Creating the Optimal Frankfurter Style Sausage in Africa: Hungarians and Russians by Eben van Tonder 27 November 2021
Over the years I have written about the history of the development of Russian sausages in South Africa (Origins of the South African Sausage, Called a Russian). I’ve created poems about it! 🙂 (Ode to the Russian Sausage – a Technical Evaluation) It is a South African frankfurter style sausages. In Australia, it is called a Kransky and in Zambia and parts of the DRC, it is called a Hungarian. A Hungarian is made without showpieces which means that the exact same product in South Africa is called a smokey or a penny polony. The basic formulations are, however, the same. It is a fine emulsion sausage.
I have looked at every aspect of Russian/ Hungarian making except cooking/ smoking and packing it. This week attention shifted to these final aspects. Daniel Erdei from the smokehouse producer Kerres visited me in South Africa. Their new hybrid smoke system, combining vertical and horizontal airflow systems make them, in my opinion, the best option in the world. They claim a reduction of 30% in cooking/ smoking loss.
Apart from smoking/ cooking, I looked at packaging with shelf life in mind. Many of the large producers in South Africa opted for High-Pressure Pastorisation over the last few years following the Listeriosis epidemy. It is an extremely expensive solution, and I was keen to see what else is on the market.
In South Africa there are several producers who manufacture between 60 and 100 tons of these sausages per day and the economic benefit of this consideration can hardly be overrated. Besides these, current projects underway in other African countries will soon see the same production levels from other African regions. This, coupled with the devastating effects of Covid on international food prices makes the work urgent.
The danger and impact of Covid were highlighted to us while we were in Simons Town, at the famous Brass Bell-Inn and Daniel, a German citizen, started getting calls from family and from the management at Kerres as they were scrambling to get him on the first available flight out of South Africa after the discovery of a new Omicron variant (Variant B.1.1.529) and as countries from around the world were announcing the immediate cancellation of flights from and into South Africa.
After the logistics were arranged and we were satisfied that the best measures were taken to ensure his speedy return to Germany, we continued with our adventure while designing the optimal Russian/ Hungarian line and processing approach.
The following discussion points were all highlighted and interrogated yesterday.
Novel Processing Techniques
– DCD Technology from Green Cell
Work done with DCD Technology (The Power of Microparticles: Disruptor (DCD) Technology) shows the feasibility to use nutritious parts of an animal carcass previously not included in raw material for such sausages. DCD has proven to be extremely important even though it was shown to be less effective in certain specific areas of application (Muscle Structure (Biology)). For large throughput factories it, however, is an ideal solution to increase the overall digestibility of certain raw materials since digestibility is closely related to comminution (Notes on Comminution and Digestibility). It also offers a way to apply pressure for micro control in a way that was previously only possible with HPP or similar systems (for example pulse technology). Two years of intensive work showed that DCD technology has a definite place in meat processing. A proper understanding of its strengths and weaknesses, along with alternative processing techniques that we developed for certain areas of application allows us to create our own MDM/ MSM. MDM or MSM is widely used in Africa as the basis for these sausages (MDM – Not all are created equal!). The MDM-replacer we created has been shown to be more nutritious compared to MDM, imported from, for example, South America and has greater functionality than using MDM alone.
– Binding of water
Water act as the plasticizer in the system. The meat’s texture in these sausages “is due to its property of heat-induced long-chain gelling or setting” and the “cooked meat is classifiable as a water-plasticized, filled-cell mixed-composite thermosetting plastic biopolymer. The word “polymer” denotes long-chain macromolecules which are crosslinked, such as proteins or starches. The word “plasticizer” indicates that water is the filling solvent that hydrates the polymer and supports its “plastic” behaviour.” (Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint)
The optimal binding of water has been shown to be a balance between the creation of various base emulsions (for example fat and skin emulsions) and the inherent requirement for water as the plasticizer. In other words, there is a certain amount of water required to form the gel which is the basis of the product – all other water is better pre-bound. Adding “fillers” with high water-holding capacity such as soy isolate or TVP serves an important function of making the sausage less “rubbery”. LaBudde (1992) states it as follows. “Fillers with high water-holding capacity will effectively de-plasticize the system, resulting in lower strains to failure and higher stresses.” (Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint). Like in whole muscle chemistry, we are looking at the role of bound, immobilized, and free water in the sausage matrix (see the section under “water” in Muscle Structure (Biology)
– Losing Some of the Water
Managing the process of water loss is of the utmost importance. Water act as the plasticizer in the system. In a frankfurter style sausage, “the proteins are gelled not only through the heat of cooking, but also through the mechanisms of water loss (shrinkage), pH (acid rinse) and smoke application.”
That water loss must take place and is important. “The effect of moisture loss through shrinkage is twofold: a drop in the plasticizer percentage and an increase in the percentage of other materials, including protein. Consequently, the strength of a “shrunk” product will be larger than that of the “unshrunk” product by at least the percentage shrink [ 1/(1-s) ], and the strain to failure lower by approximately the shrink [ 1-s ].” (Review of comminuted and cooked meat product properties from a sol, gel and polymer viewpoint)
Water loss is important but too much water loss is uneconomical. In the right drying, smoking and cooking chamber, the method of applying heat to the sausages, the rate of temperature application, humidity and wind speed (velocity) are key factors to control. From a business perspective, the role of an excellent personal banker is key to success. In terms of meat processing, the right smokehouse partner is as important as a personal banker to the overall business. They must be entrusted with the management of water or fat loss during the final cooking step. They are also the custodians of the final look of the product before packaging. Texture and gel formation is within their scope of responsibility. I cannot over emphasis the importance of choosing the right smokehouse and the right smokehouse supplier.
In producing these sausages, a customary South African formulation will result in between 15% and 18% moisture loss during the cooking cycle to 71o C. Kerres smokehouses technology promises a 30% reduction in this loss to between 10 and 13%. Trails are underway in Germany, using South African recipes, to confirm these. The overall loss we are targeting by using the correct product ingredients, along with the Kerres smokehouse technology I set at between 8% and 10%. These targets are ambitious, and results will be made available in updates of this article.
“Kerres smokehouses technology promises a 30% reduction in smoking/ cooking loss”
Blending and Filling
The grinder -> mixer -> emulsifier -> filler configuration is retained with key adjustments in the state of the ingredients added at the various stages. The entire discussion of the mix of traditional processing technology using micro cutters and grinders and incorporating DCD’ed raw materials discussed above feature prominently under this heading. For Africa, I advocate the incorporation of Ethyl Lauroyl Arginate (LAE) in the product as one of the micro hurdles.
There is a trend in the rest of Africa (excluding South Africa) not to dry the sausages before sale and to use liquid smoke in the product composition instead of natural smoke. This is an unacceptable compromise because it seriously compromises the product quality, and our goal is to deliver more nutritious food to Africa of a quality equal to or higher than what is found in European and North American supermarkets in Frankfurter sausages.
I have found the Kerres team to be the best to outsource the final look, feel and texture of the product to. I base this statement on the versatility of their equipment. It is a familiar frustration to all production managers that they buy equipment and lock themselves into a certain processing system which invariably comes to haunt them later when they want to change the production system. In smokehouse technology, it is clearly seen in the choice between a system with vertical or horizontal airflow.
As a case in point, consider the change from natural or artificial casings and the emergence of alginate casing technology. The use of alginate casing technology has become widely available, in South Africa, through the spice supplier Freddy Hirsch, but when drying, the sausages can’t hang and are packed on trays which favours a horizontal airflow and not the vertical airflow systems used when smoking sausages that hang on smoke sticks and are linked together. So, ineffective smokehouses now become an obstacle when the production manager wants to change how the sausages are produced.
Even more, what do you do if you only want to change part of the processing system to alginate casings and still offer the consumers the natural or collagen casings they are used to?
The same applies to bacon processing technology. The traditional way is to hang the bacon in the smoke chamber. However, the latest method of bacon processing using grids to “shape” the bacon, favours again a horizontal airflow system as opposed to the vertical flow systems. The latter is favoured by the traditional way of hanging the bacon. (Best Bacon and Rib System on Earth)
Because drying/ cooking/ smoking is so important in the final product, it is surprising that many owners/ investors or managers base their decision on “an easy deal” or the cheapest option available to them. The wrong smokehouse partners are one of the most expensive mistakes we’ve made at Woody’s!
The Kerres smoker has a hybrid system that incorporates both horizontal and vertical airflow. They offer it as an added option, but in my mind, it is an easy decision!
Drying and smoking are dependent on many factors. Airflow is amongst the most prominent features. Below is a clip showing the Kerres system. The hybrid system is a stroke of genius. This system along with an introduction to the smokehouses of Kerres is dealt with in the video clip below.
Demonstrating the effectiveness of the hybrid smoking system
Below is a clip from a client of Kerres in the USA. Whether alginate casings are used for sausage production, or the grid system in bacon processing, the hybrid system is the best solution I ever came across. The clip below which I got from their website is absolutely astounding! See how close the shelves are stacked and how full they are loaded and have a look at the consistency! It is without a doubt the single most impressive display of what can be achieved in a smokehouse than I have ever seen!
Effectiveness of the Kerres Hybrid system demonstrated.
NPD: Vegetable Sausages
Vegetable sausages are nothing new to areas in the middle east, but the West has suddenly woken up to this important product class when it realised its heavy reliance on meat-based diets presents health challenges that cannot be overcome apart from reducing the consumption of meat.
This area of application represents a feature of DCD Technology that cannot be achieved more effectively in any other way. Let me state it like this. DCD technology makes the high throughput production line of such sausages possible. It speaks to the essence of the approach I followed in re-evaluating the production of hybrid sausages two years ago (Nose-to-Tail and Root-to-Tip: Re-Thinking Emulsions).
The matter of final product packaging and shelf life is closely related as is shelf life and raw materials used in the blending and filling stage. In general, shelf life will be achieved through:
- Level of water binding achieved;
- Pressure from the DCD processing system of Green Cell on key ingredients;
- The use of LAE both included into the meat mix as well as fogging the roll stock pouch after forming and fogging into the pouch after packing.
If applied correctly, this natural preservative will extend the product shelf life dramatically. The key to the effectiveness of the product is dosage and application method which we are in the process of addressing. Watch this space for updates and announcements!
Using the combined approach as outlined above yields unsurpassed shelf-life results.
Over the years I have seen the tremendous benefit in stepping periodically back from one’s work and re-evaluating everything I have learned and asking the question if there is not a better way of doing it. This is true when it comes to bacon production technology (Best Bacon and Rib System on Earth). I have not yet integrated a new application of the Kerres smoker technology to the article I just cited on bacon production, but I will do this over the weeks following and publish it as new and updated articles.
In our current consideration of the best Frankfurter style sausage system available, the Kerres smokehouse technology, along with LAE and DCD Technology draws years of work together into a complete and extremely versatile and productive system.
Africa is emerging as the future economic powerhouse and the driver of world markets, and I am honoured to be a small part of this awakening when it comes to meat processing technology.