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腊肉怎样让我们免于中毒

更新时间:2018-4-19 20:47:54 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

How cured meats protect us from food poisoning
腊肉怎样让我们免于中毒

It made the news in New York: The meat was getting out of hand.

邻居晾晒猪肉若出了麻烦。这事儿在纽约还上了新闻。

Discontent was simmering in Whitestone, Queens, in the fall of 2016, where neighbours had been shocked to come across hanks of pork belly strung on a line in a house's backyard. It would draw rats, they said, and the smell was a serious problem. The people living in the home merely replied it was for eating – in Chinese food, specifically. So the neighbors started getting public officials involved.

2016年秋天,美国皇后区白石镇,有居民震惊地发现邻居家院子里一条条五花肉挂在长绳上,于是非议渐起。大家说这会引来老鼠,还有股味儿,问题相当严重。那户人家却只是答道,这是用来吃的,中国食物就是这样。但邻居们不接受解释,要求公职人员出来管管。

But in many parts of the world, this is not such an unusual sight. Walking down a quiet street in Asia, you'll often happen on slightly macabre culinary set-pieces – long, thick slices of pork belly, draped over a clothes hanger, slabs of fish, or even, as I did once, a whole pig leg dangling next to a light post, hoof and all. As unnerving as it sometimes is to come across, these al-fresco meat dryers are doing something that's been done for centuries, if not millennia: air-curing.

但是在世界上许多地方,这却算不上什么稀奇事儿。走在亚洲某条安静的街道上,你经常能碰到这样略为令人吃惊的场景,又长又厚的五花肉条,一片一片精心搭在晾衣架上,还有鱼片,甚至我还看到过一只大猪腿,包括猪蹄,完完整整地挂在路灯边。这种把肉搁在外头晾干的做法,叫作风干。虽然每次碰到都让人吓一跳,但它就算没有上千年,也已经有上百年的历史啦。

When we stress about forgetting the chicken breasts on the counter for an afternoon, how is it possible to leave meat — in the Sun, no less — for days, eat it, and live to tell the tale?

今天的我们,就算只是把鸡胸肉忘在厨房台子上一下午,都会很担忧会不会坏掉。而把肉晒在太阳下,而且是一晒好几天再吃,怎么还能活着讲述这个故事?

The key is moisture. Inside a length of pork, or that whole pig leg, there's a race going on between bacteria and evaporation, with those hoping for a nice bit of ham for lunch egging the evaporation on.

关键之处在于水分。在一条猪肉,或者一个猪腿内,一场细菌和脱水干燥之间的较量正在进行。想在中午多一些美味火腿加餐的人,会希望是干燥获胜。

That process usually begins with salt. Coating a piece of meat with salt draws the water within the tissue out to the surface, where it evaporates, in much the same way that salting a slice of aubergine or courgette will get rid of its excess water. At the same time, the salt makes the surface of the meat and some portion of the interior inhospitable to microscopic bacterial beasts. That level of saltiness will strip them of their water as well, leaving only harmless microbe jerky.

整个流程从盐开始。先把一块肉用盐抹一遍,把细胞组织里的水分析出来,让其自行蒸发掉。这和腌制茄子和胡瓜的方法一样。不仅如此,盐还能让肉的表面和内部一些部位免于细菌这种微生物野兽的侵占。抹盐也能让细菌脱水,只留下无害的肉干。

With a large piece of meat, however, the evaporation race cannot draw out water fast enough to keep the interior safe. Injecting the salt, mixed with a tiny bit of water, deep into the muscle every inch or so, helps take care of that. This treatment often includes small amounts of sodium nitrite, a preservative that halts microbial growth at the same time that it clings to proteins in the muscle, in a chemical reaction that turns the meat a gentle pink. Water might encourage bacterial life, but in this case it also allows the cure, as the salt and nitrite mixture is known, to trickle further. That's why, in many recipes for dry curing, the first stage is to leave the meat in a cool, moist environment, says Antonio Mata, a meat scientist and an adviser to the food website AmazingRibs.com.

然而倘若是一大块肉,这种速度的干燥脱水对于肉的内部来说就不够快。这时就要把盐加到一点水中,注入每一寸肉的内部,帮其脱水。这种做法有时候还会加少许亚硝酸钠,作为一种防腐剂,它能抑制微生物的生长,同时能附着到肉的蛋白质上,通过化学反应让肉看起来颜色比较红嫩。虽说水会滋生细菌,不过在这儿有盐和亚硝酸钠的混合,反而能进一步脱水风干。这就是为什么很多食谱里,做腊肉的第一步是把肉放在凉爽潮湿的地方,肉类科学家、AmazingRibs.com网站的食品顾问玛塔(Antonio Mata)如是说。

Once the cure has seeped into the meat, it's time to turn the temperature up and play the evaporation game again – but gently. “If you draw out moisture too quickly, the surface of the ham dries out,” says Greg Blonder, a professor at Boston University and another scientist for the same site. Traditionally, the exact details of the process vary according the local climate – “Ham recipes depend on terroir,” Blonder notes – but someplace warm with carefully controlled humidity is key.

一旦盐水渗入肉里,就到了调高温度、干燥脱水的时候,不过得悠着点。上文网站的另一位科学顾问、波士顿大学教授布朗德尔(Greg Blonder)说,"如果脱水干燥太快,火腿的表面就会又干又硬。"一般而言,制作过程的具体细节,又因着当地的气候而有所不同。"做火腿的秘诀在于当地的风土。"布朗德尔解释道。不过有些温暖的地区,严格控制湿度才是关键之所在。

In China, as in many other places, home-cured meats ranging from preserved pork belly to wind-dried pork sausages are usually made in winter, when the climactic conditions allow meat to dry safely, and are considered a festive food. (Humans aren't the only ones with a taste for cured meat, however; home curers should beware the cheese skipper, larder beetle, and red-legged ham beetle, warns a Virginia Tech pamphlet on curing ham. These whimsically named insects will lodge themselves and their growing families in a drying piece of meat.)

和其他很多地方一样,在中国,家庭自制腊肉从五花腊肉到风干的肉肠,种类繁多。不过一般都是在冬天腌制,一是这时的气候能让肉类风干时不易腐烂,二是也能在春节端上桌。不过,美国佛吉尼亚理工大学关于腊肉的小册子里提醒,世界上吃腊肉的可不止人类,自制腊肉时可得注意酪蛆、贮肉间甲虫、红腿火腿甲虫。这些名字稀奇古怪的昆虫会寄居在一块干肉上,再慢慢发展成一大家子。

Even if you can dodge the cheese skippers, it can take months for a dry-cured ham to reach a tasty equilibrium. But many cultures around the world have proven themselves ready to wait. China's famed Jinhua ham usually ages for at least six months; Italy's culatello goes for 14-48 months. The most expensive ham in the world, from Spain, ages for six years, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

就算你有幸躲过了酪蛆,要想让干腊肉达到美味的境地,还得花好几个月。不过世界各地的文化都证明了它们有足够的耐心等下去。在中国名气极大的金华火腿,熟化一般要6个月。义大利库拉泰罗(culatello)猪臀火腿熟化期14到48个月。根据吉尼斯世界记录,世界上最贵的火腿来自西班牙,更是要放6年。

The longer a ham goes, the funkier it usually tastes, as the fat eventually begins to go rancid. But for some, it's all part of the taste adventure.

火腿放得越久,尝起来就越臭,毕竟肉脂已经开始腐烂。不过对有的人而言,这就是一种味觉大冒险。

Desiccation is also important to making dry-aged beef, that mainstay of high-end restaurants, where letting a cut of beef gradually lose moisture and grow a protective rind of mould, which is sliced off before cooking, produces a stronger flavour. These days, the evaporation process takes place in carefully controlled chambers and can be stretched out for a surprisingly long time, given that in dry-aging there are no preservatives to keep the meat from going off. In fact, Mata once worked with a chef in Chicago to produce beef that had been aged for 71 days.

要做好干式熟成牛排,这一高档餐厅的招牌菜,干燥这个步骤也很重要。一块牛肉要慢慢脱水,让表面长一层霉菌保护膜(烹饪前会切掉),以产生浓郁的风味。因为这个过程中没有防腐剂,为了不让肉变质,这段时间里,要在控制箱里严格控制脱水过程,兴许脱水熟化时间还会出奇地拉长。有一次,玛塔和芝加哥一位大厨共事,花了71天熟化牛排。

In the past, however, home cooks had a decidedly low-tech approach. “Let it hang in your cellar as long as you can bear for the stinking,” reads one recipe from 18th Century England, “and till it begins to be a little sappy.”

然而在过去,自家的厨子显然没什么高科技手段。一份18世纪英国的食谱里写道,"只要你能忍受那个臭味,就让它一直挂在地下室里,直到肉质渗出汁液(即便坏)为止。"

Try running that one by the neighbours.

你对着邻居这么做试试。

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