Sugar & Spice

Sugars can be used in processed meats as a sweet flavor, to take the bite off salt, to increased caramelized browning during cooking or to feed lactic acid producing bacteria in fermented products.  Granulated sugar was invented about 250 AD; at that time people in most areas of the world had only honey, dried fruits and berries available to use as sweeteners. Up until about 1500 the distribution of granulated sugar in Europe was so low that it was considered by most to be a fine spice.  Sugar is of plant origin, but is refined from juices instead of being actual plant parts as spices and herbs mainly are.  Currently, concentrated and purified spice extracts are often used in meat products.  The words herb and spice are now frequently used interchangeably.  Unlike the history of refined sugar, the use of spices goes back beyond recorded history.  Different parts of the world had different indigenous good tasting plants available.  As time went on spices from certain regions were sought through trade to add taste, aroma and color to meat products or sometimes to help preserve them.  The hundreds of different types of sausages known today are largely due to various spice combinations.

We have all learned about the tremendous historical significance of the spice trade, but it was the universal human desire to enhance the palatability characteristics of pre-refrigeration/often low eating quality meats that was the driving force behind the quest for spices.  The rapid world-wide growth of the sugar industry was mainly due to humans becoming addicted to it.

Written by George Wolfer

George Wolfer

Been associated with the meat industry pretty much since starting at a Vocational High school Meat Processing program in 1974. Like to learn and teach interesting and worthwhile livestock production, meat processing and marketing practices.

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