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Lebanon bologna is a type of cured, smoked, fermented, semi-dry sausage. This all-beef sausage is similar in appearance and texture to salami, although it is somewhat darker colored. Lebanon bologna has a distinct tangy flavor, more so than other fermented meat products such as summer sausage. Hardwood smoking imparts a strong smoky flavor to the traditionally prepared versions of the product.
Originating with the Pennsylvania Dutch, Lebanon bologna was developed with heavy influence coming from slow-cured sausages of Europe. It is commonly available throughout Pennsylvania and is often served as a luncheon meat. It is named for the Lebanon Valley of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, where it is most commonly produced. There are four versions: original, sweet, double smoked and honey smoked.
The thermal processing of Lebanon bologna typically does not exceed 120 °F (49 °C) due to the undesirable quality effects high heat has on the final product. Because it is not cooked to a higher temperature, other ingredients and processes are used to control microbial growth. Fermenting the product to a low pH coupled with the inclusion of curing salts inhibits the outgrowth of pathogenic bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium, as well as spoilage organisms.
Typically, the blended and stuffed beef sausage is aged for 10 days prior to smoking to enrich lactic acid bacteria and allow for the reduction of nitrate to nitrite. Fermentation occurs during the smoking step, which can last for up to four days. A one pH unit (or more) decline is observed during this step, as well as the development of nitrosohemochrome, the pigment responsible for the red color of cured meats.