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Still Life: Rice with Broken Glass Jar

I dropped a glass jar filled with rice. I've picked up the macro-sized pieces of glass, but am wondering if there is any way on earth to make the rice safe to eat, given that I am sure it contains small fragments and shards of glass. I could, naturally, go through it grain-by-grain, but this is only a couple of bucks worth of rice, and I don't think it warrants the time.

Does anyone have any suggestions? (Or is this too localized?) I would also welcome suggestions for a better tag than "rice."

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How about the 'food-safety' tag? –  jontyc Feb 17 '12 at 6:44
    
@jontyc I was thinking of that tag myself, but then I noticed that it's for questions about "preventing food-borne illness". Applying that tag to this question would stretch it a bit, in my opinion. –  Mien Feb 17 '12 at 9:35
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I suppose one could consider esophogeal lacerations from eating rice to be a food-borne illness in this case :) –  Ray Feb 17 '12 at 11:31
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I'd be more worried about how long ago I last cleaned my floor >.> Between glass and dirt I'd toss the whole batch –  Yamikuronue Feb 17 '12 at 15:11
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@jontyc: I debated the "food-safety" tag myself, but it didn't feel right. My gut feeling is that it should apply to pathogens and contamination from unknown sources rather than contamination resulting from an accident. –  James McLeod Feb 17 '12 at 15:54
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3 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Purely academic (because I wouldn't even use the rice for blind baking) but just dissolve salt into the water until the rice starts to float. The glass will remain at the bottom. Give a good stir to avoid surface tension and glass-stuck-to-rice problems. Rice farmers used to do this (and probably still do in some countries) to separate out little stones and even damaged grains.

If the solution saturates before the rice starts floating (i.e. salt no longer dissolves), try warm-water instead or another food-safe salt like Epsom salts which lead to a greater specific density of the solution).

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Cool. Just the type of answer I wanted. But I'm not going to try it myself! –  James McLeod Feb 17 '12 at 12:31
    
Out of curiosity, what role does the salt play? Is this a buoyancy/density problem? –  Eric Hu Feb 23 '12 at 10:59
    
For a completely sunken object, the volume of water displaced is equal to the volume of the object (in this case, my grains of rice and shards of glass). The weight of this volume of water is less than the corresponding weight of the glass or rice (i.e. the water has lower density). Adding salt increases the density of the water until the weight of the water displaced by each grain of rice is greater than that of the grain itself, buoying the rice. –  James McLeod Feb 23 '12 at 17:20
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I would throw it out. The rice doesn't cost as much as a new digestive system. Sure, it's a waste. And I'm sure you would look very carefully. But the risk of one glass splinter still in it is existent. Therefore, I wouldn't try it.

Good luck with cleaning that up though. :)

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+1 - there's almost no way I'd consider eating it, and no way at all I would serve it to anyone else. But it's an interesting problem, waiting for an innovative solution... –  James McLeod Feb 16 '12 at 23:51
    
I was thinking of a way, like in water. But I'm pretty sure they both would sink. –  Mien Feb 16 '12 at 23:54
    
That was my first naive thought, but then I recalled I rely on the fact that rice sinks to help wash off the rice flour. –  James McLeod Feb 16 '12 at 23:55
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Even if glass is heavier than rice (I should look it up) and you try it with a liquid, there is still a chance that some glass pieces would be on top because of surface tension. Or at least I think so. I'm not a physicist. –  Mien Feb 16 '12 at 23:57
    
That could be (but it might require someone with a demonstrably more delicate touch than I have...) –  James McLeod Feb 16 '12 at 23:59
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While "toss it" is probably the most reasonable answer, if you were intent on using it, I would recommend making a batch of Horchata (the delicious Mexican beverage), since you just soak the rice - no cooking, and a very fine strain of the rice water is necessary either way.

Here is a quick recipe from "PDT".

  • 40 oz. water
  • 10 oz. whole milk
  • 8 oz. uncooked white long-grain rice
  • 3 Tbs raw sugar
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla
  • 0.5 tsp ground cinnamon

Pour the water over the rice and let stand for 12 hours (most recipes suggest using a blender to bust up the rice a bit, in your case I would not put it in the blender, and let it steep for a longer period of time). Strain the rice water out (with a very fine cloth, in your case). Half the water will be absorbed the rice. Add the rest of the ingredients, chill, and enjoy!

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You'd have to rinse the rice thoroughly first. Otherwise there could be tiny bits of glass that'd go through your finest strainer, and end up in the horchata. Rinsing would (hopefully) let you remove everything smaller than the rice, then the strain later would let you remove everything bigger than that. –  Jefromi Feb 17 '12 at 5:37
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