During the period from 2014 to 2016, the influence of the process conditions on the quality aspects of Norwegian ham products were investigated.
An important aim of the project was to adopt novel, advanced analytical methods for characterization and understanding of the ripening process. Mass spectrometry (MS) was applied for untargeted analyses of low-molecular weight compounds, and revealed changing 'fingerprints' with processing time and at different salt concentrations. Through a PhD exchange in 2015, larger peptides and proteins of production samples were analyzed MS-based methods at the Spanish partner CSIC. Thermal properties were determined in order to relate physical and biochemical changes. These different analytical approaches have provided more knowledge about how process conditions and drying rates affect the enzymatic activities and ripening rates. In addition, marker compounds that can be used for quality assessment of the production were identified.
The project finalized its main activities in 2016. Dry-cured hams in different stages of the production were scanned with CT and the salt and water profile was analyzed in the beginning of the year. Proteomic analyses of samples from small-scale tests have also shown a clear correlation between protein degradation and different drying conditions. This is a clear indication how drying and ripening conditions influence certain quality aspects. Modelling of salt diffusion in different cross section and muscle parts was investigated detailed for the salting and ripening process. The project was finalized early in 2017 with the PhD defense in which the detected process biomarkers and the results of the physio-chemical and biochemical experiments was summed up.
Several scientific articles and reports have been published. The publications are dedicated to the determination of the thermal properties of dry-cured ham with Differential Scanning Calorimeter, State of the Art on biochemistry of dry-cured ham, characterization of the ripening process and proteolytic activities and also technical solutions in today's production, possibility for energy recovery from production as well as usage of ambient air as energy source for cooling. DryMeat has also educated five master students as well as on PhD.