Cured Sausage: 202 Using Encapsulated Citric Acid
Attend this Intermediate level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!
If you have ever had a snack stick or summer sausage and it has a pleasing little tang to it then most likely it is coming from Encapsulated Citric Acid. Some areas of the country, like Wisconsin, won’t even consider it Summer Sausage unless you have altered the pH somehow to create that “tang”. Not only does it add the tang but it also has an effect on how the cure works. Encapsulated Citric Acid is acid that has been coated in cottonseed oil to prevent it from releasing into the meat too early. It is designed so that the encapsulation will break down when the meat that surrounds it has reached 135° and it needs to be at that temperature for over an hour to fully dissolve. With most cooking schedules this isn’t much of a problem as this is where we will generally run into the stall and spend a few hours getting it from 135 - 160.
pH And Bacteria Growth
Citric Acid acts as a cure accelerator as it decreases the pH and creates an acidic environment. The increased acidic environment allows the cure to work more efficiently, a drop of 0.2-0.3 in the pH can double the rate at which the cure works. So, how exactly does Encapsulated Citric Acid and Nitrite work together to inhibit the growth of bacteria? We will go over that in greater detail in other videos but the quick answer is that the bacteria will spend most of its energy trying to prevent the acid from getting through its cell wall that it no longer has any energy to replicate.
If you remember high school biology bacteria are single-cell organisms that replicate exact copies of themselves by growing and splitting. The acidic environment speeding up the conversion of nitrite to nitric oxide also means that we will get a very nice reddish pink color in our meat without having to hold it overnight.
You really should go directly from stuffing your sausage to smoking when using Encapsulated Citric Acid, holding meat that has had Citric Acid added to it can cause the Cotton Seed Oil to rupture and the acid will begin to denature the proteins and you will end with a dry crumbly product. When adding this to your meat you want to add it during the last 60 seconds to prevent the encapsulation from rupturing, for the same reason adding it your meat and then regrinding isn’t a good idea.
When trying to make shelf-stable products lowering the pH is a vital step along with reducing the water activity. Just because you used Citric Acid does not mean you have a shelf stable product but it can help and even if you don’t get to shelf stability due to your water activity the lowered pH will help extend the shelf life of the product.
If you want the cure accelerating function but do not want the tang in your snack stick or other cured sausage you can use Sodium Erythorbate which is a good cure accelerator that does not impart any noticeable taste.