Cause for chicken/sausage gumbo turning "sour" after 24 hours
I have a huge problem. I have been making chicken/sausage gumbo for a few years. The past few times I have made it the leftovers "sour" in approximately 24 hours, even in the fridge. I have changed pots I cook in, changed ingredients, types of meat, etc but it continues to happen. I usually cook the gumbo all day then place into plastic containers when cooled and refrigerate. The last few times it gets foamy on the top and gets a sour smell and taste and I have to throw it out. I have no idea what is causing this reaction. There is a collection of gasses that will even pop the top off my tupperware. Does anyone have any suggestions??
The best way to cool something down is by using a frozen block of water encased in plastic. You can use washed used milk or water jugs or even 2-liters. Just clean them carefully and freeze them in your freezer, allowing for the water to expand. Then when it is time to cool, put frozen container of ice into your soup. This will cool your Gumbo much quicker! Time and temperature abuse is very common. You only have a few hours to get the Gumbo under 40 degrees and out of the danger zone for bacteria. Make sure all your cookware is clean before use, as others have stated.
Forget about the pots, spoons, ingredients: all of your spoilage problems relate to the cooling process. You state that you portion it out into containers "when cooled" and then refrigerate. This is where you are going wrong. The gumbo needs to be chilled quickly to a food-safe temp, portioned out, and refrigerated promptly: no letting a big ol' pot cool down to room temp on its own, which can take quite a long time. While you're waiting for it to cool, it's becoming a big fat bacteria factory.
Alternatively, if you're portioning it out fairly quickly then sticking all of the (still rather warm) containers into a home refrigerator, you can be overwhelming the fridge's cooling capacity. The entire contents of the fridge can be raised to an unsafe temp by your too-warm gumbo containers.
The easiest way to cool off a big batch of liquidy stuff (gumbo, red beans, whatever) is to use an ice bath....fill your kitchen sink w/ice, nestle the pot into the ice, and stir fairly often until the mixture is cooled. You can also put the gumbo into smaller containers & then put those into an ice bath.
The restaurant kitchen answer to this problem is to use an "ice paddle" (here's a link with a picture: http://www.foodservicewarehouse.com/e... ) These are long, tubular plastic containers filled w/water & frozen--you simply drop one or two into a pot and chill it from the inside out. Make a homemade version by filling 1 or 2 liter water bottles (labels removed) with water, then freezing. The homemade versions want to float to the top of the pot, so you want to wedge or weight them in place so that the frozen bottle reaches the bottom of the pot.
Some will use ziptop bags filled with ice to quick chill, but I've had bad luck with the bags splitting or opening, resulting in a watery mess.
Somewhere in the process you have either contamination and/or a time and temperature challenge. I suspect your containers and cooling technique may be the source of your problem. You should be able to safely retain a mixture like gumbo for 72 to 120 hours with little or no bacteria growth and resulting spoilage. You might want to keep an inexpensive thermometer in your refrigerator. It must register less than 40F at all times to safely store food.
Next time record batch temperatures with a thermometer at hourly intervals. You must keep your gumbo above 150F. A dense item like gumbo can be hard to keep hot so stir frequently. Before use, disinfect the thermometer's probe with an alcohol swab or a slow dip in a pot of boiling water. It's a good idea to keep the business end of any stirring spoons or ladles in the boiling water too.
Do not use the same spoon to serve rice as your gumbo. Rice has spores that are heat resistant and may contaminate your gumbo.
Plastic containers can be porous and difficult to sterilize. If something spoils or "sours" in one, throw it away. I prefer to use resealable freezer bags or glass storage containers for leftovers.
Before filling a bag, date and label it with a marker. Fill the bag with your leftover product as soon as possible after service. After filling, squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible, or gradually immerse in a sink of water with the seal upper most so the product comes to just below the seal. Firmly seal the bag and immerse it in a large bowl under cold running water for twenty to thirty minutes. A bowl of ice water is even better. You want to chill the contents of the bag as rapidly as possible.
Once the contents are cool to the touch you can refrigerate the item. Food in a storage bags cools far faster than in a plastic container. Doing that should solve your problem. Happy cooking.