Salt/Sugar Preservation

Discussion in 'Open Forum With Harold McGee' started by praties, Dec 11, 2005.

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  1. praties

    praties

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    I've seen quite a few recipes for preserving salmon and the like using a mixture of salt and sugar. Since both pull moisture from the flesh and a high enough salt or sugar content will help prevent bacterial growth, is there a reason other than flavor balance that the two are used together?

    And thank you so much for being on here! Your book is number one on my Christmas wish list and I'm hoping all of my wistful sighs haven't been lost on my husband!

    Praties
     
  2. harold mcgee

    harold mcgee

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    I hope you get your Christmas wish too—for more than one reason!

    You’re right, the main reason for using salt and sugar in a fish cure is flavor balance (in sausages, sugar actually feeds the bacteria that acidify the meat and flavor it). A salt cure alone works fine.

    Harold
     
  3. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    My memory says that salt and sugar also dry in opposite ways.

    Yes, they both pull water to themselves, but sugar holds on to it (hydrophilic ?) while salt breaks down in it being just an ionic bond. So the sugar in a sausage would help it hold some moisture within.

    At least that's my memory. Any more details or corrections?

    Phil
     
  4. praties

    praties

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    Thanks, Mr. McGee, I never knew that about the reason for sugar in some sausage recipes. One way or another, I'm going to get my Christmas wish--either as a present or an after-Christmas gift to myself! :D

    And thanks, too, Phil--I'll have to look that up. I thought they pulled water similar ways, so it'll be some interesting research.

    Praties.
     
  5. harold mcgee

    harold mcgee

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    Phil, salt and sugar work pretty much the same way. It’s true that salt dissolves into sodium and chlorine ions while sugar dissolves into intact sugar molecules, but both the ions and molecules hold onto water. The moisture content of a sausage is determined largely by the curing conditions; enough sugar to make a sausage moist would also make it taste distinctly sweet. The added sugar in sausage formulas is largely consumed by the curing bacteria.

    Harold
     
  6. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    Thank you.

    Phil
     
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