Ginger kojizuke

We decided to take all our organic ginger and do a classic fermentation japanese style with salt, a special sugar and sake lees. We still haven’t gotten the vegetables we’re going to layer between all this yet, but maybe we will just make some pickled gari or sushi style ginger for fattier fish.

The recipe and description of fermenting and pickling with koji will be in our upcoming book series, The Book of 麹 – こうじ or Koji. It’s not an all Japanese oriented book series although we honor the incredible contributions to the field of over a thousand years of Japanese innovation and research while providing relevant and useful recipes.

We are still very much in need of people that can translate kanji into English (from Japanese, Chinese, etc.) and English into Japanese or Chinese. We are a not-for-profit organization so there is no money in it yet but we can most definitely make it worth your while if the honor and prestige of sharing thousands of years of brilliant Asian culture does not meet your needs.

If you are interested please e-mail ありがとうございます!


The Power and Heat of A.oryzae (koji)

The last few weeks have been like a book tour – although I haven’t been able to write much on those I’m working on. Besides, as my friend and colleague Harry Rosenblum of Brooklyn Kitchen, Heritage Radio Network, Sumo Stew and Vinegar Revival fame said tonight nothing is ever really newly discovered in the world of food and brewing, just a repackaging and re-presentation of things people have stumbled upon in the last several thousand years.

One of my mentors when I was the Executive Chef of Bloomingdales Fresh Foods Department, Lester Gribetz taught me a great lesson when I was a very young chef who was allowed to cook 3 star Michelin Chef Michel Guérard’s food for their in house shop on 59th Street as well as to present my own line of tseukemono and freshly prepared foods.

Precious doesn’t sell well, and not at all if it requires too much customer effort.

I’d also like to take a moment to thank Bill Hyde. When he was the head of the Fresh foods department he always made sure I had access to gallons of fresh truffles, mushrooms, and rare items from around the world. Once a week Petrossian, another shop I oversaw but obviously had no input into the making of smoked salmon or fish eggs or foie gras, would send me a ten pound tin of Beluga, lots of foie gras and smoked salmon.

It helped me make friends with a large number of celebrities and socialites – because I wouldn’t eat any of it and that type of dealing was big in the 80’s.

Bill taught me about oil. Back then the concept of extra virgin olive oil was a big deal. Unrefined and non-chemically modified oils were pretty rare. Huge chunks of hydrogenated lard mixed with other oils and substances for deep fat fryers were common. He refused to authorize payment for any of it. He also made sure I had access to any natural lard. nut oils, rice bran oil, and a spectacular selection of olive oils from around the world.

Fats and oils are cooking mediums, or seasoning ingredients. The mold called Koji – typically Aspergillus oryzae in Japan where spore subspecies isolation was first initiated on a regular basis to make sake, shochu, soy sauce, miso, amasake, and pickles – can be used in the same way.

Koji is thought of as a live ingredient that can both create and act as an enzyme. Imagine being able to create exogenous heat from a dried inoculated grain. Like cooking on a stove you can control what amount of heat you want, and what you want your live mold to accomplish.

You can make miso, shio-koji, sake, shoyu-koji, shoyu, amasake, shochu, beer, and pickles with koji. Depending on what type of koji you have, you can create fish sauce or even cure meat with it.

There are hundreds of different enzymes that koji can create when interactiong with food, and even when just being grown on a carbohydrate substrate (the thing the mold eats).

This Saturday I will be starting a series of presentations to present ideas on easy, sane ways to use koji. A while ago a study came out – okay, perhaps a qualitative survey – about what people like to cook. Some don’t want anything to do with it. Some want fast and very easy. Some haven’t a clue what most ingredients even are.

Come this Saturday and we’ll talk about all those things and how koji might be the best thing since sliced bread. Or heritage grain sourdough wood fire oven baked miche that your tear apart with your hands. Either way you should know how to control the heat and power of koji.

All the details right here. FermentFerment 2017 this Saturday Nov. 17, 2017 in Brooklyn, New York.


Koji and its Decendents

Chef Ken will share a presentation on miso, shoyu, and shio-koji, and how you can use them to make pickles!

Chef Ken Fornataro has been fermenting and preserving fish, grains and legumes with A. oryzae for decades. Ken was appointed Executive Chef of The Hermitage in Boston in the 70s. He found himself ducking out the back door to Erewhon, where he befriended Aveline and Michio Kushi, Bill Shurtleff and other chefs who taught him traditional Japanese and Russian foods and fermentation techniques – including koji, amasake, miso, shio-koji, shoyu, sake, shoyu-koji and many kinds of tseukemono.

Ken continues to study microbiology, food, and fermentation. He has served as Executive Chef, Sous-Chef and Garde Manger of numerous restaurants. Ken is the Executive Chef and acting CEO, pro bono, of


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:

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

“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