The way consumers select foods has shifted in the last several years; they want simpler, natural ingredients for their food and beverages. Phrases such as “field to fork”, “handpicked” and “field to table” are everyday terms used to describe consumer expectations.
Restaurants that promote the use of locally-sourced products have heightened the awareness of ingredient traceability, and are changing how food manufacturers are doing business. Food related recalls and outbreaks, allergy concerns, or a desire for healthier alternatives have many manufacturers going back to the basics.
But working with raw spices, herbs and vegetables can be difficult; extracts provide an easy-to-use alternative to achieve the flavour and colour desired in final food application. Sometimes a single extract doesn’t provide the perfect flavour and colour solution for your application. However, you can combine several extracts into one seasoning system to use in your manufactured food or beverage, and you can be assured of consistency from batch to batch.
What is the process for creating ingredient combinations? Let’s start with step one: selecting the raw materials.
It’s critical that you work with an ingredient supplier that takes the necessary steps to provide naturally sourced ingredients that give you the confidence that your finished food and beverages are safe and compliant. Your ingredient supplier should source raw ingredients only through approved farmers, and routinely visit their major sourcing countries to ensure standard practices are followed.
Additionally, by utilising various sources, it is easier for your supplier to avoid risk of supply disruption, guaranteeing that you receive consistent and reliable food ingredients.
Building Blocks: Spice And Herb Flavour Extracts
For more than 50 years, spice and herb extracts have played an important role in the processed food industry. Makers of prepared foods and food ingredients rely on extracts for consistent, natural, and reproducible flavour, aroma and colour. Often referred to as liquid seasonings or oleoresins, extracts are defined as oil-dispersible, lipid-based, solid or semi-solid resins possessing the full organoleptic character of the natural spice.
Using liquid seasonings instead of ground spices offer many advantages:
- • Immediate fresh, clean flavour delivery and consistency: Since there is no need to rehydrate, liquid seasonings deliver immediate flavour impact making them ideal for use in products with either short or long production times.
- • Superior microbiological status: Oleoresins have lower micro counts than ground spices due to the production methods used.
- • Ease of use in the factory: Clumping and caking challenges traditionally associated with the use of ground spices are solved when using liquid seasonings. Liquid seasonings are easily incorporated into most food product processing methods thus eliminating clumping and caking.
- • Function beyond flavour: Liquid seasonings have natural beneficial and functional uses versus ground spices. For example, the enzymatic activity of ground spices can cause problems in the consistency of sauces, whereas liquid seasonings with deactivated enzymes are an ideal alternative. Also, a smoother sauce texture is achieved when using liquid seasonings in place of ground spices, as they reduce the volume of spice needed in finished sauces, interfering less with consistency.
Select The Best Delivery System
Based on your application needs, spice and herb extracts are available in many different delivery systems, including:
- • Oil Soluble Oleoresins: obtained from extraction and containing the full organoleptic character of the natural spice or herb in an oil-soluble form.
- • Oil/Water Dispersible Oleoresins: These feature the convenience of oil- and water- dispersibility with all the benefits of an oleoresin.
- • Water Soluble: Spice and herb flavour extracts used in applications requiring complete solubility in water and brine solutions.
- • Essential Oils: complex mixture of volatile components responsible for the aromatic characteristics of the spice.
Combining Single Building Blocks Into Culinary Creations
An irony exists between the desire for simplicity in the foods we eat with the complex flavours we crave. The traditional meal of meat, potatoes and vegetables has been replaced with ethnic dishes infused with sophisticated flavour profiles.
Regional food applications are available everywhere. From American classics such as barbecue and Philly cheese steak, to European fare such as Alfredo and Tzatziki, to traditional Asian cuisine like Korma, and Sambal Goreng; you can find a recipe or a prepared meal at your fingertips. Exposure to global cuisine is everywhere, from restaurants, to food trucks to cooking shows and online blogs.
Using and measuring spices in your kitchen at home in order to create a specific flavour profile is something everyone can do. While it’s fairly easy to clean and prepare spices and herbs in our home kitchens, it is much more challenging to create that exact flavour profile repeatedly on a large scale, like in a food manufacturing plant. Add in the complexity of ethnic and regional variations, and you can see the need for simplification. Combining basic extracts together into a single blend makes this transition easier.
Individual extracts can be used to deliver a wide range of creative flavour solutions. However, as consumers become more adventurous and willing to try new ethnic cuisines, it is important to work with a supplier that can offer regional flavour blends that deliver a sensory experience connecting to diverse cultural flavours and traditions. The following are examples of how you can combine single spice extracts to achieve a particular regional flavour profile.
Typical single extracts available include cinnamon bark, epazote, cilantro, mint, toasted coriander, toasted cumin, toasted black pepper, toasted fenugreek and Mexican Oregano. A range of pepper extracts including Ancho, Chipotle, Guajillo, Habanero and Jalapeno can be added to achieve the heat component often found in Latin American Specialty dishes.
Single extract building blocks include black pepper, cardamom, pepper (capsicum), clove, coriander, cumin fenugreek, garlic, ginger, mace, onion, paprika (for colour) and turmeric (for colour and flavour). By grouping these single extracts in various combinations, you can achieve a full range of curry profiles including Bengali, Butter Chicken, Korma, Madras, Rogan Josh, Tandoori, Tikka and Vindaloo.
With the basics, such as clove, cinnamon, black pepper, sage, garlic, onion, celery and nutmeg, you can achieve a simple flavour profile in your dish or create combinations of favourite American staples such as Fried Chicken, Crab Boil and Apple Pie.