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Possible problem with prosciutto -- a concerning smell  RSS feed

 
Jeff Ince
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I am new to this forum, but I have a question about my first atempt at making prosciutto.   It's been about a week since first salted my ham.   But know I notice a slight smell of rotten pork.   Is this normal in the process, or have I messed something up?

Hope you can help me!                  Thanks Jeff
 
Craig Dobbson
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can you be more specific about what you started with for pork, salt and climate?  The more detail that you give about your process up to this point, the better somebody may be able to answer your question.


If all I had to go on was the smell, I would say that rotten is not a good thing.  Your nose knows, as they say. 

 
Jeff Ince
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I live in Iowa our weather is cold under 40' most days. I am curing in my unheated shop.   I started with two Berkshire hams the hog was. 193 lbs so the hams were pretty big.
I started with about a pound of korsher salt and three tablespoons of pink cure per ham.   I then rubbed the salt in covering it completely, placed into a plastic bag.   About a week later resalted the meat and changed the plastic bag.   That's when I noticed the slight smell.

Thanks for your response.             Thank you   Jeff Ince
 
Craig Dobbson
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One of the biggest areas of concern when doing bone-in hams is that rot starts deep in the bone and unless it's super well salted, the evil begins to grow.  I've never done a bone in ham but if I were, I'd probably go with the saltbox method.  This is basically about making a box out of wood in the rough proportions of the hams and then layering in salt first, then the ham, then packing in the rest of the space between the ham and the box sides with salt.  Really packing salt into the exposed bone spaces is key, and sometimes even the pro's botch it up.  Sometimes the meat wasn't properly cared for before you salted it and it was doomed to fail from the start.  Sanitation is a big key there.  Don't get discouraged if you've lost a ham to rot.  Figure out what went wrong and then try again.

For now I'd probably keep tabs on it daily and if it gets more putrid smelling, don't eat it. Safety first.  It may be worth dissecting it to see where the rot started off to begin with and then that will give you more info on how to make it better next time. Better to do that outside.   

Do you have pictures of the hams that we can take a look at?
 
Dawn Hoff
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I agree with the notion that if it smells it is bad - that is why we have that sense of smell after all.

Here in Spain when they salt the hams before drying they are completely covered in salt - you can barely see the hams stikking out from the mountain of salt they pour on
 
Deb Rebel
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We cured at home and we NEVER did bone-in. A strategic slice and peel the bone out then inject and submerge that meat in brine almost so stiff you could walk on it. (peel a potato to be about the size of a large egg. When that potato floated your brine was strong enough). 'Rotten' smell is NEVER good. We sometimes got a little mold where something broke the surface and would trim that off pronto but that is not an issue. Just keep checking your meat. Make sure you submerge it and weigh it down if you're doing brine cure.
 
Kyle Jaster
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Did you use Instacure #1? If so, you might want to consider either cold smoking the ham or just giving up.

Recipes I have for prosciutto style (air-dried) hams do not include any instacure (#1 is for slow cooked meats, which an air-dried ham certainly is not), and they all recommend at least 4lbs of kosher salt (usually more).

Are you doing this from a recipe?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Jeff Ince wrote:I live in Iowa our weather is cold under 40' most days. I am curing in my unheated shop.   I started with two Berkshire hams the hog was. 193 lbs so the hams were pretty big.
I started with about a pound of korsher salt and three tablespoons of pink cure per ham.   I then rubbed the salt in covering it completely, placed into a plastic bag.   About a week later resalted the meat and changed the plastic bag.   That's when I noticed the slight smell.

Thanks for your response.             Thank you   Jeff Ince


Unfortunately those hams are most likely toast.
The process of creating any of the old world style hams is moisture removal, this takes copious amounts of salt, and open air curing, temperatures need to be just above 32 degrees f. up to 45 degrees f.

in your description I see Several things that went wrong;

1. you didn't mention if you trimmed the skin but left as much of the fat as possible, you need to trim off the skin so the salt can work through the meat.
2. You don't use "cure" for a salt cure ham, for some reason the nitrite cures halt the inflow of salt, these cures are more for using as a brine, either soaked in or injected.
3. You should use around 20 lbs.+ of kosher salt per ham, the ham needs to be covered after you have massaged the entire ham with salt.
4. Plastic bags hold in the moisture you are trying to get rid of, this is what spoiled the hams. Hams should be in the air flow, never bagged, if you are worried about bugs use a cloth cover so moisture can escape.

Dawn provided a great photo of hams properly salted and in the first stage of curing.

Redhawk
 
Jeff Ince
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Thank you all very much for taking the Time to help me with my problem with my prosciutto.   I will cry when I throw these beautiful hams away, but I will try again.

Thanks again
Jeff Ince

 
Bryant RedHawk
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I am so sorry for your ham loss Jeff. It is a tragedy.
Feel free to pm me if you want, when you try again, I'll give you all the help I can.

Redhawk
 
Jeff Ince
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I wanted to let you know that I can do some things right.  Out of the same pig I did have some fantastic success I made two boneless picnick hams, brined and smoked yum yum.   Also perfect bacon and liver wurst.  Tomorrow I stuff and smoke summer sausage.

                       Jeff
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Awesome, I never doubted that you could do great things with curing meats  Jeff.

You would probably be surprised at how many hams get ruined by folks that have studied the processes.
I've killed at least 25 hams and I learned from some of the best masters in Spain.

Besides, if you don't try something a little different every now and then, you never find out if there is a better way. 

That is how the iberico hams came about in the first place and most cheeses went through the same trials and tribulations.

I don't know if you are doing this but I like to keep a diary, in it I list every hunk of meat I start curing, it gets all sorts of data listed in it including any tiny variation.
When something different works well, I put a big star or underline it so I can go back and repeat the steps.
I have recipes now for pure salt cure, salt and sugar cure, sugar cure and two for pure smoke cure pieces.  A shoulder will react differently than a ham and both are different than say pork belly (bacon)
I'm salt curing a Canadian bacon (tenderloin) piece in two weeks, fresh from the kill. I am hoping it turns out the way I want it to, but it will be in my cure diary.

Redhawk
 
Jeff Ince
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Mr RedHawks.

Thank you  for the suggestion of diary,  I think I will try it.   I notice in your byline, the words, Tuwa Tokiya Kola Wayelo.   What dose this mean?   Just curious!

Jeff
 
Julia Winter
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Just to put in an alternative view: I've successfully made 3 prosciuttos, (2 in one year, the year we bought a whole hog - the amount of meat to deal with just gets to be overwhelming!) and I left the (thigh) bone in.  I did use a whole lot more salt - as I recall, I put the hams in a cooler with pounds and pounds of salt - like, to cover them - and then poured out the liquid, then added more salt, etc.  I actually had a weight on top, to squeeze liquid out and flatten the hams a bit.  Then I used lard to cover any exposed flesh, coated the lard in cracked black pepper, wrapped the hams in 4 layers of cheesecloth and hung them (from the bone) in my basement from a rafter, near my treadmill so I could keep an eye on them.  6-12 months later - very intense flavor that sends you in search of a very sharp knife.

I *highly* recommend the book "Charcuterie" by Michael Ruhlman for good advice and recipes.  Everything from there has been awesome.
 
Craig Dobbson
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Julia Winter wrote:
I *highly* recommend the book "Charcuterie" by Michael Ruhlman for good advice and recipes.  Everything from there has been awesome.



I'll second that!   I bought that book and have done so many of the recipes in it.  Everything just comes out right.  I also like the blog here  Ruhlman's blog  I've made a lot of lardo and also the duck sausage. Such a good book. 

One of my favorite dry cured pork items is lomo/lonzino.  It's pork loin that's been salted, seasoned and cured.  I made it using this recipe Lonzino .   I only have a pound or so left and I'm kinda starting to freak out about it.  It's that good. 


Edited for grammar and spelling errors
IMG_6094.JPG
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Sliced Lonzino
 
Johan Thorbecke
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
You would probably be surprised at how many hams get ruined by folks that have studied the processes.
I've killed at least 25 hams and I learned from some of the best masters in Spain.

That's the thing with curing food, sometimes you do everything right but the ham, beer, whatever just spoils.
 
Mike Murray
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Evaluate your product carefully before you throw away such a precious product until you know for certain what is going on with it!  The animal's sole purpose was to be carefully raised as an amazingly flavorful meat source, so if it is truly spoiled then it must go, but otherwise take some steps to figure it out and save it...  You paid a lot of money for this product and are probably handling nearly 20# hams that yield a lot of food potential.

Some good points have been made already and curing hams can be difficult including an occasional loss of product due to not beating down the bad bacteria fast enough with the good bacteria.  Mostly the protocol needs to be established and followed that will lead to a high level of success. 

Yes, putting it in a bag sounds like a very bad idea!  It does not breath or dehydrate.  Oxygen is restricted and the possibility of sourering the meat is through bacterial activity and changes in pH are likely. 

A typical ham should be completely covered in salt which may be 4 or more pounds and held under refrigeration at first.  Pressed with a moderate weight for a period of 3-6 days and resalted if a lot of moisture comes off initially.  Once the ham is firmer and being to "cure" it moves to the next step.  Your shop being 40 degrees meets that lower temp requirement.  Then it moves to rinsing, protecting the bone end and light pepper before hanging at a higher temp in the 60 degree or slightly higher for a number of months. 


Issues to consider:

How bad does it smell and where is it coming from?  Is is faint, moderate or so pungent you want to gag?

Light smells and early periods of some off smells are not completely uncommon but a cause for concern and correction before things get worse.

Does a good rinsing with cool water and a light soak significantly help the smell and remove stickiness?  You can try making a brine with salt or rubbing with white vinegar.  These are all methods to reduce bacterial activity by washing it away or creating inhospitable environments.  Not a sure guarantee to food safety but a step to help evaluate the condition and prevent further damage. 

Blood product also gets really rancid fast but can be washed away easily.

Next is their continued smell or rot in the fat which can get quite stinky from rancidity fast but may be salvageable with peeling away and some reprocessing. 

Is the aitch bone removed (hip bone) with just the ball remaining?  A lot of blood, fluid etc is trapped in this area and needs to be taken off for air drying.

Additionally, if the hog is not properly bled and fully remove the excess blood from the major veins in the leg it will cause problems and ruin good dried hams.  Some people try messaging out the blood from the main arteries but this is difficult and only possible early on at best.

People pay special attention to extra salt around the open bone ends and hip ball rubbing it in thoroughly and generously to reduce issues of bone marrow, cut bone and bloody areas.  Before hanging the peppering of the ham is for flavor but also for some antibacterial assistance.  I have always added a touch more toward the hip ball and surrounding meat.  Some processes cover this exposed hip area with a touch of lard or clay after salting and in preparation for hanging.  I've hit curing meat with some grappa or vodka in a spray bottle or dampened clean cloth if I later see exterior molds developing in an area.  White mold is ok.  Grey, hairy, blue, green, orange etc is BAD, knock it down with vinegar or strong alcohol asap to prevent penetrating deep into the ham.  But is is during the hanging process, not the initial salt cure. 

What to do at this point:

If your inspection locates key issues tackle them.  If rinsing and removal of some fat, blood area etc. and a re-rinse or soaking in light brine make things look and smell a lot better think about proceeding. 

If it is still absolutely putrid, makes you want to gag after tackling these key areas you're probably sending it to compost and a total loss.

Assume that the high moisture, too low salt and other issues have developed issues that may not be totally fixed.  Bagging the meat and bacterial growth may have lead to pH changes that will also be much harder to correct.  But being held at 40 degrees if you are accurate about this range is a lot better than a week at 85 degrees! 

So, I would cut you losses on a dry hung ham at this point as too risky the outcome for getting a quality or safe product in the end. 

Now, what might you still be able to do? 

Remember whole muscle meat is still very bioactive if not physically alive.  It has a lot of pathogen resistance within the meat.  The attack happens in the blood fluids, fat and exposed surface much faster than it penetrates into the core muscle materials. 

If there is concern about the integrity of the bone or a lot of blood material in the flesh, think about opening it up down the side closest to the bone and removing the bone completely.  Get a good look at the flesh.  Smell the internal flesh compared to the external.  Does it seem much better?  Does it look really wet and moist like salt has not penetrated in there much at all or reduced moisture content?  Your eyes and nose can do a lot of work.  If you see and smell good things seek confirmation and proceed.  Specialized measurements, tools, complex protocols, absolute health department standards for 100% safety, 100% of the time all have their place but can be an incomplete when dealing with traditional charcuterie and age-old methods where other signs and senses prevailed through history. 

If bone and blood integrity do not seem to be issues of concern then opening up the ham is not necessary. 

I would recommend at this time moving to a brine cured protocol for a cooked ham.  Pump the hams with 10% solution by weight with a needle especially focusing on the deep muscles and around the bone areas if it is still maintained.   Use the TCM to resist bad bacteria and botulism issues as a precaution even though they are slight they are extremely dangerous in oxygen free atmospheres of low temp smoking, canning and oil preserving.  meaure carefully to get the right amount per gal of brine as too much is dangerous and too little is not effective.

You may want to reduce the brining time from the 7 days or so to a slightly less amount due to the salt curing that already took place.  But give time for the pumped meat to brine to the bone. 
Rinse off and either boil, oven roast or smoke to produce a fully cooked ham.  Cut into it after some time to cool and rest (for a few days refrigerated if it was smoked to mellow out).  Taste some of it for strong off flavors that persist and salt level. If really bad flavors develop it is done!  Most likely even light funk is acceptable like in prosciutto and add some nuance but not offensive.   It may be a bit salty from poor control of salt due to rubbing and then brining or it might be fine.  If you boil it they salt can dissipate into the water before roasting it further for color.  It can be frozen until need as a whole or in pieces once you know what you have.  If you have two hams the second ham is now a known product.  Either very usable, or salty but can be moved to flavoring soups and beans or in casseroles. 

You have a lot of options and steps to take before the garbage unless it is just awful after first attach and rinses.  Move carefully to put on bandaids and stretch sore muscles before going to the surgeon and cutting off your arm...'

Most Americans are not familiar with rancidity and are unprepared to deal with it in rational ways but still take safety precautions and some calculated risks.  Most of the rest of the world does this practice much more often out of necessity.  Aging, controlled aging, funk, selective and surface rot versus putrification are different situations.  Removal of surface funk, blood, rancid fat which smells awful but may not be nearly as dangerous as other forms of bacterial contamination.   Going through times of things stinking and fermenting (less with pork) but coming out under different pH conditions of fermentation, pickling, etc. can make meats safe, edible and frequently tasty.  Learning to assess some off flavor of funk or appreciate things that are not simply fresh kill meat is less in the average American repertoire.  Much of history people have learned to salvage less than perfect meat and process, spice and cook it into good or edible product.  Sometimes pawn it off to unsuspecting customers who suffer the consequences. 

Approach these areas with caution and with experienced guides.  Sort of like mushroom hunting but probably a bit less risky with aged meats.  Read and do research on what to look for and expect when aging goes right and wrong.  Nothing better than the funky nutty smell of a well aged pork or the rich earthy smell of dry aged beef

I think the chances of making something out of this project is good without a total loss of 40# of Berkshire. 



 
Julia Winter
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Thanks so much, Mike!  You have written what I wanted to say when I first happened upon this thread.  Botulism is nothing to sneeze at, but the thought of just throwing away a whole ham (or worse, TWO whole hams) because one of them smells a bit off is also horrifying to me.

I second the suggestion to move to a brined, cooked (ideally smoked) ham.  Of all the hams we processed back when we had a big kitchen in Wisconsin, the one we wet cured and slow smoked was the one that induced the most blissful moaning.  Like, really, amazing stuff.  (Yes, we used pink salt.  Call me old fashioned, I like my ham to look pink, and it's too thick to get that way just from smoking.)
 
Jeff Ince
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Mr Murray

Thank you so much for this information I do not want to throw this meat out till I am sure.   That faint smell I was referring to just might be the funk that comes with the process or at least what I was hopping for.   I will try your suggestions, but if the smell is removed can I still start the drying process?   I have been curing them in the bags, changing the bags and resalting draining off liquids every week.  I was following the instructions of gentleman on YouTube who follows this this procedure and seems to be successful in producing a good product.

Thanks Jeff
 
Craig Dobbson
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Jeff Ince wrote:Mr Murray

Thank you so much for this information I do not want to throw this meat out till I am sure.   That faint smell I was referring to just might be the funk that comes with the process or at least what I was hopping for.   I will try your suggestions, but if the smell is removed can I still start the drying process?   I have been curing them in the bags, changing the bags and resalting draining off liquids every week.  I was following the instructions of gentleman on YouTube who follows this this procedure and seems to be successful in producing a good product.

Thanks Jeff


Could you please link the YT video you were following?  That would help me see where you're coming from.  It might make it easier to come up with  a salvation plan as well.

thank you    
 
Jeff Ince
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To Craig

I think this is what you want https://youtyu.be/wreX8toU60w if this doesn't work then go to YouTube and search how to make prosciutto then look for the video for Melody Kettle.   Sorry I am not good with this tablet and making links between sites.

Hope this helps   Thanks.  Jeff
 
Craig Dobbson
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Jeff Ince wrote:To Craig

I think this is what you want https://youtyu.be/wreX8toU60w if this doesn't work then go to YouTube and search how to make prosciutto then look for the video for Melody Kettle.   Sorry I am not good with this tablet and making links between sites.

Hope this helps   Thanks.  Jeff



Here is a link to the play list by the woman you mentioned:   Dry curing hams playlist


The link you had wasn't working.  I can watch it later on.  I'll give feedback if I can.
 
Mike Murray
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Continuing to use the hams for dry cure:

If the smell subsided and surface looks good maybe dry curing is a possibility.  As I suggested before since the quality may be unknown at this time I would move to brine and cook to reduce risk of loss of investment.  Maybe wager one continues to salt/dry to see what happens and one goes to brine as a hedge against your bet. 

I saw the videos with the bagged meat.  Not certain about it.  Seems to work for that guy but not sure why he uses the bag other than he is pressing at the same time and needs to keep the salt on the meat. 

My view is dry cure is to remove moisture, so why am I going to trap it in a bag?  Using a tub or crate to pack the ham and salt with a modest weight on top is typical to allow water to come off into the salt or evaporate.  Overhauling the ham by turning or freshening up the salt as needed to keep moisture away from the ham during the first week or so, then move to hanging. 

His method begins to move a rub of salt into a brine of moistened ham fluids and salt until changed.  This method is common for bacon where you add salt, sugar/spices to bacon and as it pulls off the water forms a salt/sugar sandy wet brine out of the rub that continues to cover the bacon during its's cure.  Then the bacon is rinsed before smoking. 

I second the comment that Charcuterie by Ruhlman and Chef Polcyn is one excellent source for recipes and information among a few authorities in print.  I have met Chef Polcyn and attended professional workshops with him.  He's got a wealth of traditional knowledge and actively teaches and produces these items.  A number of other good sources of information out there also. 



 
Julia Winter
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Hey Jeff, I just want to second the suggestion to move at least one ham to a wet cure process.  I speak from personal experience - two hams made up as prosciutto is one ham too many. Dry cured ham is SO salty and so strong tasting, it really is used as a condiment, sliced paper thin and served with cantaloupe for example.

Wet cured ham you can cube into a casserole, or make sandwiches, or just munch.  Not so much with the prosciutto.

Once you cut into your prosciutto, it doesn't seem wise to keep it hanging in the basement, so I ended up giving pieces away.  Maybe one person understood what they had been given, everybody else was like "this ham is too salty to eat!!"  It's fun and it's cool to make prosciutto, but it's also fun to make other hams.
 
Jeff Ince
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Hi everyone it's Jeff

Just wanted to update you.  I have started the drying process, washed with vinegar dried and trimmed.   My son smelled them and didn't smell any off smell.   The meat is firm to the touch and not slimy at all.  It appears cured on the outside.   But that's my next question.   How can you tell short or cutting it open if it's really cured deep to the bone.   I have pulled about 2 to 3 cups of liquid off each ham.

Thank you.     Jeff

Ps.  I tried to attach a picture of each ham
image.jpeg
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image.jpeg
[Thumbnail for image.jpeg]
 
Deb Rebel
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Jeff, those look good. Hope they work out.

I've used a lot of prosciutto over the years, it is a very strong and dry meat. I  would have processed only one of the hams that way and brined the other one. One reason I am looking for a 30 or larger red wing crock in useable shape, I want to cure pork again and need one...

I'm wondering if one couldn't just slice up the raw future ham into slabs, dry rub dry rub dry rub, then stick them in a solar dehydrator and dry them out.... 2017 summer project includes building a stand up solar dehydrator on wheels that holds a dozen or more racks. We get peeled sun days here usually mid May to mid September so having it help preserve food....   Ham jerkey... hm.
 
Jeff Ince
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I thought I would post an update.   My prosciutto  is coming along really nicely I trimmed them both before covering with pepper and the trimmed peices tasted just like the real thing.  But I could tell it needed a little more drying and aging in order get that deep prosciutto flavor.   I will cut one in a few more months and the other one in 18 months or 2 years.   I f these turn out I will start more next year.  This way I will always have it on hand.
 
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My wife and I aspire to have piggers one day and do just what you're doing, making all sorts of tasty salumi's and cured pig parts. Those pictures look delicious.
 
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Jeff, I too am curing a proscuitto amd everyine aroind me smells it and says that thing is bad but it just reminds me of my nonno's cellar where hams hung while I was growing up. My nonno was an accomplished italian wine maker and he dried kick but salumi and proscuitto. I was only a child when he died so no hands on here but my mind remmebers the smell and the funk and Mike is right. North Americans just arent used to it. I ate a slice of the funky ham they said was gone and I am still here and not in the bathroom. It wasnt a gag me smell just a bit of an ammonia type smell only if I cut it and it dissipated quickly leaving nothing but a lovely nutty smell behind. Did you end up cutting yours open?
 
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