18 October 2008
Today Jeremy and I got to try fresh raw King Crab for the first time. It tasted like drinking the ocean. Not fishy, but literally like eating a salt-water flavored slug. I didn't like it at all, but that could be because I hate seafood. Jeremy thought it was okay. However, with the product being valued at $75/pound neither of us thought we would be willing to buy it. Why did we eat it then?
I am taking a class called Food Microbiology this semester where we are required to do a project with our lab partners--conducting a literature search, carrying out original research, documenting it, and writing a report on it. There is a company based out of New Orleans (but having facilities throughout the United States) which became the first company in America to use high pressure processing on fresh raw seafood products. The high pressure kills the oysters (or other seafood products) without adding any heat, and therefore they are raw rather than cooked. Typically oysters are kept alive until they are cooked and eaten to ensure that they are fresh. Apparently you can tell that an oyster has gone bad if its shell begins to open. When they first did the process on the oysters they thought they might have ruined them all because all of the shells opened. However, they found that this was not the case; the pressure had merely released all of the oysters so that they slid right out of their shells--reducing the trouble it took to shuck them. They can be kept on ice or refrigerated for a shelf life of 2 weeks or longer.
Last year a group did a project testing the shelf life of the same processing method using lobster. It was successful. My lab partner, Mike, and I are testing how well it works with King Crab. They are expecting a shelf life of 21-30 days. If they can get a shelf life that long it really is a big deal. Typically king crab is caught, cooked, frozen and then cooked again before finally being served at the restaurant. After this much mutilation its taste hardly resembles the real product. Think of doing that to a steak...you wouldn't. The crab actually comes from ships featured on "The Deadliest Catch" if you are familiar with that show.
Our plan is to plate the samples on various media using various dilutions every other day for 16 days to test how long the product lasts. We will also do sensory tests such as smell, flavor and texture. We are using Petrifilms to test for coliforms (with a special indicator for e. coli) and to do an aerobic plate count, and have made up special differential agar to test for lactic acid producing bacteria...in case any of you happen to know/care what all of that means.
The man in charge of the company flew from New Orleans to Seattle yesterday. They processed the crab, and he flew in this morning to bring it to us, meet us, and take us out to lunch. It was really quite fun. He is a wonderfully nice guy. He talked about what the project meant to the company and let us smell and try the crab to show us what it was supposed to taste like. Jeremy came with us, and he took us to a place he had been going to eat since he first came to college at BYU in 1993. It was a sushi bar in downtown Provo. He brought about a pound of crab to the owner of the restaurant, who was very good friends with him and told him that the 100 oysters he sent her last year were the best oyster she'd ever tasted in her life. Neither Jeremy nor I had ever had sushi before. He loved it; I didn't, but the non-seafoody food was good. We really enjoyed the whole experience.
I had to rush home after plating the samples because my English group is doing a set-of-instructions project on how to make a Pumpkin Cake for Halloween. I thought I would share a picture. It's really quite neat. Also, I cut my hair, as you can see in the picture at the beginning of the blog.