Starter Cultures for Making Fermented Sausages

Starter cultures ferment sausages, develop color and flavor and provide safety. The addition of any commercial culture to the sausage mix provides a safety hurdle, as those millions of freshly introduced bacteria start competing for food (moisture, oxygen, sugar, protein) with a small number residing in meat bacteria, preventing them from growing. It may be called a biological competition among bacteria. Bactofermâ„¢ F-LC has the ability to control Listeria monocytogenes at the same time as it performs as a classic starter culture for fermented sausages.

Cultures can be classified into the following groups:

The advantages of starter cultures are numerous:

Although commercially grown starter cultures have been around since 1957, it is only recently that sausage equipment and supplies companies carry them in catalogs. As the hobbyist-sausage maker becomes more educated in finer aspects of the art of sausage making he will undoubtably start making more fermented sausages at home.

The most important microorganisms used in starter cultures are:

Microorganism Family Species Use
Lactic Acid Bacteria Lactobacillus L.plantarum acid production
L.pentosum acid production
L.sakei acid production
L.curvatus acid production
Pediococcus P.acidilactici acid production/

(fast fermenting)

Curing Bacteria

(color and flavor forming)

Kocuria (Micrococcus) K.varians color and flavor
Staphylococcus S.xylosus color and flavor
S.carnosus color and flavor
Yeasts Debaryomeces D.hansenii flavor
Candida C.famata flavor
Molds Penicillium P.nalgiovense white mold
P.chrysogenum white mold

In addition to being very strong competitors for nutrients against pathogenic and spoilage bacteria, lactic acid bacteria are known to produce compounds named "bacteriocins" which can act against other microorganisms. Pediococcus acidilactici and Lactobacillus curvatus are known bacteriocins producers especially effective against the growth of Listeria monocytogenes.

Chr. Hansen starter cultures

There are many manufacturers of starter cultures that are used in Europe and in the USA and we are going to list products made by the Danish manufacturer "Chr. Hansen" as their products demonstrate superior quality and are easily obtained from American distributors of sausage making equipment and supplies. Even more the company offers wonderful technical support and we are deeply indebted to them for detailed specifications about their products.

5.3.1 Starter cultures for traditional fermented sausages

In the production of traditional style sausages, the fermentation profile must have a short lag phase in order to ensure the growth of the added starter culture at the expense of the unwanted bacteria. The acidification profile must be rather flat not going below pH 4.8-5.0 at any time. This will ensure that Staphylococci maintain their activity over a longer period of time; foremost their nitrate reductase and flavor forming activities.

Culture name Bacteria included Characteristics
T-RM-53 Lactobacillus sakei, Staphylococcus carnosus Aromatic cultures with mild


T-SP Pediococcus pentosaceus, Staphylococcus carnosus
T-SPX Pediococcus pentosaceus, Staphylococcus xylosus
T-D-66 Lactobacillus plantarum, Staphylococcus carnosus Aromatic cultures with

intermediate acidification

T-SC-150 Lactobacillus sakei, Staphylococcus carnosus
T-SL Lactobacillus pentosus, Staphylococcus carnosus

The cultures listed above are specifically selected for traditional fermentation profiles applying fermentation temperatures not higher than 24º C (75º F).

5.3.2 Starter cultures for fast fermented sausages

In the production of North European and US style sausages the fermentation profile must have a very short lag phase in order to rapidly on-set fermentation and exibit a fast drop in pH to below 5.3 within 30 hours as a minimum. This ensures an efficient inhibition of unwanted bacteria and an early on-set of fast drying. Total production time is typically less than 2 weeks.

Culture name Bacteria included Characteristics
F-RM-52 Lactobacillus sakei, Staphylococcus carnosus Fast cultures targeted for

fermentation temperatures

22-32º C

(70-90º F)

F-RM-7 Lactobacillus sakei, Staphylococcus carnosus, Staph.xylosus
F-SC-111 Lactobacillus sakei, Staphylococcus carnosus
F-1 Pediococcus pentosaceus, Staphylococcus xylosus
LP Pediococcus pentosaceus
LL-1 Lactobacillus curvatus
CSL Lactobacillus curvatus, Micrococcaceae spp.
LL-2 Lactobacillus curvatus
F-2 Lactobacillus farciminis, Staph.carnosus, Staph.xylosus
LHP Pediococcus acililactici, Pediococcus pentosaceus

Extra fast cultures targeted for

fermentation temperatures

26-38º C,  (80-100º F)


CSB Pediococcus acililactici, Micrococcaceae spp.

Extra fast cultures targeted for

fermentation temperatures

30-45º C, (86-115º F)


F-PA Pediococcus acililactici
HPS Pediococcus acililactici

Very fast cultures targeted for

fermentation temperatures

32-45º C,  (90-115º F)


In the US style fast fermented sausages (35-45º C, 95-115º F, very fast pH drop, low final pH <4.8), Staphylococci are not added to the culture since they generally do not survive such fast pH lowering.

5.3.3 Starter cultures for enhancing flavor and nitrate reduction

Sausages fermented with a chemical acidifier such as Gdl or encapsulated acid instead of lactic acid bacteria generally require added Staphylococci or Micrococcaceae spp. to obtain acceptable flavor and color. Those single strain cultures are recommended in all sausage products in need of extra flavor or nitrate reductase activity. S. carnosus is more salt tolerant than S. xylosus and convey a more intense flavor in fast fermented products.

Culture name Bacteria included Characteristics
S-B-61 Staphylococcus carnosus Flavor and color

enhancing cultures

S-SX Staphylococcus xylosus
CS Micrococcaceae spp.

5.3.4 Starter cultures for surface coverage

Mold present on traditional sausages prevents mytoxin formation by wild molds. It allows for uniform drying and contributes positively towards flavor.

Culture name Bacteria included Characteristics
M-EK-72 Penicillium nalgiovense White mold culture

for surface treatment

M-EK-4 Penicillium nalgiovense
M-EK-6 Penicillium nalgiovense

M-EK-4 grows better at lower temperature and humidity and gives a marbled appearance. M-EK-6 is more dense and develops a more fluffy coverage. M-EK-72 gives a strong growth and high fluffy coverage when high humidity and temperature is available.

5.3.5 Starter cultures for bio-protection

Bactofermâ„¢ F-LC is a patented culture blend capable of acidification as well as preventing growth of Listeria. The culture produces pediocin and bavaricin (kind of "antibiotics") and that keeps Listeria monocytogenes at safe levels. Low fermentation temperature (<25º C, 77º F) results in a traditional acidification profile whereas high fermentation temperature (35-45º C, 95-115º F) gives a US style product.

Culture name Bacteria included Characteristics

Staphylococcus xylosus, Pediococcus acidilactici,

Lactobacillus curvatus


Culture for acidification and

prevention of Listeria

Meat culture with bioprotective properties for production of fermented sausages with short production type where a higher count of L.monocytogenes bacteria may be suspected. Bactofermâ„¢ F-LC has the ability to control listeria at the same time as it performs as a classic starter culture for fermented sausages. Use dextrose as this culture ferments sugar slowly.

How to choose the correct culture

In order to choose the correct culture the following advise may be used as general guidelines:

  1. What style of sausage is produced?
    • Traditional South and North European: choose cultures in paragraph 5.3.1.
    • North European fast fermented: choose cultures in paragraph 5.3.2.
    • US style: choose the extra fast and very fast cultures in paragraph 5.3.2.
  2. A very short on-set of fermentation is needed
    • Choose a frozen culture instead of a freeze-dried culture.
    • Increase the amount of culture.
  3. The salt-in-water percentage in the fresh mince is:
    • > 6% : avoid F-1, LP, T-SP and T-SPX.
  4. The type of sugar is:
    • Glucose: all cultures will ferment.
    • Sucrose: avoid T-RM-53, T-SC-150, F-RM-52 and F-SC-111.

    These cultures contain Lactobacillus sakei, which does not ferment sugar well (see the table on page 43). This fact can be used to our advantage by adding sugars which will not be fermented, yet they will remain in the sausage contributing to a sweeter taste.

  5. Nitrate is added as a color forming agent to the mince
    • Choose cultures in paragraph 5.3.1. and 5.3.2 and adjust the process correspondingly to traditional/slow fermentation.
    • Add extra Staphylococci or Micrococcaceae spp. from paragraph 5.3.1 to enhance nitrate reductase activity
  6. A product with an intense flavor
    • Choose traditional technology and cultures from paragraph 5.3.1
    • Add extra Staphylococci or Micrococcaceae spp. from paragraph 5.3.3. to enhance flavor formation


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