Explain how “high meat” works

I stumbled across a YouTube channel about a guy who eats raw meats, eggs, and high meat or pretty much fermented or rotted meat.

According to him this used to be a staple in many older cultures.

How does eating high meat work? How does it not make you sick?

It ferments, and those preparing it have to take great care to encourage the fermentation and discourage bacteria growth. (The same basic problem as keeping bacteria out of traditional no-vinegar sour pickles or sauerkraut, but I think much more demanding to accomplish.)

Good prosciutto is salted raw meat and nothing else, and takes skill to make; without even any salt, “high meat” would be very easy to fail at making. I’m not trying it myself. :slight_smile:

Most bacteria don’t make you sick. Indeed there are many foods we eat that are deliberately infected and allowed to be processed by bacteria or yeasts. Yoghurt, kafir, blue cheese, for a start in the west, but nattō - bacterially fermented soybeans in Japan, and it goes on. Meat processed by bacteria isn’t such a big leap, although you will want to avoid meats that are likely contaminated with bacteria that won’t like you. In the west we “hang” meat. A game bird like grouse isn’t considered fit to eat until it has developed enough flavour from hanging. From there to full fermentation isn’t that big a step. Apparently a properly fermented meat has a flavour much of the same ilk as a strong blue cheese. If the desired fermenting bacteria are dominant they will tend to suppress competing strains, and so you might hope that any evil bacteria present won’t proliferate. YMMV. But there is nothing inherently bad about fermenting any foodstuff. The resulting food won’t (usually) poison you, and so long as the bacteria used are not something evil (like salmonella) you won’t have any problems ingesting them either. If you like a serious blue cheese, you may be tempted :smiley:

Amongst the fermented foods, I find the “seal full o’ birds” possibly the most horrible sounding. But there are other contenders.

“High” implies rotten. People who enjoy game prefer the meat to have been hung for a while; how long depends on the animal. Pheasant needs a week or so, while a buck deer might need as long as a month.

Andrew Zimmern visited some northern country where they hung chunks of shark (I think) in an open shed. They just hang there and rot. The fisherman cut a few open to inspect various stages. Andrew ate a bit but even he admitted the smell of ammonia was overwhelming.


I saw the shark thing with Zimmern. You could almost smell it through the screen.
My husband will not clean his deer for a week if it’s cool enough when he kills it. If it’s warm here (Arkansas) he immediately gets it cleaned and in a freezer. I have cooked a bunch of deer meat, and I can tell you that aged deer is much more tender and fragrant during prep. ( I use fragrant instead of stinky). The hunters around here go crazy for it. ( yuk!).

That’s hákarl, an Icelandic food.

… which is poisonous if you don’t do the fermentation. The Greenland shark’s meat contains some kind of dangerous compound - I forget what, but it’s due to a biological oddity and not pollution or something - and completing the fermentation stage makes it safe to eat.

Probably the most familiar fermented animal product is going to be Thai fish sauce - fish are salted and pressed in wooden barrels - the salt doesn’t exactly preserve them - it just limits the range of microorganisms that are involved in the process (I think it’s mostly enzymatic fermentation anyway, but not sure).

I mention this because this ingredient is so commonplace. Controlled fermentation or aging of other kinds of meat isn’t that weird an idea.

Indeed. Mentioning that, one clearly needs to add Belachan. Sometimes called shrimp paste, it comes as a golden orange brick and is a pure concentrated lump of rotten crustacean goodness, and is a crucial ingredient in many Malay, Indonesian and related dishes. Usually it is dispersed into a wok of hot oil. The first time you experience this process will remain with you for the rest of your life. Complaints from the neighbours and possible eviction come soon after.

A friend of mine was talking to an Indonesian gentlemen many years ago about food. The core take away was this - “you must understand that the core of Indonesian food is the rotten fish!”

Urea (and trimethylamine oxide), which breaks down/is broken down into ammonia . . . which mammals convert into urea!

CMC fnord!

Duck prosciutto (a magret breast, salt and some pepper) is fairly easy to make if one has a cool basement (I’ve done it, eaten it, didn’t get sick). The same apples for guanciale (pig cheek cured in salt). The main problem with a larger cut, like a wild boar ham to make cinghiale, is adequately salting so it cures before it spoils. But curing smaller cuts is easy given a little bit of temperature and humidity control.

Can one of you poets make a haiku about hákarl?


have Hikaru do it.

How about balut? It’s not even a bird, but a bird embryo. Two-click rule for the squeamish.Balut (food) - Wikipedia You have been warned.

That’s likely to give you tough meat. It’s called cold shortening, and is related to rigor mortis and the chemical energy in the muscles. You need to allow rigor to pass before freezing.
In a meat works, they use an electrical stimulator to use up the energy in the muscles so they relax before chilling/freezing (in a short period of time).

I explained this to a couple I knew who worked for many years in Pakistan - they would buy meat from the local butcher as soon as it was slaughtered, and freeze it. And then they had to marinade it for a two or three days, as it was really tough if they usedit too soon.

One that’s native to North America: stink flipper. The flipper of some animal, such as a walrus or a seal, that is buried and left to ferment for weeks, then dug up and eaten. Yum!

Here is a tangential article by the Master: Can Tupperware cause botulism?

Balut is not a fermented food - it is cooked.

During the tunagate scandal decades ago in Canada (Dept of Fisheries overruling health inspectors who had failed tuna for processing using the “nose test”) it was pointed out by one of the expert commentators that if properly cooked to kill bacteria, even fecal matter would be perfectly safe to eat (although unappetizing in the extreme). Apparently that’s what the tuna tasted like…