In the world of preserved meats, one product stands out for its remarkable shelf life: SPAM. Dr. Chris Clarke, a specialist in soft matter and food microstructure, has unveiled the secrets behind this iconic canned meat’s enduring longevity.
In a recent episode of Channel 5’s ‘The 1970s Supermarket,’ Dr. Clarke provided insights into the fascinating combination of factors that contribute to SPAM’s remarkable ability to stay fresh for extended periods.
The first revelation Dr. Clarke shared was that SPAM’s pork shoulder content is cooked within the very tin it’s packaged in.
This unique approach to preparation is a key contributor to its extended shelf life.
According to Dr. Clarke, ‘The first secret to SPAM’s longevity is the fact that the pork shoulder is cooked in the tin.
They’ll take the meat, in the tin it goes, and then they’ll cook it in the tin which stops bacteria going off.’
However, the story doesn’t end there. Another essential component that contributes to SPAM’s remarkable longevity is the addition of a special chemical: sodium nitrate.
Dr. Clarke explained that sodium nitrate is a preservative that prevents the meat from spoiling.
To demonstrate its impact, he covered a piece of pork shoulder, a primary ingredient in SPAM, with salt, turning the meat pink.
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Unveiling the Legacy and Creation of SPAM
This reaction, triggered by sodium nitrate, alters the meat’s properties, making it less susceptible to microbial growth, thus extending its shelf life.
SPAM, which gained popularity as a staple during the Second World War, remains a favorite on supermarket shelves today. Despite its widespread consumption, many people are unaware of the origin of the product’s name.
The official meaning of ‘SPAM’ is believed to be an abbreviation for ‘spiced ham,’ representing the primary ingredients condensed into four letters.
The name was coined by Ken Digneau, who won a naming contest and was awarded $100 for his contribution.
Hormel, the company responsible for creating SPAM, provides insight into the composition and production process of this enduring product.
Contrary to its mysterious reputation, SPAM consists of only six ingredients: pork (including ham meat), salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite.
These ingredients are mixed together for 20 minutes, and once the mixture reaches the appropriate temperature, it is placed into cans and vacuum-packed.
The cans are then cooked, followed by a cooling process.
Originating in the United States in 1937, SPAM was developed by Hormel to cater to the needs of cash-strapped families during the Great Depression.
When World War II erupted, SPAM’s ability to be stored for extended periods proved invaluable. Its unique combination of preparation techniques and preservatives made it a dependable source of sustenance in uncertain times.
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Source: Daily Mail