Restructured meats (wet cured ham)
Even though it is possible to find restructured meats (mainly hams) with really low salt levels, or even with no salt at all, there is not so much published research as one might have expected. There are various types of hams around the world which vary in quality and in the ingredients used. For instance, water is added to ham products as a solvent for proteins in conjunction with phosphates and salt, to reduce the cost of the finished product, and the amount used varies between companies and regions. Here is an example of one of the few published works on restructured meats low in sodium.
- Sodium reduction with glucono-δ-lactone and κ-carrageenan added
When glucono-δ-lactone (GdL) and κ-carrageenan were added in different combinations, along with high pressure treatment, the main findings were as follows:
- Reducing the level of sodium (from 0.75% to 0.5 and to 0.25%) slightly reduced water-holding capacity and binding strength, but increasing both carrageenan and GdL improved the binding strength. Carrageenan, however, had a lower strength when applying high pressure.
- A low NaCl concentration and the simultaneous addition of GdL in restructured pork that was washed and compressed resulted in improved binding strength and reduced meat discoloration. The addition of both NaCl and carrageenan had no effect on the pH; conversely, a decrease in pH was shown when GdL was added, leading to a decrease in water-holding capacity. The addition of GdL resulted in some discoloration (a cooked appearance), while increasing NaCl concentration resulted in a darker colour (Hong et al., 2008).
From what you have learned so far, what do you think would be the possible effects of reducing the salt content of a wet-cured ham by 50%?