Chapter 8 Fruit specific preservation technologies

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8.1 Fruit quality

Fruit quality goes back to tree stock, growing practices and weather conditions. Closer to the shipper and processor, however, are the degrees of maturity and ripeness when picked and the method of picking or harvesting.

There is a distinction between maturity and ripeness of a fruit. Maturity is the condition when the fruit is ready to eat or if picked will become ready to eat after further ripening. Ripeness is that optimum condition when colour, flavour and texture have developed to their peak.

Some fruit is picked when it are mature but not yet ripe. This is especially true of very soft fruit like cherries and peaches, which when fully ripe are so soft as to be damaged by the act of picking itself. Further, since many types of fruit continue to ripen off the tree, unless they were to be processed quickly, some would become overripe before they could be utilised if picked at peak ripeness.

From a technological point of view, fruit characterisation by species and varieties is performed on the basis of physical as well chemical properties: shape, size, texture, flavour, colour/pigmentation, dry matter content (soluble solids content), pectic substances, acidity, vitamins, etc. These properties are directly correlated with fruit utilisation. Table 8.1. 1 shows which of the above mentioned properties have a major impact on the finished products obtained by fruit processing.

TABLE 8.1.1 Optimal use of fruits as a function of their properties

Processed Finished Products Organoleptic (Sensory) Properties Chemical Composition
Shape Texture Flavour Taste Acidity Sugars Pectic Sust.
Dried Fruits + + + +   + +   + +  
Fruit Juices     + + + + + +    
Marmalade     + + + +     + +
Jams + + + + + + + +      
Jellies + + + + + + + +     + +
Fruit Paste       + +   + +  

 

8.1.1 When to pick

The proper time to pick fruit depends upon several factors; these include variety, location, weather, ease of removal from the tree (which change with time), and purpose to which the fruit will be put.

For example, oranges change with respect to both sugar and acid as they ripen on the tree; sugar increases and acid decreases. The ratio of sugar to acid determines the taste and acceptability of the fruit and the juice. For this reasons, in some countries there are laws that prohibit picking until a certain sugar-acid ratio has been reached.

In the case of much fruit to be canned, on the other hand, fruit is picked before it is fully ripe for eating since canning will further soften the fruit.

 

8.1.2 Quality measurements

Many quality measurements can be made before a fruit crop is picked in order to determine if proper maturity or degree of ripeness has developed.

Colour may be measured with instruments or by comparing the colour of fruit on the tree with standard picture charts.

Texture may be measured by compression by hand or by simple type of plungers.

As fruit mature on the tree its concentration of juice solids, which are mostly sugars, changes. The concentration of soluble solids in the juice can be estimated with a refractometer or a hydrometer. The refractometer measures the ability of a solution to bend or refract a light beam which is proportional to the solution's concentration. A hydrometer is a weighted spindle with a graduated neck which floats in the juice at a height related to the juice density.

The acid content of fruit changes with maturity and affects flavour. Acid concentration can be measured by a simple chemical titration on the fruit juice. But for many fruits the tartness and flavour are really affected by the ratio of sugar to acid.

Percentage of soluble solids, which are largely sugars, is generally expressed in degrees Brix, which relates specific gravity of a solution to an equivalent concentration of pure sucrose.

In describing the taste of tartness of several fruits and fruit juices, the term "sugar to acid ratio" or "Brix to acid ratio" are commonly used. The higher the Brix the greater the sugar concentration in the juice; the higher the "Brix to acid ratio" the sweeter and lees tart is the juice.

8.2 Harvesting and preprocessing

8.2.1 Harvesting

The above and other measurements, plus experience, indicate when fruit is ready for harvesting and subsequent processing.

A large amount of the harvesting of most fruit crops is still done by hand; this labour may represent about half of the cost of growing the fruit. Therefore, mechanical harvesting is currently one of the most active fields of research for the agricultural engineer, but also requires geneticists to breed fruit of nearly equal size, that matures uniformly and that is resistant to mechanical damage.

A correct manual harvesting includes some simple but essential rules:

It is worth emphasising the fact that the proximity of the processing centre to the source of supply for fresh raw materials presents major advantages; some are as follows:

Once it has left the tree, the organoleptic properties, nutritional value, safety and aesthetic appeal of the fruit deteriorates in varying degrees. The major causes of deterioration include the following:

  1. growth and activity of micro-organisms;
  2. activities of the natural food enzymes;
  3. insects, parasites and rodents;
  4. temperature, both heat and cold;
  5. moisture and dryness;
  6. air and in particular oxygen;
  7. light and
  8. time.

The rapidity with which foods spoil if proper measures are not taken is indicated in Table 8.2.1.

TABLE 8.2.1 Useful storage life of some food products

Food Products Generalized Storage Life (Days) at 21C (70F)
Animal Flesh, Fish, Poultry 1-2
Dried, salted, smoked meat and fish 360 and more
Fruits 1-7
Dried Fruits 360 and more
Leafy Vegetables 1-2
Root Crops 7-20

Source: Desrosier and Desrosier (1977)

8.2.2 Reception - quality and quantity

Fruit reception at the processing centre is performed mainly for following purposes:

Variety control is needed in order to identify that the fruit belongs to an accepted variety as not all are suitable for different technological processes.

Fruit maturity degree is significant as industrial maturity is required for some processing/preservation methods while for others there is the need for an edible maturity when the fruit has full taste and flavour.

Special attention is given to size, appearance and uniformity of fruit to be processed, mainly in the form of fruit preserved with sugar using whole/half fruits ("with fruit pieces").

Some laboratory control is also needed, even if it not easy to precisely establish the technological qualities of fruit because of the absence of enough reliable rapid analytical methods able to show eventual deterioration.

The only reliable method for evaluating the quality is the combination of data obtained through organoleptic/taste controls and by simple analytical checks which are possible to perform in a small laboratory: percentage of soluble solids by refractometer, consistency/texture measured with simple penetrometers, etc. Some useful checks/control to be performed at reception are summarised in Table 8.2.2.

 

8.2.3 Temporary storage before processing

This step has to be as short as possible in order to avoid flavour losses, texture modification, weight losses and other deterioration that can take place over this period.

Some basic rules for this step are as follows:

Cold storage is always highly preferred to ambient temperature. For this reason a very good manufacturing practice is to use a cool room for each processing centre; this is very useful for small and medium processing units as well.

TABLE 8.2.2 Raw Material Control - Fresh Fruits and Vegetables at Reception

——————————————————————————
1. Checks at each delivery/raw material lot

1.1 Colour
1.2 Texture
1.3 Taste
1.4 Flavour
1.5 Appearance
1.6 Refractometric extract
1.7 Number per kg
1.8 Variety
1.9 Sanitary evaluation

——————————————————————————
2. Checks at each ten lots (for the same raw material)

2.1 Density
2.2 Water content: oven method
2.3 Total sugars, reducing sugars
2.4 Total acidity

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3. Audits - every six months - on five different lots

3.1 Ascorbic acid
3.2 Mineral substances
3.3 Tannic substances
3.4 Pectic substances

——————————————————————————

The type of analysis for audits will be adapted to the specific fruits and vegetables that are received/ processed.

An excellent indication of a good temporary storage is the limited weight loss before processing, which has to be below 1.0%-1.2%.

 

8.2.4 Washing

Harvested fruit is washed to remove soil, micro-organisms and pesticide residues.

Fruit washing is a mandatory processing step; it would be wise to eliminate spoiled fruit before washing in order to avoid the pollution of washing tools and/or equipment and the contamination of fruit during washing.

Washing efficiency can me gauged by the total number of micro-organisms present on fruit surface before and after washing - best result are when there is a six fold reduction. The water from the final wash should be free from moulds and yeast; a small quantity of bacteria is acceptable.

Fruit washing can be carried out by immersion, by spray/ showers or by combination of these two processes which is generally the best solution: pre-washing and washing.

Some usual practices in fruit washing are:

Washing must be done before the fruit is cut in order to avoid losing high nutritive value soluble substances (vitamins, minerals, sugars, etc.).

 

8.2.5 Sorting

Fruit sorting covers two main separate processing operations:

  1. removal of damaged fruit and any foreign bodies (which might have been left behind after washing);
  2. qualitative sorting based on organoleptic criteria and maturity stage.

Mechanical sorting for size is usually not done at the preliminary stage. The most important initial sorting is for variety and maturity.

However, for some fruit and in special processing technologies it is advisable to proceed to a manual dimensional sorting (grading).

 

8.2.6 Trimming and peeling (skin removal)

This processing step aims at removing the parts of the fruit which are either not edible or difficult to digest especially the skin.

Up to now the industrial peeling of fruit and vegetables was performed by three procedures:

  1. mechanically;
  2. by using water steam;
  3. chemically; this method consists in treating fruit and vegetables by dipping them in a caustic soda solution at a temperature of 90 to 100 C; the concentration of this solution as well as the dipping or immersion time varying according to each specific case.

 

8.2.7 Cutting

This step is performed according to the specific requirements of the fruit processing technology.

 

8.2.8 Heat blanching

Fruit is not usually heat blanched because of the damage from the heat and the associated sogginess and juice loss after thawing. Instead, chemicals are commonly used without heat to inactivate the oxidative enzymes or to act as antioxidants and they are combined with other treatments.

 

8.2.9 Ascorbic/citric acid dip

Ascorbic acid or vitamin C minimises fruit oxidation primarily by acting as an antioxidant and itself becoming oxidised in preference to catechol-tannin compounds. Ascorbic acid is frequently used by being dissolved in water, sugar syrup or in citric acid solutions.

It has been found that increased acidity also helps retard oxidative colour changes and so ascorbic acid plus citric acid may be used together. Citric acid further reacts with (chelates) metal ions thus removing these catalysts of oxidation from the system.

 

8.2.10 Sulphur dioxide treatment

Sulphur dioxide may function in several ways:

In many fruit processing pre-treatments two factors must be considered:

  1. sulphur dioxide must be given time to penetrate the fruit tissues;
  2. SO2 must not be used in excess because it has a characteristic unpleasant taste and odour, and international food laws limit the SO2 content of fruit products, especially of those which are consumer oriented (e.g. except semi-processed products oriented to further industrial utilisation).

Commonly a 0.25 % solution (except for semi-processed fruit products which are industry oriented and use a 6% solution) of SO2 or its SO2 equivalent in the form of solutions of sodium sulphite, sodium bisulphite or sodium/potassium metabisulphite are used.

Fruit slices are dipped in the solution for about two to three minutes and then removed so as not to absorb too much SO2. Then the slices are allowed to stand for about one to two hours so that the SO2 may penetrate throughout the tissues before processing.

Sulphur dioxide is also used in fruit juice production to minimise oxidative changes where relatively low heat treatment is employed so as not to damage delicate juice flavour.

Dry sulphuring is the technological step where fruit is exposed to fumes of SO2 from burning sulphur or from compressed gas cylinders; this treatment could be used in the preparation of fruits (and some vegetables) prior to drying / dehydration.

 

8.2.11 Sugar syrup

Sugar syrup addition is one of the oldest methods of minimising oxidation. It was used long before the causative reactions were understood and remains today a common practice for this purpose.

Sugar syrup minimises oxidation by coating the fruit and thereby preventing contact with atmospheric oxygen.

Sugar syrup also offers some protection against loss of volatile fruit esters and it contributes sweet taste to otherwise tart fruits.

It is common today to dissolve ascorbic acid and citric acid in the sugar syrup for added effect or to include sugar syrup after an SO2 treatment.

8.3 Fresh fruit storage

Some fruit species and specially apples and pears can be stored in fresh state during cold season in some countries' climatic conditions.

Fruit for fresh storage have to be autumn or winter varieties and be harvested before they are fully mature. This fruit also has to be sound and without any bruising; control and sorting by quality are mandatory operations.

Sorting has to be carried out according to size and weight and also by appearance; fruit which is not up to standard for storage will be used for semi-processed product manufacturing which will be submitted further to industrial processing.

Harvested fruit has to be transported as soon as possible to storage areas. Leaving fruit in bulk in order to generate transpiration is a bad practice as this reduces storage time and accelerates maturation processes during storage.

In order to store large quantities of fruit, silos have to be built.


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