土用の丑の日 – Day of the Ox

Unagi Day – or Day of the Ox – is a Japanese tradition concocted by the eel fishing industry way back in the day. There is now an eel shortage in the world – especially in Japan – where at least 75% of the eel from Asian countries in the area is eaten.
China and other countries might have more than enough to satisfy the Japanese habit, but to protect their markets the price of eel in Japan is ten times what it was a decade ago. Then again, eels are on the IUCN’s red list of endangered species. 
Eel (Anguilla japonica) has also been added to the government of Japan’s red list of endangered species. Besides the “whole net” policy that some chefs and restaurants are adopting – an agreement where buyers will take anything caught in a net by the fishermen – catfish are a great, sustainable substitute for unagi.
NHK World has bee running a sustainable fish story for almost a week now – and it’s great. Here is a link to their Eel symposium
At one point there were an estimated 3,000 eel restaurants just in Tokyo, Japan. Eels are really a traditional Japanese dish and they are indeed quite tasty. But catfish are also a sustainable and tasty fish  Not many restaurants can afford at this point to even buy the eels.

There are lots of recipes for alternative fish to use all over the internet. Pretty certain you should probably stay away from farm raised freshwater eel that is not the same thing as an eel raised in captivity. From the wikipedia entry on unagi:

Instead, young eels are collected from the wild and then raised in various enclosures. In addition to wild eel populations being reduced by this process, eels are often farmed in open net pens which allow parasites, waste products, and diseases to flow directly back into wild eel habitat, further threatening wild populations. Freshwater eels are carnivores and as such are fed other wild-caught fish, adding another element of unsustainability to current eel farming practices.
Happy Day of the Ox! Maybe you should try some うなぎパイ – Unagi Pie or biscuits.  If you really want an authentic touch get some real sansho from The Japanese Pantry  And, let’s make sure something like Hiroshima never happens again, which is also recognized on August 6, 2017. 

Oats and Grains: Magic of Koji!

Koji,usually in the form of rice inoculated with a culture, can make an amazing array of things. Here, we’re talking about amazake, a kind of very quick, very lightly fermented sweet drink. If you heat it up gently after it is done turning the carbohydrates of your whole grains into simple sugars while greatly increasing both the digestibility and the availability of the vitamins, minerals, and proteins, you can then either throw it in the fridge or use as a sweetener right away.

Leftover or freshly cooked brown or even white (any kind really) rice can be used here. I like the oat version, especially with fresh or dried cranberries (organic, unsulfured) or raisins, and some coconut. You can just use rice, or oats, or wheat.

Wash 250 grams of steel cut oats very well. Just keep washing them until they run clear water. Then you can rinse off with some water you will cook them in, about 800 gms. Add up to 2 grams cooked brown rice (or whatever kind) and 50 gms cranberries (1/3 cup packed) or raisins or no fruit at all, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup unsweetened, organic dried coconut. Cook very slowly in a dutch oven that has a lid. Skim frequently!

After about fifteen minutes turn off heat, cover and let cool down to 120 degrees. Add 1/4 cup or 45 gms brown rice organic Koji or whatever kind of Kojio you have and mix very well. Cover again and either stick in warm (not at all hot oven just like for yogurt) or wrap in a blanket or towel and let sit for at least 4 hours. Stir once if you like, replacing lid quickly and putting back in warm place. Please make sure your oven is clean and free from burnt on grease smells.

After about 8 hours you can either very gently reheat to a very low temp and eat with some raw honey or regular or strained kefir or cultured butter or maple syrup. Or just eat it as is. Or add chopped fresh fruits and toasted seeds or nuts. This is a salt free version. Instead of the Koji you could add live, unpasteurized mellow white miso (maybe 2 TB at most) or even half the amount of an older miso. If you do that either grate a little fresh ginger in there or chop up a tablespoon of candied organic ginger.

Once chilled, I take two firm, sweet apples (washed well, quartered and cored), a cup of goat or cow kefir (or coconut or grain milk ferments) or even strained yogurt, a cup of ice or frozen yogurt or Kefir or whey cubes, and two TBS raw honey and put in blender until smooth but not too thin and still cold. That’s an easy, great breakfast. If you use one or two bananas forget the honey.

I might also toast a lot of bread and eat with some kraut or kimchi butter or a version of natto miso (see recipe for chick pea, azuki, barley, Kombu, ginger, barley malt, and Koji miso next week). I often also make raisin bread or cookies with this mix, which just keeps improving in flavor in the refrigerator. The amount described here will last you ten days at best. Two days in this place.

“Je suis roi de Gonesse et d’Ay” – Wild Fermentation and French Old Regime Bread Pastry and Sweets

Henry IV de Navarre, “Je suis roi de Gonesse et d”Ay”! In 1711 Louis Liger writing in “Le Ménage des champs” mentioned that the recipes for Pain de Gonesse that depended on either spontaneous leaven or very fresh beer yeast could not be made in Paris as opposed to Gonesse because their quality depended on the local water (i.e the local microbes) in the air, water, soil and most definitely on the grains themselves. (English Bread and Yeast Cookery, by Elizabeth David, “Notes on French Bread”)

Bread, Pastry and Sweets in Old Regime France

Pierre Jean-Baptiste Le Grand d’Aussy Jim Chevallier discusses a great many things that once existed that should be reclaimed. Now. You’d think the French would be all for making sure that living of their spectacular contributions to the world history would continue to exist. This is an exciting book that should challenge them to get on it. From the Amazon.com description

Le Grand d’Aussy traces French bread history from the first Tameliers and Fourniers to the Boulangers whose bread evolved from a simple boule to the pains mollet of the seventeenth century and the long breads which already began to replace round breads in the eighteenth century. Along the way he looks at the different types of bread, typically made from wheat, and also the other grains and even other products which were used to make bread.

He then presents the history of French pastry, which began, essentially, as meat pies and other foods cooked in pastry before evolving into a dizzying array of tarts, wafers, nieules, ratons, cassemuseaux, flans, rissoles, beignets, marzipan and other treats.

This leads naturally enough into the subject of sweets, of various spices and fruits preserved in sugar and honey, sweet pastes, nougat, macaroons and other treats sometimes eaten after dinner and sometimes all through the day.

Along the way, as always, Le Grand draws in a rich variety of older sources, studding his inventories of facts with colorful anecdotes. The result is itself a rich box of tasty treats.

Wild fermentation and wild yeast were most definitely a part of what is described in the above book that I just bought as an e-Book. Ironically, I was reading this book that I added just a small excerpt from Dr. Martin below because they definitely express the cultural arrogance (“diseases” in beer and “infected yeasts”) and condescension unfortunately still pretty much supported by science and the industries that so often manipulate, direct, and oppress science determined to be unimportant to their corporate interests. We can discuss just how many times the results from research studies that don’t put a research sponsor’s product in good light never make it into the public spotlight that is the only place that anyone can ever honestly say their work is real or honest or even ethical, or the fact that a whole lot of what is pronounced as science is creative writing produced by ghosts.

(Google Books – Industrial and Manufacturing Chemistry, G.Martin See Chapter: FERMENTATION INDUSTRIES I.— FERMENTS, ENZYMES, BACTERIA, MOULDS, YEAST, Etc. By G. Martin, Ph.D., M.Sc. with a description ) Other Yeasts. — Saccharomyces pyriformis (Marshall Ward) produces alcoholic fermentation of English ginger beer. Used in conjunction with the ” ginger-beer ” plant, Bacterium vermiforme. Saccharomyces matt, Du Clauxi, Kayser, from cider, ferments invert sugar and produces esters (bouquet). Schizosaccharomyces pomhe, the yeast in pombe (Negro millet beer), ferments dextrose ; used in South American distilleries; Schizosaccharo myces me/tacei, in Jamaica rum.

(b) Wild Yeasts The ” wild ” yeasts occur free in nature ; they are not cultivated systematically like ordinary brewery or distillery yeasts, usually because they possess unpleasant characteristics and, indeed, often set up various ” diseases ” in beer, or affect the fermenting power of infected yeasts. Thus S. pastorian vs I. produces a bitter taste in beer, while S. pastori- anus III. produces cloudiness. They occur as sausage-shaped cells. Saccharomyces ellipsoideus II., Hansen, is a dangerous disease yeast for breweries, causing turbidity.

The ” Kahm ” yeasts (Kahm He/e), e.g., Mycoderma cerevisice and vini, consisting of round or elongated cells, form a skin on the surface of the fermenting liquor. They require oxygen ; and can produce from sugar a small percentage of alcohol, but usually oxidise the alcohol directly to CD2 and water, with the rapid absorption of oxygen. S. cxiguus (from compressed yeast) ferments monosaccharides and cane sugar, but not maltose. S. apicula/us also ferments only monosac charides. Both are useless for the brewery. S. ilicis (bottom yeast) and S. ai/ni/blii, Gronland, produce a bitter and disagreeable taste in worts. S. membranit/aciens, Hansen, found in wines and polluted waters. Generates acids from sugar. Propagates in presence of 12 per cent, alcohol. Destroys the bouquet of wines. Certain Moulds also possess the power of fermenting sugar, e.g., Afttcor racemosus (see under Moulds).”

I got some actual ginger beer plant the other day from the wilds of Utah (http://www.yemoos.com/aboutusalbum.html) and it’s doing quite well so far but what is “Negro Millet Beer” as mentioned in Dr. Martin’s Book? Go directly to the source: Sandor Ellix Katz’s “The Art of Fermentation”, Chapter 9: Fermenting Beers and Other Grain-Based Alcoholic beverages for a better idea about Wild Yeast Beers and both wild or cultured ferments for breads, beverages and just about anything else. It’s most likely Tonga. Amazing the things you can find in the US today as the movement to reclaim traditional practices of fermentation, farming and existing (Sandor calls us Cultural Revivalists) are in as pitched a battle against homogeneity (dominance of one strain) and the elimination of everything that might get in the way of tax revenues or corporate interests as are the microbes in the Dead Sea. Every type and variation of Curd and Kurd is a treasure that we cannot let be destroyed as quickly (or at all) despite the ongoing destruction local fermentation practices and cultures by warring religions, corporations, and tribes.

“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

Getting a Rise and Good Taste from Baking (with little or no salt)

The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.

Reducing salt levels and still getting a rise from baked goods – but not in your blood pressure, or with an increased risk of peripheral edema (swollen hands, feet, etc.), or with portal hypertension consequences – is actually very, very easy. You could replace the egg and milk with flax seeds and or applesauce and or a little cooked room temperature slow cooked grain milk. Remember that most of the salt in eggs is in the whites (where most of the protein is as well) and that the fat soluble vitamins and minerals in egg yolks are plentiful and tasty too!

You could make an incredibly good no sodium chocolate cake using a sourdough starter or salt free baking powder and baking soda together. Watch out for sodium in any form of chocolate, an already fermented food like coffee It should not really be there but many companies very often add it. And if you really know your stuff you could seek out the ashes of the right trees and use them to make things rise. In a chocolate cake the color wouldn’t be so not what you are used to. I’m going to start a file and write a piece on how to get things to rise, puff, swell and expand – and even brown – without the use of salt or eggs. Almost all of the salt in an egg is in the white, anyway.

Part II – Using natural wild ferments, yeasts and other things in everything from bread baking to wine making and crafting the most amazing Sicilian Gravy (almost salt-free). But first read this book that you will refer to and reread many times over the years. Read a page a day if you are pressed for time. I can’t guaranty that eating egg yolks from fresh eggs will not effect your levels of cholesterol in the blood (plasma levels) – but I don’t think they will – but I can promise you that if you read this book or pieces or paragraphs of it as you will it will change your life.



Diane Kennedy: Ecology and Food


“Indeed, a deep bowl of Nixtamal’s posole (“innocuous” but “pleasant,” Ms. Kennedy said) inspires a reverie on the earthy porkiness of one version she has researched. Traditionally made with a whole pig’s head, she said, each spoonful was unctuous, full of textures of cartilage and fat. “If you didn’t get a piece of ear,” Ms. Kennedy said, it was once considered a slight. “That’s just a bit of old folklore,” she added with a midslurp smile.

That a pig’s ear today may be considered trash is part of what bothers Ms. Kennedy. She is antiwasteful — of plastic bags, animal fat, electricity, water, wild herbs, the power of the sun — and is fond of quoting the speech she gave last summer at MAD Food Camp in Copenhagen. “If you invite me into your kitchen, don’t think the first thing I’m going to look at is your food,” she recited. “I’m going to look at your garbage.”