Over-21 flavors—spirits, wine and beer--are making their way into many varied food products, with meat and poultry no exception. This is where flavor technology comes into play.
“Spirit flavors are very popular right now in many applications,” says Maggie Harvey, new product development manager, Mizkan, Mount Prospect, Illinois. “Bourbon, for example, is commonly used in cooking anything from meat to vegetables, and countless bourbon-flavored products. A bourbon flavor can replace actual bourbon when alcohol is neither required nor desired in the final product.
“If the final product cannot have any alcohol content, then a spirit reduction is superior,” she says. “The reduction tends to impart a ‘cooked’ flavor to a dish and this can add complexity. Spirit flavors and reductions give an extra punch to foods. They can be especially useful in high-temperature applications or processing steps.”
Artisan sausage makers and chefs alike will often soak encased meats in spirits, wines and beers. This not only adds flavor but it increases their moisture content, rendering them more succulent upon consumption.
“New-generation butchers are bringing this technique back in a new way, through inclusions,” says Scott Walnofer, director of culinary, Kerry, Beloit, Wisconsin. “Combinations like Riesling-soaked apricots or brandy-spiked apples are making their way into everyday retail sausages.”
Marinades and sauces are another application where there is a lot of alcohol-flavored inspiration. They can be used during processing, while cooking or as a topping for direct consumption.
“For example, we might use tequila to marinate a protein and then put that tequila in the final sauce,” says Juliet Greene, corporate chef at Mizkan. “The smoky profile of a mezcal follow both the smoke trend and spirit trend to create wonderful Mexican barbecue sauces for marinated tequila chicken or pork. When using spirit flavors, chefs and manufacturers can create consistent layers of flavor and authenticity in commercialized products without the actual alcohol.”
The product developers at Tyson Foods Inc., Springdale, Arkansas, are using over-21 flavors in recent additions to the Hillshire Snacking Small Plates line. These individually portioned protein snacks are all about providing an elevated on-the-go eating experience to satisfy a more sophisticated food palate. The latest additions all contain alcohol flavor-infused meats. Varieties are: Apple Chardonnay, Smokey Bourbon and Whiskey & Brown Sugar.