Fermented meat is a type of dried meat that has been prepared and dehydrated according to specific techniques that alter some of the chemical make-up of normally perishable foods. Fermentation typically involves the introduction of bacteria or yeast that convert certain meat nutrients into mixtures of carbon dioxide and alcohol. This process of making fermented meat can both increase the flavor intensity and prevent the end product from spoiling for relatively long periods of time. Successful fermentation of meat can only be accomplished under specific environmental conditions in order for the end product to be completely safe to eat. Various culinary traditions often have their own unique types of fermented meat such as salami or chorizo sausage.
Meat must be fermented in an environment without oxygen, which is frequently called an anaerobic condition. Removing the oxygen is essential for the meat to correctly dehydrate without the possibility of harmful bacterial invasion. The fermentation catalyst bacteria is usually introduced in controlled amounts.
This type of bacteria is usually one of several varieties derived from lactic acid. Cooks with experience in fermenting frequently use a strain of lactic acid bacteria called pediococus cerevisiae. This important step is normally accomplished by sealing the cuts of meat to be dried in an airtight container.
Various flavors of salami are normally made through this basic fermentation process. This kind of dehydrated sausage is often made with a combination of catalyst bacteria and other additives called nitrates. The inclusion of nitrates can often lessen the chances of contamination by allowing the beneficial lactic acid bacteria to grow and spread through the meat at a faster rate.
Once the technique of fermenting meat has been perfected, the process is normally not limited to meats such as beef or pork. Some types of seafood can also be successfully fermented, although health professionals sometimes advise that this practice should be approached carefully. Fermented fish can often have high rates of bacterial contamination that can lead to serious food-borne illnesses such as botulism.
Some of the benefits of fermented meat include economic practicality and environmental necessity. People who live in remote geographic areas with harsh winters often ferment large stores of meat due to limited access to other food sources during the worst weather conditions. Fermented meats are generally able to stand up to extreme temperatures at a better rate than other foods.