Is it possible to cook with corked wine? S. Bond
Cork taint is a naturally occurring compound in cork. It is called 2,4,6-trichloroanisole or TCA. It forms when a fungus interacts with chlorine used for hygiene purposes. TCA is like a boring, un-self-aware person who sucks the life out of the conversation at a social gathering. TCA makes wine taste dull, lifeless and has a whiff of what some describe as wet cardboard. Most wines these days are bottled under aluminium caps and TCA is mostly a thing of the past. The French are somewhat resistant to aluminium and there is a good deal of French wine sold through the German supermarket chain. Funnily enough, TCA is attracted to PVC, and not in a kinky way. Take corked wine and pour it over scrunched-up PVC cling film in a jug and the TCA will cling to the PVC, along with some of the aromatic compounds. You can now use the wine to deglaze a pan or make coq au vin. The dish won't be as good as one made with a half-decent wine but unless you put them side by side to compare, who is going to know?
I preserved some olives and they started bubbling. V. Raffa
I spoke to my mate Neil Seymour from Mount Zero Olives. He and his wife Jane have a vast grove of old trees in the foothills of the Grampians National Park (Gariwerd) in Western Victoria. There they make some of the best preserved olives in the country. I told him of your problem and he said it was most likely the wrong sort of bacteria. When you place olives in a salt solution, this draws juice from the cells and in the ideal situation lactic acid bacteria turn sugars in the juice into lactic acid. This acid stops other bacteria, moulds and yeasts from spoiling the olives. Sometimes other bacteria get into the olives and start fermentation that produces gas, hence the fizzing and bubbles. Neil suggested that perhaps you didn't have enough salt in the brine and that by adding more it would stop the bad bacteria and let the lactic acid bacteria take over and do their job.
When I cook small chickens they always appear to be underdone with red flesh near the thighbone. H. Forester
Red flesh generally means the chicken is underdone but in younger poultry haemoglobin from inside the porous bones can leak into the flesh during cooking giving the meat a red colour. As long as the meat reaches 74C internally it's perfectly safe to eat.
Thank you all for your letters and to the reader who sent in the photo of some marble cake that looked like Donald Trump's head. I particularly liked this one from J. LeVine who wrote, "If one is lucky enough to be dining in a posh restaurant where a 'deconstructed' dish is served, such as a deconstructed apple pie, are you supposed to eat each little bit separately, or are you supposed to take a little bit of each of the separate bits and essentially reconstruct on your implement or in your mouth?" I'll take that as a comment.
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