Master of Science (MS)
Plant, Environmental Management and Soil Sciences
Hot pepper and hot sauce production and consumption in the United States are on the rise. The demands of consumers need to be met by high-quality products in an increasingly competitive market. Increasingly knowledgeable and discerning consumers notice any problems in hot sauce, and problems with appearance are often the first noticed. A well-known and successful hot sauce company has found an occasional problem with discoloration in their flagship product. Small dark specks have been found in the sauce, and the company in question is interested in elucidating their makeup and cause. This is of especially pertinent scientific interest because the specks themselves may be products of lipid oxidation, a constant concern in any food products containing lipids of any kind. In hot sauce in particular, one of its most important components is capsaicin, a lipid-like molecule that imparts its characteristic pungency. Capsaicin is also an antioxidant, and peppers and hot sauce are also high in carotenoids, another antioxidant. Antioxidants are becoming increasingly interesting to the public and to scientists because of their purported health benefits. In this study, centrifugation was used in an attempt to separate out the specks in the hot sauce, and to compare it to oils found in normal hot sauce. Samples were taken to perform microbiological tests to see if the specks were microbiological colonies. It was shown that they were not. Light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy were used to view samples and to compare them to known pepper parts visually. They were found to resemble microscopic pieces of pepper skin. Finally, pepper mash was made by grinding pepper samples with varying amounts of salt and, in some treatments, adding oxygen. The peppers were grown in two different locations and all samples were made in duplicate. This was an attempt to re-create a black oil that is sometimes found on the top of barrels of mash in commercial production and which may be the cause of the specks in question. A single sample was found to produce the dark oil, although its appearance was apparently random with regard to treatment.
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Brock, Andre, "A determination of the physical, chemical, and biological features of suspended dark flecks in hot sauce" (2008). LSU Master's Theses. 1035.