Thursday, January 22, 2009

Super Bass-O-Matic 76

Before there was sushi there was the Bass-O-Matic 76. Never mind the painstaking artistic hewing of plump maroon slabs of Ahi Tuna into bite sized delectable portions of exquisite proportion by keen eyed artisans with razor edged knives. If we are to believe the breathless injunctions of Dan Akroyd's smarmy informercialist on SNL, 'you'll never have to scale, cut or fillet again'. Just throw the whole fish into the Bass-O-Matic 76 and voila, fresh, drinkable sushi without all the, smiling, bowing and messy green toothpaste looking stuff that makes you feel as if you were being dragged uphill by a meat hook inserted in your nasal passages when you've eaten a portion the size of a small mole. Fast, not labor intensive and refreshingly
simple, no messy waste and it does not require mastering the use of chopsticks.

The Bass-O-Matic however also serves another educational purpose; it demonstrates that under the right conditions, most protein is water soluble. Why and under what conditions protein remains soluble is a question that faces winemakers frequently, particularly in the production of white wines where the sudden appearance of 'protein hazes' and precipitates can markedly influence the marketability and sometimes the taste of white wines. What is 'protein haze'? Is it related to 'purple haze'? Will it make you 'kiss the sky', or 'kiss this guy' (a veritable close-captioner's nightmare which perhaps explains why Hendrix gets very little TV airtime) while under its influence? Well, it seems that Hendrix once again has proven somewhat multi-lexically prophetic, if still obscure, in that the appearance of haze, purple or otherwise is somehow related to the quantity of acid in the system. Protein solubility in liquids is, to a large extent, a function of the pH of that solution which in turn is related (indirectly) to the overall acidity. The worst possible pH of a liquid (when it comes to solubility) is about 4.0. Most wine has a pH of about 3.2-3.4. Red wine is slightly higher. The tricky part for winemakers is that white wine's pH will slowly increase over time. This slight increase of even .1 pushing the wine toward that twilight zone of minimum solubility is enough to precipitate out proteins which are then immediately noticeable as whitish stringy, dancey long globules, (like the goo they show you on CSI when they are doing the DNA tests, with Gucci safety goggles of course). In any event, it means the wine can start to appear something like a slightly anorexic lava-lamp. There are of course other factors, like heat, agitation, the presence of unbound complex polyphenols (and thank goodness for these! I could drink them by themselves) which insure that if you throw a slightly hazy wine into a Bass-O-Matic 76 the result will be creamy and delicious. Far Out! What could be a better match! White wine and fish!

The easiest method of removing these proteins, long before you have a Woodstock commemorative concert in your bottle, is to add a quantity of bentonite to the must which turns the proteins into a wine slushy that sits on the bottom of the tank or barrel or whatever you are using to keep the wine from spilling onto your Ahi Tuna.
The problem with this method is that it also removes a lot of the flavor compounds as the bentonite does not distinguish between proteins that have already attached to polyphenols and those that are living the carefree bachelor life. I guess there are no easy answers in life. 'Scuse me while I kiss this bass'.

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