The whole manufacturing process, from the receipt of raw materials and other materials, to the meat processing (dressing carcasses and parts, mincing, filling the casings, smoking over hardwood, seeding noble mold, curing, and drying), packaging and storing must take place within the designated geographical area.
Reception of raw materials: Acceptance is conditional on the orders placed with suppliers and the documents accompanying the merchandise (waybill, invoice, declaration of conformity etc.). To this effect both a quality and a quantity control are executed, to establish whether the raw materials complies with the technical specifications, to determine its origin and record the basic traceability requirements. In the case of refrigerated (fresh) meat, its temperature at the time of receipt must be between 0° and 6° C, while in the case of frozen meat the receipt temperature must nor exceed -18° C. Acceptability limits are set in the present terms of reference.
Raw materials storage: This is done in spaces with controlled temperature and humidity. In the case of refrigerated raw materials (fresh), the storage temperature must be between 0° C and +4° C and the relative air humidity between 70% and 80%. In the case of frozen raw materials, the storage temperature is -18° C at the most.
Receipt of ingredients and auxiliary materials: The ingredients – the salt and spices mix, antioxidants, curing agents (starter cultures and/or bio-protective cultures, sugars), noble mold cultures, natural and/or collagen casings – receive quality acceptance upon verification of their characteristics (identity and integrity).
Ingredient and auxiliary materials storage: This is done in spaces with controlled temperature and humidity, according to the information in the technical specifications.
Preparation of raw materials: According to whether they are refrigerated (fresh) or frozen.
– refrigerated (fresh) raw materials: pork meat is selected by fully removing soft fat, connective tissue, ligaments, tendons, the large blood vessels and the blood-soaked parts. The same selection procedure is done for firm lard. These are then put into special recipients where they are drained, dried (the pork meat) and hardened (both pork and lard). Draining and drying are done to reduce the meat’s humidity. These procedures are done in special storage facilities, by placing the meat onto perforated trays that allow the meat juices to drain under moderate ventilation and at a temperature between -2° C and 4° C and a relative air humidity of 75-85%. This stage takes between 24 to 72 hours. The next operation, the hardening of meat and lard, defines the firmness of raw materials and takes place under moderate ventilation and at a temperature between -7° C and -2° C.
– frozen raw materials: the pork meat is slowly thawed under moderate ventilation and at an ambient temperature not exceeding 16° C. Upon choosing the red meat all the bone fragments will be eliminated, as well as the connective tissues (including the lax ones), blood-soaked parts, ganglions, and the parts bearing the producer’s stamp. The frozen lard cuts are diced. Firm lard is manipulated half-frozen so it can be minced.
Preparation of ingredients: The salt and spices mix, curing agents and antioxidants are readied and prepared according to the technical specifications.
Obtaining the filling paste: After the correct proportions of pork (minimum 70%) and lard (maximum 30%) are weighted, the ingredients are introduced into the cutter’s vat, where they are minced to the size of a rice grain (about 2-4 mm). Then the salt and spices mix is manually added, followed by the antioxidants and curing agents, and all these are mixed to obtain a mosaic-like, granular paste. Alcoholic curing agents are optional; if used, they are also added now. The temperature of the filling paste must be between -6° C and 4° C.
The main change occurring in the manufacturing process of Sibiu salami is the hardening of the raw paste into a compact, firm, consistent, and elastic structure. The hardening is due to acidification, salt, and the removal of water, especially in the drying and curing stage.
The salt determines taste by first facilitating fermentation and later drying.
The acidification of the paste is strengthened by the addition of curing agents; these direct the biochemical processes which ensure the end product poses no health hazard. The added sugars contribute to fermentation by setting the final pH of the product, thus contributing to the taste (and minimizing the risk of obtaining a sour taste). The oxidization of sugars and partial hydrolysis of triglycerides lead to the acidification of the paste, which is further enhanced by the curing agents, which enzymatically oxidize the fatty acids released by lipolysis or those that make up lipids.
Filling the casing: As preparation, air is removed from the paste, which is then compressed either under a vacuum or with the help of air removal and compression devices. Then, a filling machine injects the paste into natural and/or collagen casings prepared according to the technical specifications. The dosage of the paste and length of the casing are set according to the projected values for the diameter of the sausage and the weight of the end product. The sausages are formed by clipping or manual fastening and are later hung on racks or mobile frames.
Drying and cold smoking: The drying stage is intended to prepare the casings for smoking. This procedure is done for 24 hours, at a minimum temperature of 10° C, under moderate ventilation. Smoking is done to impart flavor to the product and increase its shelf life; the procedure is conducted at a temperature between 9° and 24° C and a relative air humidity of 85-92%, using exclusively hardwood (beech, oak, or a variable proportion mix of the two). The smoking time is three to ten days at the most.
Curing and drying: This is an exceedingly complex process. During this stage the half-finished product gets its final shape, with a firm but elastic consistency, a granular, compact structure, and a taste and smell that are specific to cured meat.
At this stage the main chemical components of the meat (sugars, proteins, fats) undergo hydrolytic and oxidative changes triggered by physical and chemical, biochemical, and microbiological factors. The paste now takes a red color due to the formation and stabilization of microbiological pigments, the hardening of the filling and the formation of the specific consistency (also due to protein denaturation and solubilization). Also, the taste and flavor specific to the Sibiu salami appear now, thanks to the processes of sugar fermentation, protein hydrolysis (free amino acids, peptides) or lipid hydrolysis and oxidization (free fatty acids, carbonyl compounds). Salt, the compounds added by smoking and the spices used in the previous manufacturing steps also contribute to taste and flavor.
The drying and curing takes at least 60 days (the maximum time varies according to sausage thickness), and is done in specially equipped, climate-controlled storage facilities, at a temperature between 8° and 24° C, following the steps below:
- seeding with noble mold:
Noble mold cultures of Penicillium nalgiovensis (spores) are used in this stage; alternatively, a mix of different types of Penicillium can be used, but it must contain Penicillium nalgiovensis.
After manually stocking the drying and curing rooms, the sausages are sprayed with a solution of noble mold spores (Penicillium nalgiovensis or the above-mentioned mix) and are then left to sit for about six hours to settle. After 10-12 days from seeding the sausages are covered in mold mycelia. As the drying process advances, the mycelia grows and consumes nutrients (sugars, proteins, lipids) from the salami paste, releasing metabolic products that impart the sausage its specific flavor.
Moreover, mold plays a positive role by preserving the ruby red color of the salami and prolongs its shelf life by creating a microbiome on the casing that prevents rancidity or the development of contaminant microorganisms. In this stage, the temperature falls between 10° and 24° C.
– sausage curing and brushing: between about 25 to 45 days since seeding, when the sausages are fully covered in mold and considering the growth of the mold mycelia, the sausages are manually brushed. The mold that forms toward the end of the curing, in high humidity, is white to yellow-white or off-white. At this stage, the temperature is between 10° and 15° C.
– drying the sausages: this last stage of drying and curing is marked by a progressive reduction in the relative air humidity of the drying and curing rooms, as well as by controlled ventilation and temperature. The product is dried until it reaches the standard humidity of maximum 30%. The temperature at this stage is between 10° and 15° C.
The whole production time of the Sibiu salami takes 70 days at a minimum (while the maximum time varies according to the diameter of the sausage), and the end product must fit the physical, chemical, and microbiological characteristics specified under heading 2 above.
Storage: The end product is stored in climate-controlled rooms at a temperature between 0° and 14° C and a humidity of 70-80%.
Slicing and Packaging:
The Sibiu salami is packaged manually or by packaging machines, with the casing covered in noble mold, each individual piece wrapped in permeable, micro-perforated plastic foil.
Sliced Sibiu salami is obtained by removing the casing, then slicing and portioning the sausage into variously sized packages, under a vacuum or in a protective atmosphere, according to customer demand.
Slicing and packaging must take place within the designated geographical area, since the aggressive nature of these procedures mandates that they be done in the shortest time, so that the slices would not be exposed to air for too long. Otherwise, their specific brown-red to ruby color might be affected.
Salami sold whole is only sliced in-store, at the point of sale, in the presence of the end buyer.catalin.bindea