“In Demerara some of the rum producers have a unique custom of placing chunks of raw meat in the casks to assist in aging, to absorb certain impurities, and to add a certain distinctive character.” -Peter Valaer from Foreign and Domestic Rums, Journal of Industrial And Engineering Chemistry, September 1937.
Could this distinctive character be any fun and what is the chemistry behind all this?
For starters I suspect it is perfectly sound to put certain amounts of raw meat into overproof rum because the proof is actually high enough to sterilize the meat. Gelatin in the meat might absorb certain compounds and create the same sort of fining effect commonly used in wine production. Among the numerous aromatic compounds found in raw meat, a significant amount of fatty acids might be present that could undergo esterification and become distinct and desirable aroma compounds. Esterification is the process where fatty acids react with alcohols, typically in the presence of heat, to form esters. Esterification represents a large portion of the aromas created in the still.
What I’m not sure of is if the sterilized meat needs to go rancid or if I should de-aerate the infusion to prevent rancidity. Oxidative rancidity can be desirable or not. If I had the budget I’d do the experiment both ways but since costs add up quick I’m going to be conservative and de-aerate the infusion with the champagne bottle manifold.
500 ml over proof (75.5%) guyana rum
75 g hangar steak
de-aerated and stored under pressure on 7/18/13
The meat quickly turns grey and after just a few days starts to break apart. Unless this could sit around for quite a while I imagine I’ll have to centrifuge this.
It has only been three days but I thought I’d give it a try.
1 oz. raw meat infused over proof demerara rum (the water in the meat seemed to dilute the proof far less than I estimated)
1 oz. cinzano sweet vermouth
nothing impressive. the rum already has a pungent, concentrated, dense sort of character that is hard to budge.
I will have to think about this more.
[EDITED TO ADD]
I finally got around to tasting this (9/25/2013). The character has changed in a significant way but it is not exactly delicious. The rum did “mellow” and the density of aroma encountered before seems to be gone. The aroma now seems a combination of un-browned meat and something resembling peanut. When I tasted the rum undiluted there was a confusing chemical/gustatory sensation almost like there was acid/bleach/ammonia or something generally acrid present. When the alcohol was cut the acrid character seemed to go away. I wonder if the meat decomposes to create compounds that could produce the sensation.
I don’t think this can be used in a beautiful context so it might just go down the drain, but it did give us a glimpse at the character that might have been encountered by the odd practice.