Fiery Ferments

We won’t even try to say we didn’t already love our friends Kirsten and Christopher Shockey of ferment.works (National Tour Dates) but getting this book has been the best thing that has happened in the last year.

This is a really good basic cookbook and primer on fermentation for professional chefs, cooks, farmers, fermenters, and institutions like libraries, schools, and community centers that would greatly benefit from what this book includes. It’s way more than about hot sauce.

Kirsten and Christopher Shockey bring something that makes this book a real treasure for professional chefs, cooks and food lovers whether they are working from a home or local farm community: they have actually made the things in this book before and they detail every step that takes place. In some cases that can be up to a year! Fear not, though, They and the people that created this work know us well enough to provide some quick recipes and some clever workarounds.

The introduction by one of our long time heroines Darra Goldstein is enough for us to snap any book up. But we already loved the Shockey’s last book as much as we loved Professor Goldstein’s books (obviously the ones on Russian and Georgian foods as well as Cured. We love that this book includes reference to some of the lactofermented foods we’ll include in our in progress book, Sour Russian (2019), but that’s just a few of some truly unique recipes.

Kirsten’s Banana Story following a recipe for fried bananas with a pineapple habanero syrup tells you where she comes from, and the underlying celebration of culture and living that is as wonderful and bracing for multiple reasons in the recipes for hot ferments, pepper facts, and spice lore.

If you don’t like fire you could substitute any hot pepper with a sweet one, or even a semi-dried cucumber or zucchini when your garden demands you do so. The fact that the book brings a probiotic, lactofermented approach to many classics and some really cool inventions at the same time demonstrates a belief we chefs, fermenters, and health conscious people believe. Eat locally, sustainably and real food with nutrient rich quality whenever you can.

Fermentation as preservation is one of the ways that can be accomplished. It’s the ultimate lagniappe of eating great tasting food! Want some great ideas on how to make tempeh, tofu, grains, toast and even homemade sausages explode with flavor? It’s in this book that is also available a a paperback or Kindle book at Amazon and all these places!

The peppers and spice background and technique sections would have made this book indispensable without a single recipe. But if spicy food is your thing the Extinguishing the Fire in the Sauces chapter – another brilliant reference section for any chef or fermenter – is the most useful thing you’ll read on the subject. Because unless you are in a professional, well equipped kitchen you won’t be able to stick you head in a vat of frozen, syrupy vodka in a walk in freezer.

This also seems to be the year of rhubarb the vegetable and super pickle especially chutney ingredient. Their rhubarb or cucumber achar recipes are absolutely thrilling. The absolute best step by step recipe on how to make gochujang we’ve ever read – a riff on Emily Kim’s @maangchi recipe from her book – as well as a clever 2 to 3 week hot fix very similar to an old style Chinese fermented wheat paste based sauce.

There is so much more. It’s just the right time of the year in the US to get ready to eat and enjoy! Buy this book now! It’s truly one of those rare books that chefs and home cooks will have on hand and at hand for years to come.

Reviewed by Chef Ken Fornataro of culturesgroup.net

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.

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

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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.