Making koji-kin and tane koji – Part 1

We’ve gotten so many requests form videos and pictorials on how to make koji-kin (こうじ) and tane-koji that we are trying out this format. Unless people either follow us here or like the first post we’ll stop. Let us know what you think, okay? So check this out:

What a long strange trip it’s been.

IMG_2198The first interview ever with Chef Ken Fornataro on Brooklyn Heritage Radio. The last 50 years of his life including stories about everything from making beef sake to wild, Russian ferments, fish miso, sourdough bread and baking to hishio, jiangs, tamari, five element Chinese philosophy and the transformative processes of life, the ActUp years, microbiology, Erewhon, Aveline and Michio Kushi, the soyinfocenter created by William Shurtleff and colleagues and culturesgroup. Three books in process – and why they are important.IMG_5165


Tseukemono • Nukazuke • Miso • Sake • Tempeh • Mirin • Koji 麹 • Fermentation • Culture • Tamari • Preservation • Soybeans • Cheese • Cultures • Fish • Amazake • Wood • Milk Kefir • Raw Milk • Microbiology • Microbiome • Wild Yeasts • Consultation • Natto • Food History • Kimchee • Recipe Testing • Whole Grains • Sourdough

culturesgroup’s mission is to educate, support, preserve, research and share culture through traditional food preparation, gathering, farming and fishing, preservation and fermentation, and how individuals and societies survive, communicate, celebrate, address illness and health, and enhance their lives through food and water.

• To educate, share and collaborate with individuals, educators, businesses and students through e-books, printed materials, videos, photos, presentations and conferences

• Microbiology (especially Aspergillum) and lactobacillus – To create resources and training opportunities in the use of aspergillum cultures and lactobacillus through food microbiology, safety and history

• To document, celebrate, and market regional and ethnic cultures, foods and practices

• Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Russian and Indian fermentation research and education (including the study of Kanji)

• Probiotics, Dysbiosis, Dysphagia – To assist and support individuals of any age to deal with symbiosis, dysphagia and PEG and Tube feeding with enhanced taste, nutritional value, and provide a solid scientific output of reliable information on pre and probiotics.

We actively solicit donors, patrons and sponsors, and collaborations with other groups, organizations, institutions, artisans, small businesses and corporations for one or more of our programs. Our extensive network of consultants, educators, presenters, writers and communicators donate their services (pro bono), but are encouraged to present and promote whatever they are working on including their products or services.

Donations are accepted but not tax deductible at this point.

If you would like to be interviewed about your work, or have a product you want us to review or know contact us. Because our goal is to assist and support the members that work in our field, our policy is not to publish or communicate negative feedback publicly.
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Grilled broccoli with fermented garlic and cultured butter

Broccoli is a great vegetable. We peeled some and cut it up into large pieces including the stems. In a cast iron skillet heated until very hot we added some high temperature sunflower oil and really seared the broccoli. Then we added slivers of fermented garlic and some toasted walnut oil and some sea salt. Covered until just tender we added some cultured butter (cultured with kefir grains). If you want to serve as a main dish or a full vegetable course add chopped well roasted walnuts and a little extra butter or olive oil in place of the butter and a dab of umeboshi paste.

Milk Kefir

Milk Kefir is an incredibly nutritious, digestible and easy to make drink that can have various tastes and devoted fans based o the fruits, juices, vegetables, sweet or savory spices and herbs used during a 2F (second ferment). You can even chose not to use anything to do a 2F instead just enhancing the nutritional profile even further.

The first ferment is when you take your milk kefir (MK) grains  – they are actually called technically SCOBYs and often look like cottage cheese curds – put them in whole, unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk or the best fresh, pasteurized but not ultra-pasteurized, organic or totally grass fed milk you can get your hands on. Even sheep and goat’s milk make tasty and highly nutritious kefir.

If you have to use frozen or even powdered or canned milk it’s still worth it as long as they are of high quality and you get them to a good temperature. We prefer 65F to 72F but as long as the milk isn’t freezing during the entire process the grains will eventually turn the milk into kefir. After 12 to 48 hours of occasional or frequent shaking or stirring you will have some kefir that you like. You can always slow it down if it gets sourer than you like really quickly or separates very fast by:

  • fermenting at a colder temperature
  • using colder milk to start out
  • use less grains i.e. (use 1 tsp per quart if using raw warm milk)
  • strain the grains out after a much shorter period of time

The more you move it around the thicker and more homogenous the final product will become. If the whey – typically a clear or yellowish liquid – separates out from the kefir either mix it back in and continue or shake it up, strain out the grains in your clean strainer or cheese cloth or paint straining bag or old nylons or well rinsed out dish towel.

Strain the liquid into a clean vessel – we recommend using glass jars like Mason or Ball or Fido or Weck or any clean jar you bought a quart of mayonnaise in. What matters is that there is a top that can be tightly closed yet opened every now and then to burp  your kefir. One of the amazing things that will happen when you put your strained kefir in a cold place – if you don’t drink it all right away which is okay! – is that during a 2F or second ferment the tightly lidded will do two things: Continue to develop even more vitamins and accessible proteins while either souring a bit more or taking on any flavor you add and developing carbon dioxide.

IMG_2273To start a new quart of milk kefir we took about a tablespoon of frozen kefir grains out of the freezer and let them thaw out on the counter. When we froze them them were very plump and juicy so we first dried them out a little and coated them with organic dried powdered whole milk and then froze them to prevent excessive cell damage. The freezing did not affect them in any way we could tell.



We put the grains in a little milk bath for a while then pulled a few of them gently apart to increase the total number of grains that we would end up with and to encourage our SCOBYs (symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeasts) to mingle and make new relationships. Other types of SCOBYs include water kefir grains (tibicos, Japanese water crystals) and the very large and mushroom like ones to make kombucha.IMG_2277 Four hours later, a lot of picking apart of the grains and a gently warm milk bath tripled out number of grains. We also added a tablespoon of heavy cream we had skimmed off the top of an unhomogenized half gallon of milk.So we threw them into a half gallon of milk and the did their in their dark cupboard about 12 hours before we decided to stop and second ferment with two different flavors. One we added some well salted down and rinsed cucumbers, fresh dill, chopped scallions and some lactofermented garlic to and capped it tightly. We fermented it for 4 hours until we just had to eat it. It was great. Had we let it go for a few more hours then refrigerated it until chilled it would have been one of those things you keep shaking your head and saying, “Wow this is so good”. The other quart we made for our friend Sandor Katz who was giving a presentation for a New York City group called Just Food. We added goji berries and Himalayan raisins to it with a touch of lemon juice. Everyone loved it. We’ll have to make that one again. Fizzy and refreshing.


The other quart we made for our friend Sandor Katz who was giving a presentation for a New York City group called Just Food. We added goji berries and Himalayan raisins to it with a touch of lemon juice. Everyone loved it. We’ll have to make that one again. Fizzy and refreshing.

The carbon dioxide is what gives your milk kefir a wildy refreshing, fizzy and deeply satisfying taste. After tasting a well made milk kefir for the first time people often dream about it. Careful when opening it. Also, if you keep it going it is likely to keep fermenting, thickening, souring and creating gas. So drink it up! Or make cheese. Or a salad dressing or dip. Or bake with it.

Milk kefir is a very sophisticated food with many different bacteria and yeasts providing a wide spectrum of nutritional goodness. Diversity is always a good thing! Like it thicker? Mix it with your current yogurt type or steamed grains or chopped fresh fruits or fresh dill, cucumbers, garlic and lemon! Need to know where to get grains? No, you can’t just grow them from a previous batch of strained milk kefir or backslop like you can with yogurt. But there are a great number of ways you can get them: From a friend, a community person or noble, online swap, purchase from a reputable source such as Gem Cultures, Cultures for Health, Yemoos or even from a list of vendors through Amazon. Let us know if you have questions or need help at


culturesgroup offers food preparation, preservation and fermentation education and information. We share and collaborate with individuals, other educators, and businesses through e-books and internet meetings, printed materials, videos, photos, and presentations on:

• the preservation and demonstration of food cultures and techniques

• wild yeasts, koji, grains and SCOBYs to create sake, beer and beverages

• fermentation and food history, culture and semiotics

• the use of aspergillum and lactobacillus throughout the world to create:

Miso • Sake • Mirin • Tseukemono • Koji • Tamari • Shoyu • Legumes • Cheese • Cultures • Fish Sauce • Amazake • Milk Kefir • Wild Yeasts • Food History • Kimchee •  Whole Grains • Sourdough


Twitter: @culturesgroup


Instagram: @culturesgroup

HRN Radio:

Here is a recent interview with Chef Ken with brief bio:…/episode-204-ken-fornataro/

For the last 40 years Ken Fornataro has been fermenting and preserving grains, legumes and other proteins with A. oryzae.  Ken was appointed Executive Director of The Hermitage in Boston at 19 years old, and left both Brown University and Northeastern University. He found himself ducking out the back door to Erewhon, where he befriended Aveline and Michio Kushi, Bill Shurtleff and other macrobiotic practitioners and Japanese chefs, who taught him traditional Japanese fermentation — including koji, amasake, miso, shio-koji, shoyu, sake, shoyu-koji and many kinds of tseukemono.

Since then, Ken has continued his study of microbiology, food, and transformative processes including fermentation. He has served as Executive Chef, Sous-Chef and Garde Manger of numerous restaurants, and has engaged in other business development — including founding and directing a non-profit organization, which made a significant contribution to developing a cure for HCV and treatment advances for HIV/AIDS.  Ken is the author of 32 publications on science and research primarily through the New York State Department of Health and The Kaiser Family Foundation. He is working on a book series related to food, fermentation, and aspergillus in conjunction with his role as founder, Executive Chef and CEO of, an educational venture dedicated to traditions in food preparation, preservation and fermentation.

#ChefKenFornataro, #miso, #microbiology , #学生, #漬物, #麹 , #魚, #酵母, #酒, #金山寺みそ


“Only the wild strain of fermenting nature,…”

“Is this everything now, the quick delusions of flowers,
And the down colors of the bright summer meadow,
The soft blue spread of heaven, the bees’ song,
Is this everything only a god’s
Groaning dream,
The cry of unconscious powers for deliverance?
The distant line of the mountain,
That beautifully and courageously rests in the blue,
Is this too only a convulsion,
Only the wild strain of fermenting nature,
Only grief, only agony, only meaningless fumbling,
Never resting, never a blessed movement?
No! Leave me alone, you impure dream
Of the world in suffering!
The dance of tiny insects cradles you in an evening radiance,
The bird’s cry cradles you,
A breath of wind cools my forehead
With consolation.
Leave me alone, you unendurably old human grief!
Let it all be pain.
Let it all be suffering, let it be wretched-
But not this one sweet hour in the summer,
And not the fragrance of the red clover,
And not the deep tender pleasure
In my soul.”

Translated by James Wright
Hermann Hesse