Mediterranean: The Flavors of Morocco, Spain, Italy, Greece and Lebanon
It has been said that to understand food, one must first understand the culture behind it. The Mediterranean has represented a simple, fresh and straightforward lifestyle throughout history. Using clean, simple and flavorful ingredients from the Mediterranean, in combination with innovative food technologies, can help deliver delicious and on-trend products to the marketplace. In a presentation titled, “Mediterranean: The Flavors of Morocco, Spain, Italy, Greece and Lebanon,” Christine Carr, vice president of marketing for Griffith Laboratories, discussed these unique cultures and their foods.

Morocco represents North African cuisine and is deeply rooted in French, Spanish and indigenous Berber traditions. Berber is a member of a North African, primarily Muslim, people living in settled or nomadic tribes from Morocco to Egypt.

Key ingredients in the Moroccan kitchen include cumin, cinnamon, ginger, saffron and Ras el hanout, which means “head of the shop.” It is a mythical and legendary aphrodisiac spice mixture, with garlic, saffron, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, paprika and turmeric. Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice by weight, due to its labor-intensive process of handpicking the stigmas from the saffron crocus flower. Saffron means “yellow” in Arabic and is used as a coloring agent and for its delicate, hay-like aroma. Couscous, preserved lemons, orange blossoms, rose water, dates, figs and honey are some of the other common Moroccan pantry items. Briwats and bstilla are small and large, respectively, Moroccan pastry-layered pies filled with meat and fruit.

Spanish culinary influences are rooted in Morocco and Italy. Key Spanish spices include saffron, salt, pimentón and cinnamon. Pimentón is a smoked-paprika chile powder. Common Spanish pantry items are salt cod, olives and oil, garlic, eggs, potato, tomato, onion, wine, chorizo (smoky-flavored sausage flavored with pimentón), calasparra rice (Roman aqueduct-fed rice used especially for paella), frisée (endive, a member of the chicory family), Swiss chard and chickpeas.

One of the world’s most beloved cuisines, Italian food has common aspects deeply ingrained into the U.S. diet. Oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, eggplant, pine nuts, pasta, white beans, anchovy, fennel, Porcini mushroom, Arborio rice, artichoke hearts, tomato, caper, garlic, balsamic vinegar, pancetta and proscuitto are the common spices and pantry items of Italy.

Greek cuisine, the most familiar Mediterranean-type of cuisine in the U.S., uses mint, dill, allspice, oregano, cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon and coriander, feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, lettuce, pita bread, olives, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, yogurt, chicken, spinach, lamb, chickpeas, tahini, phyllo dough and honey. These ingredients are often used to make Greek salad, gyros, pizzas, hummus, panakopita, souvlaki, seafood, baklava and tzatziki.

Lebanese cuisine is influenced by Greece, Turkey and France and uses many of the above-mentioned spices, with the addition of baharat, an Arabic spice blend of nutmeg, coriander, cumin, clove, cinnamon and black pepper; sumac, a table seasoning with a tart, astringent taste; and za’atar (Arabic for thyme), which is a blend of sesame seeds, sumac, dried thyme and salt, and is commonly sprinkled on bread brushed with olive oil. Common Lebanese items also include pomegranate syrup, bulgur wheat, pita bread and tahini.

Several of the formulas available in a culinary innovation program developed by this supplier, specifically the Mediterranean program, are enhanced with a patent-pending protein technology designed to increase cook yield by 10% on average; and a patented protein technology designed for citric-based flavor injection and tumble marinade systems that blocks the acid breakdown of meat, without compromising texture.

“Mediterranean: The Flavors of Morocco, Spain, Italy, Greece and Lebanon,”Christine Carr, vice president, marketing, Griffith Laboratories, ccarr@griffith laboratories.com, www.griffithlaboratories.com
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Meats and Marinades: Flavor From the Inside Out
Flavoring from the inside out with marinades requires a balance of moisture, texture and color, as well as a sweet and savory balance. “Flavor and appearance of meats are supported with dry rubs, glazes and topical pieces that provide consumer interaction,” explained Lori Evans, technical sales director for Gilroy Foods & Flavors, in a presentation titled, “Meats and Marinades: Flavor From the Inside Out.”

“When going for the gold standard,” Evans states that “it is possible to bring culinary quality to the manufacturing line; however, there are additional considerations.”

Critical elements for success of a marinade are the flavor impact of spices, herbs, salt, seasonings, peppers, concentrated oils and flavors. Penetration and marinade retention are affected by meat water-holding capacity, pH and other functional ingredients. For consumer acceptance, the product needs desirable appearance, convenience and competitive cost.

Water-holding capacity is the ability of meats to bind water. There are three types of water in meat: bound, intermediate and free. The goal is to increase bound water and reduce free water. Evans claims, “A marinade formula can help manage water-holding capacity through ionic strength, using salt and other sources of net positive charge; neutral pH ingredients, or managing pH with phosphate or other buffering ingredients; and by using good-quality, leaner meats that hold more water.”

Several processes exist for marinating. Tumble massaging works well for smaller pieces of meat, providing even and accurate pick-up. Vacuum tumbling also prevents extracted myosin from reacting with air, which could cause a white foamy exudate and prevents air pockets from forming. Limitations to vacuum tumbling are that skin-on meats will have difficulty picking up marinade; lean meat, such as chicken breasts, should be trimmed of fat to avoid particulates collecting in the seams.

Another process for marinating, explains Evans, “is by injection or stitch pumping, typically used for large muscle and bone-in meats, such as whole chickens and turkeys, hams and roasts.” Stitch pumping allows for even and accurate distribution of solution throughout meat.

Static marinades are versatile, used by many small processors or in back-of-house operations. Marinade is absorbed through osmosis, with no mechanical agitation. “Considerations, however,” states Evans, “are uneven pickup of marinade, stratification of particulates and the need to re-apply before cooking for flavor development and dispersion.”

Selection of the right ingredients formulated in the right balance is key. Glazes are applied wet through a waterfall or bath. The inherent meat moisture combined with a dry rub can also form a glaze. Rather than application by the meat processor, the dry rub can come in a separate packet for foodservice or consumer use. Glazes and rubs can be formulated to improve pick-up and adhesion.

“Hot trends in flavor pairings,” reveals Evans, “are sweet with hot, like pomegranate with chipotle.” To go for the gold standard, select a target product and flavor profile as the gold standard, then create a matching foundation. Use flavor characteristics that capture authentic meat cooking flavors. Finishing touches complete the picture, like regional flavors, and top-notes that give the “freshly made” perception.

Keep in mind the flavor killers, such as high-temperature processes that volatilize flavor compounds or functional ingredients that can mute flavor. Options to manage these include encapsulation, gums, starches and changing use level. Changes over time, including freeze/thaw cycles in storage, affect quality and impact flavor through lipid oxidation in fully cooked products. Testing ahead for freeze/thaw stability or use of antioxidants can remedy this. Plan for consumer handling that is not ideal. Avoid messy glazes and coating, and build a forgiving system for ensured success. 

“Meats and Marinades: Flavor From the Inside Out,” Lori Evans, technical sales director, Gilroy Foods and Flavors, lori.evans@conagrafoods.com, www.gilroyfoodsandflavors.com 
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Flavorful Coffee and Extracts
“Approximately 1% of the world’s population picks coffee for a living,” notes Paul Kalenian, president of X-Café LLC. Coffee is the world’s second highest dollar commodity, surpassed only by oil. In some countries, over 80% of the population are involved in the coffee industry.

For example, Columbia has over 90,000 small ~10-acre coffee tree farms, noted Kalenian, in a presentation titled, “Coffee on Demand and Ingredient Extracts.”  The trees are picked up to nine times over the harvest period of about 60 days. One tree produces about 1lb of finished coffee per year. Each farmer produces less than 4,000lbs per year.

In Brazil, coffee is grown on vast plantations, similar to corn grown in Iowa. Columbia is more mountainous, which is better for growth of coffee trees. By default, Indonesia grows organic coffee, using very traditional methods, like machetes, to trim back vegetation. They use very little, if any, chemical pesticides or fertilizers.

The coffee tree is a fruit tree and is attractive to insects. At higher elevations, there are fewer insects. Also, in the mountains, beans grow slower, with greater density, providing better flavor. “Beans grown at low elevation are often larger and have less flavor; the higher the elevation and density, the more flavor the bean has,” explained Kalenian.

Two main species of coffee exist. Arabica is the most common and is typically sold as varietals, while Robusta, less common, has a stronger taste and is used more for blends or for adding mouthfeel in beverages like espresso. There are also subtypes, such as shade grown, organic, fair trade and Rain Forest Alliance coffees.

Robusta coffee is grown in the valleys, so has higher caffeine content, and caffeine is a natural pesticide to the plant. If the plant is threatened by bug infestation, it raises its caffeine content.

The flavor and fragrance component of coffee, which is about 20% of the roasted coffee bean, can flavor many new products, from dry goods to beverages. Kalenian says roasting plays a big part in the flavor and fragrance of the coffee. Roasting at a higher temperature brings the oil to the surface, causing some flavor loss and radical flavor change. The more lightly roasted, the more of the indigenous flavor the coffee will have. The lighter the roast, the more the varietal characteristics come through. The darker the roast, the more flavor of the roaster will come through.

Columbian coffee has a walnut taste, while African coffee has a bit of a fruity, blackberry taste. Blends exist in order to combine coffees for new flavors that did not exist previously. Blending is also done for economical reasons. Brazil is one of the largest suppliers of coffee in the world, though their coffee is quite neutral, so it is used mostly for blends, such as Sumatran.

Coffee extracts make effective flavoring ingredients for many products. Kalenian notes the use of liquid coffee extract is growing. Extracts are made from brewed coffee at high pressures, using reverse osmosis water for purity. A coffee bean is 80% wood fiber and 20% flavor and fragrance. This is important in coffee-flavored beverages. Only the flavor and fragrance portion is used in this patented production method, while the bean’s woody fiber portion goes to a biomass energy facility. This patented process produces better quality coffee flavor than instant coffee, which makes a difference in premium, ready-to- drink, milk-based and carbonated beverages.

Extracts go into a wide variety of products, such as ice creams, ready-to-drink beverages, bagged and boxed coffee, and milk-based or non-dairy-based, multi-serve dispenser devices. Numerous suppliers are now co-packing small packets of liquid coffee extract that can be added to a cup of hot or ice water. Recently, coffee extracts are even being used by the beer industry, specifically in stouts, for good coffee flavor and to help people drinking them stay awake longer.

“Coffee on Demand and Ingredient Extracts,” Paul Kalenian, president, X-Café LLC, paul.kalenian@kerry.com, www.x-café.com
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Where Great Health Tastes Great
Main consumer trends today revolve around health, convenience and pleasure. Health involves nutrition, food safety and dietary control--all leading to personal well-being. Trends such as pleasure; fun and entertainment; ethnic and exotic; and premium and indulgent all enhance the sensory experience. “Taste is in the center of these trends, with authenticity, simplicity, and signature flavor and uniqueness being important characteristics,” discusses Christophe Dewilde, brand manager for Puratos Corporation, in his presentation, “Where Great Health Tastes Great,” at a recent Prepared Foods’ R&D Seminar-Chicago.

Sourdough bread is a perfect example of a food that provides nutrition, a signature flavor, authenticity and comfort. Sourdough is defined as a mixture of wheat or rye flour and water that is fermented by lactic acid bacteria with or without yeast. Lactic acid bacteria are unique, in that they produce acids that promote good flavor in foods.

Sourdough breads can be made in a faster process and still have good taste, by incorporating one of a variety of ready-to-use sourdoughs. These have little impact on production, provide a consistent product and improve flexibility, availability and exact costing. “Ready-to-use sourdoughs offer solutions for a variety of needs. The choices include salt-reducer sourdough, butter-enhancer sourdough for fat reduction, gluten-free sourdough, grain-enriched sourdough and cheese-yeast-extract sourdough,” explains Dewilde.

The salt-reducer sourdough is one way to compensate for salt reduction, still an important health trend in foods. Salt is responsible for increasing risk of hypertension, heart disease and kidney stones. Dewilde claims, “We eat too much salt, but people detect lower salt levels in food.” In bread dough, at 0-1%, salt functions as a dough strengthener by tightening gluten, controlling fermentation rate and prolonging shelflife. At 1-2%, salt enhances flavor. Natural salt-reducer sourdough enhances salty perception, as determined by internal and external validation with sensory analysis. This ingredient allows salt reductions up to 30%, without use of other flavors or ingredients. 

A butter-enhancer sourdough is a liquid wheat ingredient that improves butter flavor and is often used with reduced-fat products to improve flavor. Dewilde explains this sourdough is “a ‘round’ acid, and when used at 1.5% in a formula, it provides a full-flavored taste profile, allowing up to a 25% reduction in butter.” In a sensory analysis with 202 French consumers, a 25% reduced-butter brioche was tested against a reference, and the reduced-butter brioches were preferred to the reference. Advantages to using this ingredient are in nutrition, taste, consistency and cost.

Gluten-free bread products, which are increasing in number, can benefit using the gluten-free sourdough. It is a polysaccharide obtained by fermentation and dried on rice flour. It is a light beige, sweet powder with a gummy mouthfeel. Advantages provided by the ingredient, typically used at 5-7% on a flour-weight basis, are increased moist mouthfeel, freshness, softness and taste.

Whole grains are also a hot trend, and using grains with sourdough is based on the German tradition of soaking and boiling grains in sourdough named Bruhstuck. This patented product is available in wheat, rye and spelt. One advantage is it can be added directly to the dough, with no wasted time. It adds superior freshness and taste with whole-grain kernels. The usage rate is up to 30% of the dough weight.

Cheese-yeast-extract powder is a yeast extract that has been hydrolyzed under pH and temperature conditions to provide an all-natural cheese flavor. Dosages of 0.5-2% can allow for reductions of cheese in a formula.

 “Where Great Health Tastes Great,” Christophe Dewilde, brand manager, Puratos Corporation, cdewilde@puratos.com, www.puratos.com
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor