Posted 03 June 2012 - 05:51 PM
I'm in the midst of what seems to be either (a) a remarkable breakthrough in the production of MC pastrami or (b) a horrific, perhaps explosive, disaster. Your opinion is requested.
About a month ago, I was at Whole Foods shopping for the last couple meals before a trip to Vietnam, and I saw stacks of remarkable boneless short ribs: thick, well-marbled, and on sale. I bought six pounds, brought them home, and two days before I hopped on three planes for SE Asia, I prepared them precisely as described in the MC recipe. Having asked my MIL every day or two to overhaul the SV bags with the brining beef at the cold fridge bottom, I figured that I'd return home in two weeks and continue with the recipe posthaste, no muss, no fuss. Well, things didn't work out that way, and perhaps food science will be the beneficiary.
Upon our return from Vietnam I had to deal with a stack of issues that prevented me from catching my breath, let alone embarking on a multihour smoking project, for an additional two weeks. So, today, I finally got around to dealing with the brined short ribs. There was, indeed, muss.
First, the meat itself. Because I had to trim some of it and cut other pieces in half, I discovered that I had produced what appears to be remarkable meat, a beautiful, rich red color, each piece redolent of the sweet, spicy brine ingredients and beefy goodness both. Without the spice rub, smoke, and 72h cooking, it was so astonishing that I was tempted to slice off a piece and eat it raw.
However, having removed the short ribs from their four-week-old brine, I did not succumb to that temptation, because the brine had become a bizarre, ropy goop. The color was consistent with superb past efforts, but the consistency was very thick and viscous, as if someone had dumped a couple hundred grams of gum arabic into each bag while I was away slurping pho. I tried to bring it to skim the scum, but the brine started to stink a bit after boiling a while, and trying to skim was an exercise in futility.
I discovered this after I had made the spice rub and fired up the Bradley smoker, so I decided to take one for the team and proceed with the recipe. I tossed the brine down the drain, rubbed & smoked the short ribs, bagged them with no liquid at all, and they are now in the SV Supreme, in their first of 72 hours at 62C.
Thus I turn to the collective wisdom of the Society. From reading around, it seems clear that the culprit here is lactic acid, which turned the brine into ropy slime. Lactic acid is not necessarily a bad thing in anaerobic environments (think pickles, etc.), but with SV meats it seems to produce CO2, greening, and all sorts of off flavors.
So I'll keep an eye on the bags to see if they bloat (FWIW, the short ribs did not produce any gas while in the brine for a month), and will hope to get some advice/information from y'all about what to do if something notable happens -- or doesn't happen.