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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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


culturesgroup

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.

http://www.culturesgroup.net
E-mail: culturesgroup@earthlink.net
https://www.facebook.com/groups/culturesgroup/
Twitter: @culturesgroup
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Instagram @culturesgroup
http://www.culturesgroup.net

Miso Making with 麹

So we finally got some assistance on our three most important projects! The researching, writing and publishing of our first three books: Sour Russian, Swallow and Fish 麹 . Yes, of course we would still welcome dedicated volunteers to assist us! We need lawyers and fundraisers and social media assistance and research and writing help!

There are also quite a few people we would like to interview for all three of our publications. But there is now a co-author with Chef Ken Fornataro for Sour Russian, and several new dedicated volunteers to the team. That’s a big deal.

Our second book that we hope to introduce at the Berkshire Fermentation Festival, Fish 麹, is perhaps the most research and microbiology oriented. But the objective of this book is to not only make chefs and cooks and others comfortable with making and using koji for various purposes but also to feel well equipped with an accurate microbiological background for what they are doing.

There are quite a few new Aspergillum oryzae A.orzae experts expounding on the internet that have very little scientific knowledge. We are working to provide the definitive guide to koji (麹) and fish but always welcome trained scientists or interested students!

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So follow us here or anywhere @culturesgroup and volunteer if you like.

どうぞありがとございます!And help us learn Japanese (nihongo)!

IMG_8878 Two year old miso opened for the first time in a year. Fish 麹 Looking good! Ready at the end of summer!

Junmaidaiginjo tane-koji

We wanted to see what would happen if we tried to make this small portion of a very large batch of koji made from extremely polished rice (78% of the bran and outer layer removed) which is 1% more than the absolutely brilliant Dassai 23. Started to sporulate but don’t yet know what will happen since we are testing different humidity and temperatures. So if any koji makers out there are reading what temperature would you try to sporulate at? Have you ever tried with extremely polished rice?

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Koji

img_6884Culturesgroup started out Aspergillum (notably A.oryzae) experiments last November 2016 and it seems we haven’t stopped yet. Nor do we plan to. We’re looking at different rice strains, different semibuai rates (polishing) different inoculation temperatures and preparation techniques. img_6885img_6888

One of our recently finalized dried koji based powders. This one lasts for at least 9 months on the shelf, a typical test for the stability of drug candidates as reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). What can be done with this and other forms of koji is the topic of one of the books we are currently writing with the goal of distributing it for free or at cost.
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