is maintained.”
The pH of the ingredients must also be taken into account. Changes in acidity can impact color, flavor and texture.
“If the ingredients you include are on the acidic side and drop the pH of the meat, you can encounter processing issues such as lower cook yields due to diminished water-holding capacity,” Mr. Reed said. “This lower pH can also cause textural issues. That’s because when you are processing meat and cooking it, you ultimately want to denature the protein because that is what gives the meat its cooked texture and water-holding capacity. But if you start denaturing the proteins too soon due to low pH, it will decrease the functionality of the protein, causing the meat matrix to crumble and/or not retain its form.”
Mr. Reed cited the example of a chile verde-type sausage. Chile verde is a classic Mexican stew that includes beef or pork along with a variety of green chilies.
“Another key ingredient is tomatillos, which provide the needed acidic component to the stew,” Mr. Reed said. “However, when processing all ingredients into a pork sausage, the acidity of the tomatillos will cause a pH drop and not allow the sausage to bind together, resulting in an undesirable crumbly texture.”
Sometimes, acid assists with flavor, explained Julie Clarkson, senior research chef, savory flavors, Sensient Flavors, Hoffman Estates, Ill.
“The acid in fruit balances the fattiness of sausage,” she said. “Fruits also can complement some of the gamey notes of meats such as boar, lamb and venison. Dried fruit pieces work best as they don’t bleed as much as fresh fruits.”
Jeff Manning, chief marketing officer, Cherry Marketing Institute, Lansing, Mich., said, “Montmorency tart cherries add a sweet-tart flavor, offer visual appeal with their bright red color and, in the case of dried tart cherries, provide a chewy texture that ‘pops’ against a variety of other textures.”
Nuts complement fruits, even in sausage. The Almond Board of California, Modesto, Calif., developed a chicken and almond sausage Bahn Mi sandwich. There are roasted almonds in the sausage blend, along with spices and herbs.