Asian Ferments Reboot

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One of the most amazing Asian ferments is what most Americans know as sake. Depending of the yeast it is made with, the type and polishing of the rice, the water used and of course the Aspergillus oryzae (koji) used to make it sake varies greatly in taste and style. This Sunday June 10, 2018 in Brooklyn at Brooklyn Kura in Industry City come try some amazing sakes made by the guys at Brooklyn Kura, and representatives from twelve breweries. Twelve, yes. And they will answer all your questions about sake making and enjoyment!  Buy your ticket now.
Mustard Seed, millet, bean tempeh
Tempeh is amazing stuff. If you grind it up well and add it – gently like you’re making fluffy meatballs already – to ground meat or vegan burgers it will reduce the amount of tasty juices from your burgers that drip out especially during grilling. Add nutritional yeast to your vegan burgers and you’ll think you’re eating a cheeseburger. Or use a slice of cheese. Nut cheese even works. You can do the same to your meat burgers as well. Succulence and taste matters.
When I can’t get to my local grocery store and buy some of Barry’s tempeh or another local maker of fantastic tasting tempeh – hey it’s New York City and we speak like a thousand languages or something and have access to these things –  I’ll check out the site below for recipes I forgot I liked when I first tried them, then make my own version. Or one of many recipes I’ve developed over the past few decades for tempeh, typically using something made with koji.
http://www.makethebesttempeh.org/how-to-make-betsys-tempeh.html is my favorite tempeh making site to refer people wanting to start making their own tempeh, or up their game. Betsy’s oat tempeh sausages, although modified with my own touches, are really good. And fast.
Add some miso and ground nuts or lardo to the mix after making the tempeh, and before cooking and you’re set.
Their technique that was invented decades ago is flawless and super easy. I have a few recipes in my upcoming summer release book that I hope any kid or grandparent or busy city dweller anywhere in the USA can throw together in less than 15 minutes using local ingredients.
 Spores kept in fridge are required.
I’ve made up to twenty pounds of koji using their incubator set up, obviously longer than the 22 hours required for their tempeh, but now use an even simpler technique to make koji (Aspergillus oryzae or (こうじ) 麹. No reason why you couldn’t make your own koji though. You could, however, also buy that pre-made. More than a few super easy and fast recipes using already made koji in the book as well.
You don’t have to pasteurize your tempeh, but why not unless you are propagating your own spores. It will last longer and maintain it’s taste. You could freeze it as well. Portion it out before freezing if you find that convenient. Defrost in fridge.
Be careful if making spores is your goal. Aflatoxins are no joke. I don’t recommend doing that when pure spores of R.oligosporus and mixes with R.oryzae are so easy to find. I find R.oryzae better suited for other purposes than tempeh, especially if this is your first time around the block. But in the hands of our friend Jeremy Umansky and amazing team in Cleveland he’s probably working the capabilities of that subspecies quite well.
If you are looking for the Neurospora intermedia var. oncomensis spores that produce brilliant red looking products like the bacon and meat looking tempeh types, why not just buy or make some great tempeh and season it? If you’ve never tasted oncomm, made with these spores, you won’t miss the taste. I used to be able to buy it up the street near the UN where a vendor sold it and other unbelievable things sometimes no longer available in their country of origin.
Tempeh spores from here are good and cheap: https://www.tempehstartershop.com These are the ones typically sold on other sites at a higher price.
I really like these spores a lot, however, because they do the high science, organic stuff . https://tempehsure.com/product/tempehsure-organic-tempeh-starter-culture/
Not that the other ones will either, depending on what you are making your tempeh out of and if your follow good rules of safety. But if there isn’t R.oligosporus in it, I won’t touch it unless I know the chef. And she or he really knows their science and cooking.
My very dear old friend Sandor Katz whose book The Art of Fermentation is now routinely cited by scientific researchers throughout the world and Mara Jane King and their truly inspiring series that my Dad and I have watched every episode of five times now because it’s really that good – and free to watch – and why shouldn’t caregiving be fun and instructive for everyone involved fit that category.
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Our spicy fermented lime sauce goes very well with pan fried tempeh with shallots.
This article in The Cleaver Quarterly really nails it. Beautiful, stunning work!
Like the people that will be at this incredible event on July 14th, 2018. that’s July 14th friends!
Come see me and Mara Jane King of Ozuke where she also sells their tasty goods throughout the country, Rich Shih of Our Cook Quest , Ann Yonetani of nyrture.com  and Harry Rosenbloom of the radical cooking school amongst other things at The Brooklyn Kitchen, . There are also several other panels and hours of movies and food and an incredible after party all for $15.
We’ll have quite a few samples comfort foods you’ll swear you’ve had before and love. But you really haven’t. July 14th, 2018 – movies, food, art, discussion, and party!

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Corn Koji

Corn in the process of being inoculated with Aspergillus oryzae or koji (こうじー麹) It’s a pretty high maintenance process. The corn is not nixtamalized for this go around. This will be ground into masa or made into miso or a dessert. Hopefully a book will be ready by an upcoming forum.

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Finished corn koji needs to be quickly used, or chilled down and dried

When we make corn based horchata we typically nixtamalize the corn with which we make corn amasake, our horchata base, but not the koji. In a pinch you could use rice or oat koji. We always sour some out to a pulque type drink using some thick cooking water and yeast.

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Home after a very long journey with a cold corn cooking liquid based Khao Mahk, a fermented Thai dessert (or beverage when we make it). No rice in this version, though.

After soaking the corn, and other grains, we typically pressure steam large amounts in an 8 quart steamer. Why such a small steamer? We reuse the steaming water until the final water is almost a thickened sauce. Many of the things you can do with this corny, carbohydrate rich liquid will surprise you. There are several recipes in the book.

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Corn koji sporulating at day four

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 koji@earthlink.net ありがとうございます!

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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.

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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 culturesgroup.net

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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:

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