Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Smells dead, must be dead.


Chairman Bill asked: "How about trassi? I've heard some hideous stories about it, although I've eaten plenty of it in my time (both as a Dutchman and when in Indonesia/Malaysia)"

This is an amazing fermented dried shrimp paste that smells awful but tastes wonderful.

The big thing is that this is a traditional food; a pretty reliable sign of a good track record for safety.

And the traditional way of cooking it is to stir-fry in a very hot wok. This will kill any bacteria that may be in it. Deviate from traditional cooking processes at your peril.

It must also be remembered that it is usually a dried product and so lacks the available water needed for bacterial growth.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Of meat and fridges...


The Intolerant Chef asks: "How long can raw meat be kept in the fridge before being harmful? I remember my mother washing slightly bluish looking chops in vinegar and water to remove the stickiness and smell before cooking them. They were then fed to my father, never us children or her."

I assume your father was well insured.

Generally, fresh meat can only be kept for a few days at refrigeration temperatures. It is hard to butcher meat without getting bacteria on its cut surface and bacteria love a warm, protein rich surface.

Note: these are bacteria introduced during the butchering process and not endemic to the meat as such. When the meat is 'hung' after slaughter, the surface of the carcass is dry and intact and no bacterial degradation takes place. Once the meat is sliced or minced, bacteria is introduced and all bets are off.

Chilling meat slows bacterial growth but doesn't stop it. Freezing it stops the growth. As does drying.

Bacterial growth results in the breakdown of proteins which in turn produce the unpleasant smells that we associate with 'off' meat. Rubbing the meat with vinegar may reduce the bacterial load and reduce the smell. Traditionally curry was also used to hide off meat.

It would be the thorough cooking afterwards that killed the bacteria and made it safe for your father to eat.

Probably with lots of sauce.