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Fruit Sauces and CondimentsFruit Sauces and Condiments

August 1, 2000

14 Min Read
Fruit Sauces and Condiments

August 2000

Fruit Sauces and Condiments
By Paula Frank
Technical Editor

  Years ago, jellies and jams were practically the only fruit preps around, but the presence of innovative fruit-based products has grown recently. The category of fruit sauces and condiments now includes salsas, chutneys and marinades, among others. These products cover a broad array of flavors and textures, ranging from a thin sauce to one thick with identifiable fruit pieces. Limitless creative possibilities exist for the developer of fruit sauces and condiments who has the knowledge of flavor and textural systems necessary to make a stable, quality product.

A peachy category

Culinary experts who introduce fruit-based creations in their establishments help push the demand for these products. For instance, Chris Chickering, research and development manager and corporate chef for American Spoon Foods, Petoskey, MI, describes how one successful product launch, an award-winning mango barbecue sauce, led to an entire line of fruit-based products made with flavors that best complement fruit, such as chiles, curry, onions, garlic, and aromatic herbs and spices. These products include Pineapple Chili BBQ Sauce; Cherry Peach Salsa; Cherry Gooseberry Chutney; Raspberry and Mango Coulis; Winter Compote containing peaches, pears, apricots, and black cherries, brandy, cinnamon and cloves; Mango Habanero Salsa; Apple Cider Grilling Sauce; and Harvest Chutney, a blend of apples, dried cherries and squash flavored with curry.

Other inventive products in the market include a line of berry-flavored barbecue sauces under the SweetSide™ label made by The SweetSides Company, Inc., Mission Hills, CA; various chutneys with mangoes or peaches, raisins with added savory flavors like garlic or onion; a plum grilling sauce, also containing pumpkin; and marinades flavored with lime, pineapple and other tropical fruits. An assortment of jellies, jams, spreadable fruit, and preserves also exists with variable options in sweeteners from the nutritive to the non-nutritive type.

Pearing it down

Understanding the components of the fruit condiment category is helpful, since the differences are not always apparent. Salsa, the Mexican word for sauce, refers to both the cooked and fresh preparations. While traditionally tomato-based, many versions today contain different types of fruit. (For more information on fruit and other salsas, see "The Salsa Saga" in the April 1998 issue or "Dips and Salsas" in the May 2000 issue of Food Product Design.)

Chickering explains several other applications: "Chutney, from the East Indian word chanti, is a spicy condiment usually containing fruit, vinegar, sugar and spices cooked for a long period to intensify flavors. Originally, the term coulis referred to the juices from cooked meats. Today it is a general term usually referring to thick purees of vegetables or fruit in a sauce application, most often not cooked and containing other flavoring ingredients."

According to Chickering, people often associate "compote" with "compotier," or a deep, stemmed silver or glass dish holding fruits, nuts or candy. While compote may contain some of these ingredients, slow cooking of fruit in a sugar syrup, generally with liqueur added, actually characterizes this dish and helps maintain the fruits shape. Relish, while traditionally made of pickles, "is probably the most underdeveloped (condiment), particularly with fruit ingredients."

Legally fruity

Some products like jellies and jams fall under FDAs standard of identity, while the rest of the condiments and sauces conform only to FDA guidelines governing food product quality and safety. These standards fall under Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR): Sec. 150.110 for fruit butter; Sec. 150.140 for fruit jelly; Sec. 150.141 for artificially sweetened fruit jelly; Sec. 150.160 for fruit preserves and jams; and Sec. 150.161 for artificially sweetened fruit preserves and jams.

The standards dictate both the type and number of combinations of fruit permitted, as well as a method for calculating the weight of the fruit ingredient so that it can be compared to the weight of the nutritive carbohydrate sweetener. It also lists allowable ingredients, including flavoring and acidifiers, plus acceptable quantities of fruit juice, preservatives, buffering agents, pectin and other gelling agents. The acceptability of capturing volatiles during concentration of the fruit, concentrating them separately, and adding them back to the mixture is discussed, as are labeling conventions.

The regulations delineate the ratio of fruit ingredient to sweetener required, as well as the minimum percent soluble solids needed for products sweetened with a nutritive sweetener. The target for fruit juice in jelly is 45% and the nutritive sweetener target is 55% by weight, plus total soluble solids must be greater than 65%. The soluble solids portion includes not only added sugar, but the fructose and glucose inherent in fruit.

For artificially sweetened jelly, preserves, or jams, the regulation specifies the minimum amount of fruit ingredient required, plus the amount of nutritive sweetener allowed if used to standardize pectin, carrageenan, or salts of carrageenan. In addition, it lists acceptable artificial sweeteners, which include saccharin, sodium saccharin, calcium saccharin or a combination of any of these.

Other fruit sauces and condiments not regulated by standards of identity follow guidelines to insure safety and quality during the products shelf life. According to Chickering, attention to thermal processing, pH, water activity and soluble solids helps achieve a targeted shelf life of six to nine months. In addition, a product with a pH above 4.6 is never packed; these products pH usually fall between 3.0 to 4.5, the range naturally associated with most fruit.

Jammin gels

A variety of options exist for gelling and thickening fruit preps. The process method, desired texture and finished product attributes help determine the ingredient choice. Relying on the reaction between pectin and sugar under acidic conditions may be one alternative. "Many of our products use no thickener at all and simply rely on a fruits natural pectin and/or reduction to produce the desired thickness," Chickering notes.

Using added pectin, polymer of the sugar acid D-galacturonic acid, is another thickening option. Methoxylating the acid groups to a degree of esterification greater than 50% forms high-methoxy pectins (HM-pectins). These require a low pH of 2.9 to 3.6 with a sugar level of 60% to 80% soluble solids for gelation. Improperly dispersed HM-pectin and insufficient cooling may lead to graininess; overcooking or too little sugar may result in a thin texture, while too much sugar has the opposite effect. Overly acidic conditions may cause syneresis. Low methoxy pectins (LM-pectins) with a degree of esterification of 40% to 50%, rely on calcium salts for gelation, but do not require sugar or an acidic environment. This type of pectin is useful in reduced-calorie, low-sugar applications.

Fruit float, a condition where fruit actually settles on the top of holding tanks prior to filling, can occur when pectin is used alone. This condition prevents uniform distribution of fruit solids during packaging. Use of starch or a gum in conjunction with pectin helps alleviate this problem.

Certain thickeners have good synergy with pectin and/or starch, or they can stand alone, like Gelcarin XP 3451, a type of carrageenan developed by FMC BioPolymer, notes Marlene Tuazon, senior research food scientist for the Philadelphia-based company. It can be used as a total or partial replacement for starch or pectin.

Unlike standard carrageenans that lose functionality under acidic and high-heat conditions, and are sensitive to salt ions like calcium, this type remains stable. It is thixotropic, maintains a uniform suspension of fruit pieces, remains pumpable during processing and imparts a low-process viscosity. Products that thicken too much during processing prior to filling, expose fruit pieces to excessive shear, resulting in maceration and loss of piece identity. In addition, highly-thickened fluids have poor heat transfer, resulting in longer heating times with adverse flavor and color effects.

According to Tuazon, products formulated with Gelcarin XP 3451 maintain their shelf life under refrigeration for 9 to 12 months without syneresis. It also gives a glossy, rather than an opaque, appearance with good clarity and flavor release. Usage levels depend on the solids level in application. For instance, a 25°Brix fruit preparation has more water, and therefore requires approximately 0.6% to 0.7% of the stabilizer, whereas a 40° to 50°Brix mixture demands a lower usage level of 0.3% to 0.4%.

Alginates find application in fruit fillings for bakery items where temperatures rise above 350°F, notes Tuazon. This class of gums exhibits stability over a wide range of solids levels and water activity. In addition, cold processing with alginates is feasible. Other advantages include good flavor release, freeze/thaw stability and prevention of moisture migration in baked goods. Use of gums such as locust bean, xanthan, guar and sodium carboxymethylcellulose, among others, occur in fruit applications, although less commonly than pectin, carrageenan and alginates.

Its plum thick

Modified corn, potato and tapioca starches provide texture and stability under conditions of heat, acid and shear to fruit-based applications. Both the degree and type of chemical modification required by the starch depends on the severity of the process. Regardless of the type of starch chosen, selecting an ingredient that fully hydrates is important, since other ingredients, especially sugars, compete for water. Otherwise, viscosity may be affected, resulting in syneresis.

"Tapioca and potato-based starches have a very bland/clean flavor due to the low lipid and protein content of the starch," says Anne Tieleman, Ph.D., director of research and commercialization for the food starch division of AVEBE America Inc., Princeton, NJ. Each starch contributes uniquely to texture. For instance, tapioca gives a smooth, shiny texture, while potato provides pulpiness to a product like fruit salsa, which allows for a reduction in fruit solids.

Tieleman recommends a usage of 2% to 5% of either a modified tapioca or potato starch for sauces depending on the final viscosity and texture desired. "For a more gelled texture, 4% to 5% starch may be used," she says. Potato starch, inherently thicker than corn or waxy maize starches on an equivalent-weight basis, requires 25% to 35% less to obtain an equivalent viscosity

Low moisture (high solids) applications often require instant starches whose granules are pre-swollen, because there isnt enough free water to fully hydrate and swell the granules of a cook-up starch. "The texture obtained (with cold water swelling [CWS] starches) is similar to the texture obtained with cook-up starches," says Tieleman. "In addition, the processor can save energy and equipment costs by using a cold process." A small amount of instant starch also helps prevent fruit float by keeping fruit particles suspended.

Sugar coating it

Sugar, the most common sweetener found in fruit preparations and one that HM-pectin depends on to function, contributes solids, which in turn provide body and mouthfeel. Without the addition of other sweeteners, or inversion reaction, sucrose-only systems can crystallize, leading to graininess. Inversion, however, results in the formation of reducing sugars (dextrose and fructose) that can cause unwanted color development, says Henry Nonaka, manager of technical services, Corn Products International Inc., Bedford Park, IL.

Dextrose, another sugar prone to crystallization, helps reduce sweetness, improves resistance to color development that is inherent in fructose and actually decreases the propensity towards crystallization when used in combination with sucrose. "Sugars tend to inhibit each other when used in combination," adds Nonaka. "Blends have higher solubility than the individual sugars and interfere with the crystallization patterns of each other."

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) builds high solids and viscosity similar to that of sugar. HFCS 42, a syrup containing 42% fructose and 53% glucose, is most commonly used. According to Nonaka, HFCS 90 may find application in reduced-calorie products, since it can be used at a lower concentration to achieve an equivalent level of sweetness to that of sugar. HFCS 90 contains 90% fructose and 7% glucose, and is approximately 1.5 times as sweet as sugar. On the other hand, HFCS 42 averages about 95% as sweet as sugar. Crystalline fructose is an alternative sweetener for a fruit prep that cant contain sugar in the form of sucrose or dextrose, such as a product targeted for diabetics.

Simple sugars and HFCS help minimize microbial problems by providing high osmotic pressure to fruit preps, which helps extend shelf life. Sugars also impact gel strength. Gel strength is dependent on several factors, says Nonaka, including the gelling agent as well as the sweetener type and level. For instance, a higher sweetener level gives a firmer, more viscous product, as does a sweetener with a lower dextrose equivalent (DE) level. Its a water control issue, he notes, and one where each factor should be looked at independently.

A fruitful plan

A lot of creative opportunities exist for sauce development with fruits, because so many varieties are available in multiple forms. Although use of fresh and frozen fruits is most common, dried, pureed and concentrated forms offer flavor as well as functional benefits. Finished product characteristics, like smoothness or chunkiness, ultimately determines the physical form of fruit selected, notes Scott Summers, director, technical and quality services, Tree Top, Inc., Selah, WA.

Selection of fruit typically occurs at ideal maturation where, according to Summers, the fruit "is usually firm and crisp, with a well-balanced Brix-to-acid ratio." As fruit ripens, starch converts to sugar. Thus, flavor and texture correlate directly with maturation. For example, unripe fruit is very firm and lacks flavor, while over-ripe fruit is softer with fully-developed sugars.

"Frozen and chilled fruit will usually be preserved with GRAS additives and acidulants such as ascorbic acid, citric acid, erythorbic acid, sodium erthorbate, calcium chloride, sodium chloride, etc," notes Summers. On the other hand, fruit juice concentrates with a 68° to 70°Brix, are shelf-stable at ambient temperatures, requiring no preservatives. Fruit purees may need preservatives, unless they undergo thermal processing. Application of a sulfite treatment to dried fruit powders aids in color retention and decreases browning.

Aside from adding flavor, fruit powders help control viscosity, and extend costly fruit components. "The sugar content dictates the size limitations in conventionally dried fruits," explains Summers. "The higher the sugar level, the harder it is to produce fine mesh sizes (below 35 mesh) without clumping in finished form. We seldom see it in apples (up to 18°Brix), but see it with prunes, dates, cherries, figs, etc." These problems can be partially eliminated by adding CO2 or nitrogen to the mill head, storing and transporting the powders under refrigeration, and using an anti-caking agent.

The type of drying dictates the presence of piece identity. Air-drying produces a powder with piece identity; the larger the mesh size, the larger the piece size. Alternatively, drum drying yields no piece identity.

Raisin awareness

Although different kinds of fruit find their way into sauce and condiment applications, raisins happen to be one of the most versatile. According to the California Raisin Marketing Board, Fresno, CA, the fruit is compatible with flavors ranging from sweet and savory to warm and spicy. Raisins are a popular choice for many manufacturers, because they are user-friendly, requiring minimal handling prior to use.

The majority of raisins sold, particularly those used in sauces and condiments, originate from Thompson Seedless grapes. Raisins produced from Muscat, Black Corinth and Flame Seedless grapes most generally end up in baked goods. Unlike naturally sun-dried raisins, Golden Seedless undergo mechanical dehydration, and a sulfur dioxide treatment to preserve their golden color, and prevent oxidation.

Raisins not only provide sweetness, but are an excellent source of dietary fiber at 5.9%, broken down into a soluble non-cellulose polysaccharide content of 59.3%, and an insoluble non-cellulose polysaccharide and cellulose content of 10.0% and 30.7%, respectively. Raisins also have some flavor-enhancing capability due to their 2.2 % tartaric acid level, and contain reducing sugars which act as precursors of the Maillard reaction, the process that causes nonenzymatic browning.

Both raisin paste and raisin juice concentrate add natural sweetness and a rich, dark color to sauces. Raisin juice concentrate contains 500 to 600 ppm propionic acid per 100 grams that contributes mold-inhibiting properties, and helps to extend a products shelf life. The fruit itself is stable for up to 15 months when stored at a maximum temperature of 45°F, under relative humidity of 45% to 55%.

According to information provided by the California Raisin Marketing Board, 100 grams of raisins provides approximately 2,800 Oxygen Radical Abosrbance Capacity (ORAC) units. ORAC is used to measure antioxidant activity, and gives comparative data by measuring this activity on equal weights of fruits and vegetables. Researchers suggest that ORAC units of 3,000 to 5,000 per day provide a significant health benefit. Research is also being conducted on characterizing the types of complex carbohydrates in raisins, such as inulin, a fructooligosaccharide proven to have prebiotic health benefits.

Raisins are also a good source of vitamins and minerals, as are other fruits, which helps make this category so popular. Fruits not only provide great flavor appeal and versatility, but health attributes as well. Once functional and textural attributes are understood, the skys the limit when it comes to flavor combinations.

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