Almost everything we bake, brew cook or ferment contains one or more microbes. Bacteria, yeasts, fungus and other fermented products that already contain microbes (like miso, milk kefir, and vinegar) work exceptionally well in and with baked goods.
Even if you set aside the yeasts common in bread baking, we almost always use shio-koji instead of salt, milk kefir or amasake instead of milk, and often lacto-fermented fruits,vegetables and even grains in baking.
Muffins and tea breads are basically are usually the same batter baked in different size baking pans. Obviously a bigger pan means a longer baking time, maybe 45 minutes as opposed to 30 minutes at 350F for the 8 big muffins that this recipe makes.
Our rules of muffin making as well as tea breads are simple.
The batter should be just barely mixed
The batter should be on the wetter side
Never fill a pan more than two thirds full
Add 1 tsp baking soda with the dry ingredients
Mix ins like nuts go with dry ingredients
Fruits and/or flavored essences or sauces go with wet stuff
Don’t mix in wet fruits or ferments until the end if color maters
Let muffin batter rest and puff up before spooning into cups
The recipe for these muffins pretty much follow the standard muffin ratio that every baker has memorized. Butter by weight equals sugar by weight. That combined weight is the weight of the flour. It’s also the weight in whatever measurement system you are using in liquid. In most cases add-ins like nuts or berries should never exceed in volume the sugar or flour volume.
Because we add a fermented or microbe inclusive ingredient to our baked goods – typically of a lower, acidic pH – we always add baking soda with the powder. Sourdough leavened muffins follow a different procedure based on bakers ratios that we’ll explain in another post.
8 ounces or 1 1/2 cups or 236 grams all purpose flour or other
4 ounces or 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar or other
2 tsp baking powder
4.3 ounces or 1 cup or 124 grams roasted chopped walnuts
3.1 ounces or 1/2 cup or 90 grams bittersweet chocolate chips/chunks
1.2 ounces or 2 TB or 32 grams shio-koji (or 1 tsp salt)
8 ounces or 3/4 cup or 230 grams rice amasake (or nut or dairy milk)
1 TB vanilla (or chocolate extract or mirin or soy sauce)
4.5 ounces or 2 extra large or 126 grams eggs (or two vegan eggs)
5 ounces or 1/2 cup or 156 grams dark maple syrup
4 ounces or 1/2 cup or 112 grams roasted walnut oil (or butter/oil)
Preheat oven to 350F.
Have bottom shelf ready for one or two muffin tins.
Prepare the tins with grease or just paper linings.
Struffoli is a traditional Italian holiday sweet that has many names and different regional variations. My grandmother used to make a very simple, tasty, and crispy version by rolling out tiny balls of dough that were fried in light olive oil until golden brown. Then they were covered with honey and colored sprinkles.
My version is fermented like Chinese noodles were thousands of years ago, made with garbanzo bean flour, and topped with lactofermented sour cheeries steeped in honey cooked to the soft ball stage with a traditional Japanese umeboshi (apricot) liquor. I made these recently and my family would not touch them.
They are very tasty, gluten free, and when made with a pasta maker and a sharp knife very easy. They don’t have the same crisp crunch or taste of her dozen eggs, five pounds of flour recipe, but only a fool would try to replicate the different treasures made by their grandmother.
2 1/2 cups (300 grams) chickpea flour
1/4 cup (48 grams) milk kefir
1 tsp shio-koji (or salt)
1 TB vanilla
Ferment in refrigerator for 48 hours, then add:
1 TB baking powder
1/4 cup Haiga rice bran or rice flour
3 TB refined coconut oil
1 tsp Xanthan gum, guar gum, agar or tapioca starch
Refrigerate another 24 hours. Either roll out thickly, or put through the thickest setting of a pasta machine. You could also make thick spaghetti or thick flat pasta and cut the strands into little pieces about a quarter inch thick. Refrigerate to harden.
Fry until golden in two batches of 350F light olive oil. Drain. Let them cool as with all gluten free items before tasting or transporting. Coat with pre-made honey Choya (plum liquor) sauce.
1/2 cup (78 grams) sour dried cherries
1/2 cup (118 grams) honey
1/2 cup (92 grams) water
1/4 cup of Choya that has been boiled down to a quarter of it’s volume.
When the syrup reaches the soft ball stage – it will look very much thicker – and is foaming remove from heat and pour on warm dough and mix. Caution this is very hot sugar! Mold into a ring or mound. Toasted blanched almond slices can be added.
We are having our last #KojiFest2019 event and the first #Zymes2020 event at Fifth Hammer Brewing in Long Island City on December 16th, 2019. You must pre-register for the event.
In the meantime, we will be publishing this 16 part series about how to make koji and extract it’s enzymes, and how to use what the koji is made on – a substrate – directly in brewing or baking or miso or sauce making.
You can also use koji in it’s extracted form as well as a whole substrate such as koji grown on rice to make pickles, sake, shoyu koji, amasake and more.
Please like this post if you do. Feel free to comment or suggest or offer correct. Thanks!
Enzymes serve two roles. They break down things such as tiny bits of food that you eat into smaller things. Or they combine smaller things like the amino acids from proteins into bigger things. Enzymes make possible every vital function of living things. Sometimes enzymes already exist in living things like your gut.
But most times they are used process things into food or drinks. Without the enzymes in malted barley, for example, it’s unlikely that either bread nor bread would exist as they do today.
Enzymes from koji have been used in European and American food manufacturing for at least 100 years now. We will get into what they have sometimes been combined with (other microbes, yeasts, techniques).
They are very safe to use, but you must be careful when handling them. Anything that can tear through grains or the muscles of animals should not be handled carelessly (see below).
“Curiously enough this tiny and important hustler has scarcely attracted attention in the Occident, and this fact made me determine to work for it’s introduction to industrial use in the United States”
This quote is from a paper printed in 1914 in The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry (Vol.6, No.10). The author is Jokichi Takamine. He’s talking about koji (A.oryzae).
One of the things he was trying to do was to address the concerns of brewers and maltster – the people that make sprouted grain malt for beer – about the cost of the ingredients to create diastatic enzymes. The price of barley could vary. considerably from season to season. He had earlier filed a patent in the US to do so, “in a process not hitherto practiced”. He succeeded.
On February 23, 1894, a patent was filed in the US : “The object of this invention is to prepare and manufacture diastatic enzyme, or soluble ferment in a concentrated form which possesses the power of transforming starch into’ sugar for use in various industries, by a process not hitherto practiced, and in a very economical and practical manner.
My invention is based upon the utilization of the property possessed by certain fungi during their growth on proper media of producing diastatic enzyme.“
Typically, barley was malted. Malting creates diastatic enzymes. But Takamine thought of using something that was pretty much being thrown away, yet which could produce way more diastatic power and be less perishable.
Despite some violent outbursts suspected to have come from the maltsters at the time afraid of losing both money and their businesses, the brewing and food manufacturing industries in in the US ultimately adopted the use of enzymes, sometimes malt from barley or other grains for beer, but overwhelmingly from fungal enzymes from Aspergillus in baking, food processing and medicine.
Today both brewing supply houses and enzyme companies sell specific enzymes from many fungus, molds, even bacteria but different types of Aspergillus (koji) are used extensively throughout the world.
Takamine’s substance became an amazingly useful drug used to help people digest food. Enzymes are a very big deal. You can make your own as described below, but be aware that a small microbrewing operation can very quickly become larger than the brewing or refrigeration or heating capacity of your space.
How to Make Takadiastase
5 gallon container
2 1/4 pounds (1024 grams) wheat bran
3 gallons lukewarm water (9000 grams)
1/2 cup (138 grams) coarse 100% NaCl salt
Aspergillus oryzae spores (1 gram pure spores)
Taka-Diastase is made with Aspergillus oryzae, the hardest working fungus in the world. It is made on wheat bran. We milled off the bran from winter wheat berries – they have tasty bran, but other types of wheat brans work well – but you can buy it in sizes from one to 50 pounds.
We suggest you start off with 2 and 1/4 pounds (1024 grams) of wheat bran. Remember that wheat bran is unlike wheat berries or even flour. It is typically very light when dry and flies everywhere.
This is especially important when you are about to harvest (or dekoji) your finished Taka-Diastase. Unlike, say, rice koji, you have to consider how to reduce the temperature without fans after a certain point.
As the temperature decreases and it dries out, fans will blow it everywhere. I recommend either using wood that can absorb a lot of water – when you reduce the heat of something the water will either evaporate in the air or soak into whatever it is on.
We often use lots of cloths when making bean or rice koji. Whatever you chose, be prepared to have lots of cloth changes or at least one other wooden to container to transfer the koji into as it dries.
Unless you are going to use it almost as soon as it is finished – we sometimes have a salt brine ready to throw prepared koji into while still warm – you have to dry it out. Otherwise, it will continue to grow.
And a moist pile of amino acids are a feast for all the wild microbes that hang out in the air.
Did any of this seem complicated or overwhelming? Most people don’t ever make their own koji. You can easily buy it. In 35 pound boxes rice koji can be quite reasonably priced.
But if you only want to make a pound or two of koji, it’s cheaper making it yourself. You can also buy the powdered enzymes. But here are basic guidelines to make any type of koji. (Part ii, next post.)
How to Make Koji
Prepare the substrate – with wheat bean that means rinsing well and soaking up to 24 hours with salt. If this were rice, you might have to mill it down then let it rest so the grains didn’t break, but this is bran. Sometimes we use lactic acid or vinegar when making beans, but always salt for wheat bran. We use 1/2 cup (138 grams) of coarse sea salt that we thoroughly mix into the soaking bran. We stir the bran frequently from the bottom while soaking, as you would do every day if you were making a soy sauce or amino sauce or even a quick miso. Bran expands differently than grains or beans. It will try to hang out at the top. Keep pushing it down while stirring.
Regulate moisture content – anything that you are making koji on, especially dried starch as in rice or other grains, needs to contain enough water (moisture content) so that when steamed it will gelatinize. After soaking you could weigh your bran or whatever. For wheat bran we want a 35% higher weight. Rice? Nowhere near that. 20% is enough. The amount of time you soak is extremely important. With beans you absolutely have to soak and sometimes even change soaking water several times to rid them of their water soluble anti-nutritional factors (phytates, etc.) for 12 or preferably 24 hours. Polished rice for a few hours at most. You want your substrate to absorb water to start the process of changing it’s structure.
Dry your substrate. In this case wheat bran. How? We use cloths. Use whatever you like. You could use a dehydrator. We use cloths. Careful of all the bran that will stick to them. And always have strainers on hand when rinsing anything to prevent clogged drains. Again, don’t ever just pour soaking water, unstrained, down a drain. You will regret it.
Steam. The reason you soaked, then dried your substrate was to get water into the center so that your starch would be gelatinized. When that happens during steaming the structure does change. It allows the fungus to have a feast on the substrate. Steam your wheat bran for an hour or two. Make sure it gets steamed evenly. With anything we steam we use steaming liners that we roll things around in to ensure even cooking. You want the steam to penetrate the center and get trapped there as it cools down. That’s why boiling can be problematic. Beans are a different deal. Make sure your steaming water does not run out and burn your pot.
Dry after steaming. Fungus loves water. Especially surface water. It’s a free lunch. They won’t bother to work for the starches and proteins inside your substrate because why would then when they don’t have to? Put them to work. If you want the enzymes to break down sugars (saccharification) or proteins (proteolysis) you want them to work hard. Otherwise, you’re just wasting substrate while making a weak product.
Dry further. Some people will use fans or even a warm oven to dry off their steamed substrate. With wheat bran, again with the cloths. Careful of how you deal with the stuff that gets stuck on the cloths. Again, use strainers. If you intend to wash the cloths afterwards, soak them in a big tub of water that you strain after lifting the cloths out of like you would get the sand off of lettuce leaves or greens. If they are still wet you could first use fans then throw the drier bran into the oven to get the heat back up but then it’s getting a little more complicated. Especially if you don’t have an oven.
Choose spores. The golden rule of koji making is 1000:1. That is for every kilo of substrate (wheat, rice, corn, soybeans or grits, potatoes, etc.) you need a gram of koji spores. Sometime you mix different types of spores. The more spores you use the faster it will create a mycelial mat. The more expensive it will be as well. If you have two gallons of cooked, dried off substrate, a half teaspoon of pure spores is fine. Use more if you like and are impatient. Spores mixed with something else rewire at least a teaspoon per two gallons. Follow the instructions on pre-mixed spores.
Prepare Spores. Some people like to mix their spores with a filler or extender. It can be corn starch, or ground rice or cassava flour or something popularly toasted to kill of heat intolerant microbes. For Taka-Diastase we usually use a large amount of filler. Bran typically holds water on it’s surface, more so than rice or beans when not overcooked. We will use lots of ground up toasted wheat bran or even some wheat we had milled to adjust the water content and allow us to evenly distribute the spores.
Add filler or not. You’ll be changing the cloths or wood pretty often anyway with brans – corn and rice bran koji is made the same way as wheat bran koji – but you really want to get as much water off before hand as possible. Adding a filler allows you to distribute spores more evenly in water substances. With rice or drier beans it’s up to you.
Apply Spores. For rice koji, we just dump the spores directly into a bundle of rice when the temperature is around 98F temperature and shake and roll. If your substrate is dry, you don’t need to go into any ritual spore shaking process. You want to disperse the spores as best you can into your substrate. It’s harder if there is too much water. Sometime you have no choice, but that’s advanced koji making. If the substrate is in a nice setting, you can let the entire thing rest a half hour before bundling up.
Prepare your temperature for Proteins like beans. If you got caught up on the prepare your setting part it’s because you didn’t prepare it ahead of time. Koji doesn’t not appreciate rudeness. Nobody mistreats baby and gets away with it. Koji can grow from between 80F and 105F. Aim for 90F, and if you hang out at 85F or 95F you’ll be okay. An 85F temp will grow more protein degrading enzymes like proteases for beans, fish, meat and nut based things.
Prepare your temperature for Starches like rice or brans. Rice for shio koji or amasake or sake or things that you really care more about creating glucoamylase or amylase or other enzymes to break down starch into simpler sugars like it hotter. 95F is fine. 100F is also fine is you are ready to get the heat down when it starts to take off, usually around 18 hours. At that point all most people will be trying to do is to get the heat below 95F unless they are not using a very precisely controllable heat source. That kojimata territory that involves machines and air vents and fans and sophisticated control techniques that most home koji makers should not have to concern themselves with. Keep it small.
Humidity Control. Unless you are making your koji in a rapidly changing environment where it could get really dry quickly, bundling your koji well during it’s first 12 hours is enough. If your substrate is properly dried and most of the water is in the center you don’t have to worry about evaporation or dryness. Home koji makers just bundle their koji up well. We use kitchen safe plastic or thick water resistant cloth to keep the moisture in and protect from drying.
Wetness Check. After the first twelve hours and your first redistribution of the koji – you will have to change the cloths for wheat bran or beans or if the koji looks at all wet – unbundle and let a little more air get at your koji. It loves oxygen. Not cold air though. And not wet air. You should notice something going on. It should not look or feel wet. Cover with a very slightly moist towel if you are concerned about drying out. (Part 2 in next post, but before we go:)
The Awesome Power of Koji
There is actually a large body of evidence on why bread and pastry bakers, farmers, and koji growers must be very careful about both inhaling aspergillus spores, as well as getting it on their skin. We will talk about that as well during the year long series, just remember to always wears gloves and masks when dealing with enzymes.
It makes sense that something with the power to break down meat, fish, or very hard grains would be something to treat with caution. Sometimes things that are obvious to someone working in a professional, including the pharmaceutical industry and food manufacturing industries where Aspergillus and enzymes are used extensively, are not well known or made public.
Please be careful when handling enzymes created by anything, either from a sprouted grain or a fungus. Here are is a very small sample of some of the things that can happen when inhaling spores or enzymes from Aspergillus oryzae. As in the koji we are describing how to make.
Valdivieso, R & Subiza, Jose & Hinojosa, Mariel & Carlos, E & Subiza, E. (1994). Baker’s asthma caused by alpha amylase. Annals of allergy. 73. 337-42. Abstract: Two bakers with bronchial asthma and two with rhinoconjunctivitis are described. Prick and RAST tests were positive with wheat flour in all of them, but the challenge test (nasal or bronchial) with wheat flour extract was positive only in one asthmatic baker. The prick test, RAST, and nasal or bronchial challenge done with alpha amylase extract (a glycolytic enzyme obtained from Aspergillus oryzae and used as a flour additive) were positive in all four patients. Our results support previous data indicating that alpha amylase used in bakeries is an important antigen that could cause respiratory allergy in bakers. It can function as sole causative allergen or in addition with other allergens used in the baking industry.
Sharma BB, Singh S, Singh V. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis: the dug-well lung. Allergy Asthma Proc 2013;34:e59–64.
Gerfaud-Valentin M, Reboux G, Traclet J, et al. Occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis in a baker: a new cause. Chest 2014;145:856–8.
RSVPs for this event are this Saturday. You must go to the Eventbrite link to register. There are limited spaces left for this event.
As we go along each post will present a single concept or idea. But we do request you read these posts, and comment or ask questions! No one knows everything. In fact few people really know anything useful other than the answers to your questions. So ask !
Always soak your beans in water or perhaps another liquid. Sometimes for days. Dumping out the water and adding clean, cold water.
Remember you can always rinse your soaked beans with clean water and refrigerate, or even freeze them. For days at a time. Life happens, you know?
Again, change liquid frequently with fresh, typically colder liquid to avoid spoilage and souring. Don’ tlet critters get into them!
Beans are absolutely amazing sources of protein, fiber, minerals and pre- and probiotic substances.
Just like you wouldn’t eat a cow or a dog or a frog without doing something to it to make it edible and palatable, you must treat beans the same way.
No properly treated or fermented bean, especially soy, has ever created disease or created a hormonal imbalance although it is possible you might have a soybean allergy. That’s completely different from being unable to digest badly treated beans of any kind. No one can.
Scientists have been studying beans for thousands of years. Unless you are a food microbiologist, it’s extremely unlikely you know anything about what they know. It will blow you away. We will show you!
We are going to offer recipes using new knowledge. Easy recipes that are tasty and nutritious. You don’t need to be a scientist. You don’t need to make ten gallons of miso or soy sauce at a time!
If you are cooking you have to get some type of scale that measures weight, preferably in grams. We will explain why.
If you don’t like the taste of something don’t eat it!
Always remember, though, some people have no choice but to eaat what is local or available to them.
Ask questions! Be patient for a response, even if you are making donations to support our work. We’ll get to you.
Beans. Seriously. It is virtually impossibly to actually catalog all the different varieties of members of the bean family – Fabaceae – but recently there has been a resurgence in interest in them as a source of sustainable protein and calories.
With the cyclical, seemingly every hundred years craze in all things fermented and preserved, coupled with the never ending search for cultural, ethnic or racial association, beans have been exposed as the constant.
As has the need fort every generation to claim something that was created by their predecessors as their own, typically, nowadays, out of laziness, lack of research, and new packaging and marketing motives.
Although many group of people may be more associated with a specific grain like rice or corn or wheat, they all have their bean compadres. It’s a brilliant and beautiful thing. There are thousands and thousabds of years of documented traditiona and science, now, attached to all of this.
Recent scientific and technological advances have helped it along, with both many of the tools and all of the science readily available to cooks, chefs and adventurous artisans. Our goal is to just give basic recipes and techniques. When given the opportunity a self respecting chef, cook, tradesman and most definitely scientist gives credit to many other people than themselves.
At a time when the very act of writing anything basically meant making paper and using ink and some instrument to write down every word – in this case kanji – by hand was an amazing feat in and of itself. We should pause for a moment and give thanks to our elders and those who came before us several thousands of years ago.
Thousands of years before the creation of miso soup, a very traditional and common Japanese dish made with a bean paste that is eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner by millions of people daily, the Chinese had figured out that when hard times hit or you had too feed a very large number of people, beans performed ideally.
In fact, the whole concept of alchemy derived from the Chinese concept of treating beans as a form of medicine that could perform amazing things – especially helping people to survive.
The most amazing medical applications of beans, and cooking and farming texts of thousands of years ago still exist. We’re going to go through them all, with an eye towards why you should take notice.
We will include pictures and recipes for things you could make, or at least use as the starting point for your open special cuisine. On a small scale, though, let’s say for a group or family of four.
There are thousands of references and even textbooks on how industrialized products such as koji or tempeh or jiangs or soy sauce or miso are made.
We highly recommend going to www.soyinfocenter.com if you intend to be one of those producers. But even the small guys willing to read will greatly benefit from anything listed, or described by Shurtleff and Akiko. No reading, no gain.
The last time I saw my friend Ken Albala I had him sign my Beans book. The book is a treasure. It goes through volumes and volumes of literature and research and turns it into a fun to read book. You can still buy it online and in bookstores. It’s still worth reading not just because it’s an excellent foldaways book, but a kind of an abstract of other books.
We’ll get into all those as well, but in digestible pieces that don’t leave you yearning for machines you will most likely never have access to. We’ll tell you how to make things just as good without them.
Today is Indigenous People’s Day in the Americas, and the indigenous people of the Southeastern part of the US or what was really a huge land mass called the Americas taken care of by tribal governments and societies, the beans they cultivated and pass along should be the focus of today’s celebrations.
Rereading some passages today about Christopher Columbus and what exactly he brought to the Americas and why he set out in the first place is a sobering experience.
“Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians, and princes who love and promote the holy Christian faith, and are enemies of the doctrine of Mahomet, and of all idolatry and heresy, determined to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the above-mentioned countries of India, to see the said princes, people, and territories, and to learn their disposition and the proper method of converting them to our holy faith; and furthermore directed that I should not proceed by land to the East, as is customary, but by a Westerly route, in which direction we have hitherto no certain evidence that any one has gone.
So after having expelled the Jews from your dominions, your Highnesses, in the same month of January, ordered me to proceed with a sufficient armament to the said regions of India, and for that purpose granted me great favors, and ennobled me that thenceforth I might call myself Don, and be High Admiral of the Sea, and perpetual Viceroy and Governor in all the islands and continents which I might discover and acquire, or which may hereafter he discovered and acquired in the ocean; and that this dignity should be inherited by my eldest son, and thus descend from degree to degree forever. ” The Diaries of Christopher Columbus
Ken’s book touches on so many of the really important issues that the history of beans includes, including this absolutely brilliant summary about why al the resistance to soybeans people express might be nonsense. That is not to say, however, that some people don’t actually have soybean allergies. Proteins can have that effect.
But properly soaking and fermenting soybeans – the next post is all about making soy and other bean kojis – can quite dramatically reduce or eliminate those concerns.
Ken Albala gets into it in a precise one paragraph description in his book:
“The importance of fermenting soybeans was not only a matter of preservation. Although they could not have known this, fermentation counteracts the anti-nutritionalfactors present in soy. Soybeans contain what are called trypsin inhibitors, which prevent the pancreas from producing a digestive enzymes important in breaking down protein.
Raw or improperly cooked soybeans can also cause an enlarged pancrease; they inhibit growth and lead to cancerous tumors. Phytic acid present in soybeans also hinders the absorption of iron and zinc, which are necessary for the proper function of the nervous system
The phytates essentially fuse with the metal ions, including calcium, forming compounds that pass directly through the digestive tract unchanged. Fermentation destroys these toxins and the enzymes involved in the process also break down soy making it more digestible, and in a sense pre-cooking them so they require less fuel.
In other words, fermenting soybeans not only made them more interesting and tasty, but also provided a range of more nutritious foods that could support a large population.”
The book, Beans, also treats a few other subjects really well. Including how Italians in different parts of Italy made their famous and fabulous fagioli – with recipe – and not only the story of Tepiary Beans, but of the indigenous people’s whose day we celebrate.
You could even buy it on Kindle right now here. Although unless you are using canned beans – even soybeans- soaking them must be done properly!
About Ken Albala and Beans
From the description at Amazon: “Winner of The 2008 Jane Grigson Award, issued by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). Winner of the 2008 Cordon d’ Or Culinary Literature – History Culinary Academy Award. This is the story of the bean, the staple food cultivated by humans for over 10,000 years. From the lentil to the soybean, every civilization on the planet has cultivated its own species of bean. The humble bean has always attracted attention – from Pythagoras’ notion that the bean hosted a human soul to St. Jerome’s indictment against bean-eating in convents (because they “tickle the genitals”), to current research into the deadly toxins contained in the most commonly eaten beans. Over time, the bean has been both scorned as “poor man’s meat” and praised as health-giving, even patriotic. Attitudes to this most basic of foodstuffs have always revealed a great deal about a society. Beans: A History takes the reader on a fascinating journey across cuisines and cultures.”
Today is my birthday and I have a few things to say. Mostly everything I want to convey on this year’s birthday – September 15th – has all been said before in Nina Simone’s song “Feelin Good” At least the attitude part.
The semiotics or foodways start of a new year follows. As will the recipes that depend on understanding a few basic concepts. Although we haven’t yet introduced all of the misos, sauces, amino pastes, pickles, sakes, amasakes, kefirs, brews, yeast and bacteria centric items and baked goods and sweets that we’ve been making over the years, our corn rose miso has been very popular.
We only call it miso because the predecessor of all things made with koji is a word that has never been widely accepted in the English speaking world. Even the word koji is an inadequate translation of the predecessor to the what the original word for koji actually meant.
When the Japanese were gifted the knowledge of how to make and use koji – along with their first system of language – it was done by Chinese buddhists. The reason why so many people have seriously inaccurate ideas of where some things originated, or even that they have existed for thousands of years, is that the Chinese had no need to claim invention of anything.
The Japanese, however, kept repackaging and inventing while creating a hagiography of these things that were really just different versions of Chinese jiang, the predecessor even to the little fermented soybeans named shih or docuhi that many people insist are the actual precursor. Before koji there was jiang. Adding koji to jiang made it even better.
Sometimes the romanticized version of the past has worked well for the Japanese, and other countries to be sure, but other times it has failed miserably. Whoever though of the idea that foreigners would understand thus buy more Japanese sake by calling it rice wine should have been corrected.
The claim that they discovered or invented koji, or that it is endemic to only their country, is just not accurate. Still, the entire world should be extremely grateful to the Japanese for their efforts and inventions, especially Americans, because Japanese scientists including Dr.Takamine’s contributions to several industries in this country have been very significant.
麹 or 米糀 – Aspergillus and friends or pet Aspergillus
But let’s start with the koji, or 麹, since it is what set everything off. 麹 really has little to do with the purified spores (tane-koji) that the Japanese have so brilliantly domesticated. When the Japanese think koji they mean 米糀 (rice koji or come-kouji) or sometimes another subspecies of Aspergillus (mold) grown on barley, millet, sweet potatoes or soybeans.
We’ll get to the Zygomycetes (Rhizopus, Mucor, Rhizomucor), yeasts and bacteria later, but even then it’s really rare that at some point in miso making or shoyu making and ocassionally even sake making they aren’t part of the process. Even if that just means avoiding them at all costs.
You should at least know these things exist. But we’ll try not to get too microbiologist on you unless it really matters.
Su Jiang Rou or Shoyu what?
Many research papers, patent applications, books, journals, PhD theses and extant scrolls – as well as some pretty old oral communications – accurately document the development of mochi koji 麹. The stuff that seems to have taken hold in the minds of Westerners, at least, is bara koji, not mochi koji though.
We are actually partial to the bara koji, because as with sake and a whole lot of other food stuffs and beverages, the original sake was awful. Bara koji helps us to avoid that type of sake entirely. That said, Shanghai yeast balls or Chinese yeasts balls – way closer to the original mochi koji – can make some pretty amazing things.
Furthermore, modern day additives to sake that come from Aspergillus such as A.luchuensis or A. oryzaes and sometimes yeasts, bacteria or microbial enzymes should be welcomed as great things, especially if they help to avoid the industrialized unpalatable swill (増醸酒 ぞうじょうしゅ or Zojoshu) that is produced and consumed in Japan on a widespread basis.
Unblinded by Science
As I recently discussed at a recent meeting of culturesgroup, the invention of s16 rRna technology along with rapid advancements in other ways to quantify very precisely what bacteria and other microbes (yeasts, fungi, etc.) that populate the microbiome of any product have exploded the research into what microbes are in what we eat.
This is not all that new a thing, though, as the romanticizers of traditional methods keep trying to sell their goods. But industry and artesans can now either industrialize or individualize or do some of both when making something like soy sauce or amino sauces or sake with widely accessible ingredients.
Look to the Yeast
When I say there is actually only one thing that is ever created through any type of transformative process like using something to make koji from or add koji to or inoculate with a specific mold or fungus what I mean is that everything is on a continuum, a horizontal progression from ingredient to outcome.
The sokujo style method of making sake – basically just adding lactic acid derived from bacteria to avoid having to create it in what is called a shubo or moto in a time consuming and more expensive way – is almost exactly the same thing as making shoyu and even miso.
If you want to direct tastes or mormi develop look to the yeast. Sometimes, the water minerals or the bacteria, often cadged from a previous batch, do the trick as well.
With the help of amazing new equipment with which we can measure a microbiome (as in the mkicrobiome of a vat of soy sauce) and it’s inhabitants down to the genetic level it makes clear how much respect the artesans that have been making these things for thousands of years deserve.
10 cups/2200 grams steamed yellow grits corn koji (A. sojae)
2 cups/300 grams kosher salt
2 1/2 cups/425 grams ground corn masa koji
2 cups /500 grams water
3 cups/550 grams corn masa, toasted
2 cups/275 grams dark brown roasted corn
1 cup 120F water
Keep at 92F to 100F for two weeks, stirring every day. Cover but not tightly. Then add:
2 cups 120F water
65 grams coarse sea salt
3/4 cup 170 grams non-nixtamalized whole corn koji, ground
After 6 weeks at 92F to 95F (3 to 6 months if at 72F) strain. Use the lees or dregs, if any, for a pickling bed, a moromi type miso, or the base of another shoyu or amino sauce or paste. This should yield a solid gallon.
You could replace all the corn koji with barley koji. or brown rice koji, but still keep the toasted masa and the browned corn.
Resobox, Long Island City, New York, New York (MAP)
Asian ferments like miso, tempeh, shoyu, pickles, amasake and shio koji, and even sake and vinegar, can be made with corn. Chef Ken Fornataro of culturesgroup and Kirsten Shockey of ferment.works will demonstrate how wild and cultured microbes like koji (miso, sake, shio koji), lactobacteria (pickles) and Rhizopus (tempeh, oncom) make tasty, unique and nutritious foods. Class participants will be learning about and tasting:
Caviar Lentil soup with Corn Tempeh croutons
Hokkaido Ramen corn chowder (in red curry broth)
Corn and radish and roasted shrimp kimchi
Hominy and onion salad and pepper salad, corn shoyu dressing
Sweet corn, lavender lemon cornbread
Tomato salad with parsley, corn vinegar, and extra virgin corn oil dressing
Corn shio-koji roasted glazed corn nuts
Corn Amasake Chai (Iced Tea)
Doboroku (country style sake made with corn and rice)
Everyone will receive a bag of corn miso. Depending on seasonal availability we may have to have substitutions for the above dishes, and we may also have some things you can buy to take out:
Eggplant and ginger namemiso, spicy eggplant corn hagosuchizuke (corn koji)
Corn, Raisin, Cinnamon, Molasses and spice corn cookies
Assorted one, two and three year old misos will be for sale during the event, as will as take out bento boxes for those unable to attend class
If you would like to purchase one of the Shockey’s books at the event let us know at email@example.com or order online at https://ferment.works
Ken has been cooking, fermenting and preserving vegetables, seeds, grains, fish and legumes with A. oryzae, yeasts and bacteria since childhood. He was taught traditional Japanese, Chinese and Russian foods, fermentation and preservation techniques to make koji, miso, shoyu, vinegar, sake, jiangs and pickles by Aveline and Michio Kushi, William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, and Jewish and Christian Eastern European immigrants. He is working on a book related to food, fermentation, microbiology and semiotics as Executive Chef for culturesgroup.net
Kirsten and Shockey
Kirsten and Christopher are the co-authors of bestselling Fermented Vegetables, Fiery Ferments, and the new Miso, Tempeh, Natto and other Tasty Ferments books that came from their desires to both help people eat in new ways, both for the health of themselves and the planet. They got their start in fermenting foods twenty years ago on a 40-acre hillside smallholding which grew into their local organic food company. They travel worldwide helping people to learn to make, enjoy and better connect with their food. Their current work is building their relationship with R. oligosporus and R. oryzae and how these fungal ferments interact with grains and legumes to transform our foods for both nourishment and flavor. You can find them at Ferment.Works
Like the Aztecs considered ashes in their corn pots as a blessing, so did the Chinese recognize and make use of the microbial gifts that natured blessed them with. Microbial enzymes make corn’s nutrients available while disarming anti-nutritional factors.
All cultures depend on the ability to metabolize potential food sources. None of this would be possible without the enzymes created by the yeast, fungus and bacteria present in and on corn.
Just as we have learned how to use Potassium or Calcium Hydroxide with corn, Chef Ken Fornataro will describe how corn treated with microbial enzymes from Aspergillus, Rhizopus, and Lactobacteria can make tasty pickles, vinegar, beer, miso, beans, sauces, meat and fish. September 8th at The New School.
Sunday, September 8, 2019
9:00 AM to 3:00 PM
New School, Tishman Auditorium, New York City (Map)
First we sprouted some of our favorite popcorn. Not that popcorn makes great edible sprouts, but it starts the process of making the corn more digestible, tasty, and nutritious. The smell and flavor of corn pops! It makes the miso taste like an ear of buttered, grilled corn. With benefits.
Miso Ingredients are listed below. We have taken our miso making steps and walked you through the process. With pictures and videos. Crusty grits, nixtamilizing sprouted popped corn, and mixing it all up are explained in the videos. Making corn stock, and how to weight the miso down, cover it, and let it ferment are explained in previous posts.
450 grams/3 to 4 cups crusty baked grits (any kind)
1770 grams/2 cups dried organic popcorn that has been sprouted, popped, and nixtamalized
2400 grams/14 to 16 cups koji rice made with Aspergillus oryzae
250 grams/1 cup coarse sea salt
250 ml/1 cup warm brown corn stock
seed miso (optional, up to a cup)
Sprouted corn and popped sprouted corn after being cooked in corn stock with calcium hydroxide (nixtamalized)
Sprouting popcorn is pretty easy to do. But you can actually buy sprouted popcorn from online vendors such as Shiloh Farms, Thrive Market, or at a health food store. Our local supermarket actually carries it as well.
Baking nixtamalized grits until until crusty.
Mix the baked grits, salt, popped and cooked corn together. Mix well.
Mix the Miso
If you plan to do it for the longer 3 to 6 month period add up to 1/10th of the weight of the other ingredients (about a cup) of unpasteurized seed miso. We prefer using mellow white miso. Use a soy free miso if you are trying to avoid soy.
Pack it in.
When packing the miso in keep massaging it, mashing up and corn kernels to prevent having to grind it up later. Weight your miso down after packing the well massaged and supple mix into your container.
This is a pretty quick miso. You can ferment it at 85F for 30 days, then at 72 F for 15 days. Check it after the first week just to be sure everything is okay. Otherwise you could ferment it at 72F for 3 to 6 months.
When you feel it is done, remove some and grind it up. You can even chop it up on a cutting board old school style, or grind it in a mortar or a Japanese suribachi. Remember that you don’t have to grind up all your miso at once. Re-cover it and let it continue to ferment after taking out what you need.
First the corn stock. You can actually make this with half eaten, older, or cosmetically challenged corn and it will still deliver the smell and taste we lust after in corn. If you are using fresh corn save the husks for making tempeh or tamales or little packets of natto if you like.
Corn Stock Recipe
Hack up four ears of raw, sweet corn into two to three inch pieces after shucking and removing the corn silk if it’s still on, then place in an un oiled pan. Bake the corn for 3 or 4 hours.
You could also just brown the pieces very well in a big heavy pot until they were caramelized and dark but not burnt. Or throw them on a hot grill.
Cover with water (6 to 8 cups) and cook for an hour or two on top of the stove, or cook in a pressure cooker – we’re not naming names here – in the same amount of water for 20 minutes. Let cool off and strain. You can also add any well roasted corn kernels to the broth – up to 1/4 cup per 6 cups of water, and strain everything for a richer taste.
Besides using this for our corn misos, breads, rice or bean based breads like idlis and dosas, you can just chill the stock and sweeten it (or not) for iced tea. Or add spices and tea for chai. Use it instead of water or even stock in just about any case you would use water or stock.
Of course you can also use it as a chilled or hot soup base adding whatever you like to it. In any case, this stock is so versatile and tasty and simple consider it as part of your mise-en-place. It lasts for up to a week in the refrigerator. We make it once a day when it’s corn season.
Lots of recipes coming, many presented at one or more of September events we are presenting at, or collaborating with other people and groups to provide.
Just a few of the things you can make with corn:
soy sauce (with or without beans)
and many, many different types of desserts.
If you’ve ever picked the corn tips off newly nixtamalized corn (whole dried dent or field corn treated with potash or more commonly calcium hydroxide or cal) to make pericarp free, homogenized color, hominy it’s easy to see how canned hominy of a very consistent quality, or dried hominy (known as posole by most people) became popular.
A lot of the quality of fresh corn that is available to most consumers depends on how close a local corn field was, and how carefully and coldly fresh picked corn could be transferred to an alert buying public.
Except for a few hard core corn enthusiasts that argued about the perfect timing schemes to seize ears of corn from the fields and throw them into boiling water to get the sweetest, freshest corn, suburban and city folk were pretty much stuck with buying corn from grocery stores. Removing the kernels off the cob and getting just the juicy parts to be sauteed as a vegetable side dish is always a treat. Some places sell fresh, raw corn kernels as well.
For a while, popcorn was the best selling gourmet food item in any state in the country. As you’ll see, it makes a mean sprout that can then be popped, nixtamilized and made into a variety of things such as miso.
You can do a wide variety of things with dried (or freeze dried) sweet corn and field corn. There’s nothing like breaking out a big jar of pickled corn still on the cob or corn relish or chutney in the middle of winter. Our corn miso will make you think you are eating a piece of freshly grilled and buttered corn. Even if you are eating it on an ear of fresh corn in the summer.
We suggest adding some some at the last minute as is recommended with all misos – boiling it destroys the good things about this ferment and dulls the flavor – to a new England Corn Chowder, or spread on a corn based pizza crust topped with roasted garlic, cheese and pickled, charred jalapeños. Yes, recipe on the way.
Corn on the cob is just unavoidable in certain areas. No clam bake or crawdad boil or lobster dinner or barbeque was without corn. Often steamed along with the other ingredients, or cooked straight in salted butter and served as a side with unsweetened corn bread that had been cooked in cast iron in ashes, or dumped right on top of a shrimp gumbo.
Also, the argument about how to best (read properly and socially acceptable) eat corn in public, and whether it was even fair to serve something sure to get stuck in the teeth of well heeled diners made corn on the cob something avoided at formal dining occasions.
A Few Corn Facts
In most areas there are typically two classes of corn sometimes with a few varieties available, sweet corn or field corn. There are other types of corn grown for specific reasons, but most people never see them growing.
Sweet corn is not supposed to dry in the fields if it is meant to be eaten as sweet corn. Racoons and other corn eaters like coatimundi would never let that happen, anyway. Pumpkins with prickly vines, pole beans and tall sweet corn can be an effective deterrent. As can dogs.
Field corn was always yellower, grew taller, left on the cob to somewhat dry out for easier processing like a lot of grains, and a lot of fun to play in. When field corn is really dry it has indents or recessions on the top that are created as the corn loses moisture.
That’s also why it was sometimes called dent corn. If you get it before it is that dry it’s edible and tasty, just not as sweet and juicy as sweet corn.
But all corn is good. Big thanks to the Mississippians and other Native America tribes that created entire societies in what is now called the United States around corn. Pretty sure Vermont would be just green mountains had corn not been amenable to the cold climate there.
At one of our monthly forums we had lots of already cooked, organic Carolina Gold rice leftover. We also had lots of soybean pulp, or okara, leftover from making tofu.
Okara has a large amount of protein that like other beans and grains and seeds makes a tasty miso. Remember protein equals amino acids equals umami so throwing away protein is just crazy.
Those are the times you are glad you have 2 or 3 kilos of koji hanging out in your refrigerator, or in a cool cupboard or larder. You can, however, cut this recipe down to just a quarter of the called for ingredients, and even substitute whatever type of koji you have for the millet koji.
Those are also the times you are glad you have a scale to weigh out your ingredients, because with leftovers it’s really unlikely you just happen to have exactly the right amounts of any ingredient. If, for example, you need 2564 grams of ground koji, and you have some millet koji and some rice koji and some corn koji in different amounts what happens if that comes to 4356 grams of koji?
LIke shio koji, miso is typically made using a ratio of ingredients. Again, salt drives the proportion of the other ingredients in your miso. You really have to weigh your salt carefully. Because the amount of salt you use determines how long you should ferment your miso.
Even if you vary the amount of koji you use because you want it to be sweeter or be ready quicker, salt will determine whether that is achievable regardless pf what you use to make your miso.
Koji may be the driving force behind your ferments, but salt makes sure the road is clear, steers the car, and, and determines which microbial passengers get in or out of the car during the journey.
Determine beforehand where you are going so that you how much salt you need to get there. There are maps and calculations involved. Here is what you need for this miso.
We’ll go over the calculations afterwards. Because miso don’t play when it comes to back seat drivers, and arguing about directions once you start the journey. Sure, you can probably make course corrections as you go along, but these detours typically require both more energy and time. That will cost you.
Again, we only use organic non-GMO beans for anything we make with soy. So unless you have a soy allergy, fermenting the soybeans with grains creates a very nutritious miso with very little or none of the potentially indigestible things that most beans have.
Ingredients (in grams)
1796 grams cooked rice
768 grams soy okara
1044 grams ground rice koji
1000 grams ground millet koji
296 grams coarse salt
75 grams seed miso
235 grams water
Okay so typically a miso that has roughly equal weights of koji and the miso base – in this case the rice and the okara – will be a 12 month miso. In other words it will take that long to ferment before it really pops. But, the salt still determines just how fast and to where this miso is going.
You would usually aim for between 10% to 12% for such a creation. But because we already ground up the koji, and we added the seed miso to make sure our miso had the right microbial influences during its youth and stayed sweet at heart we decided to make it a 6% salt miso.
We added up the weights of the cooked rice, the soy okara, the ground rice and ground millet kojis (the koji can be all unground white or brown rice or barley koji if you have that on hand), the seed miso and the water. Then we calculated a specific percentage of salt we needed to make that: 300 grams.
Because we added both water and seed miso to this, we calculated the salt amount with those ingredients in the formula. We usually don’t do that. Instead we usually just weigh the beans or grains after cooking and mix. If you have cooked them properly, you usually will not need either liquid or even seed miso.
We reviewed our miso making list and made sure all our bowls and container were clean and salted down – again, we really dislike using alcohol for this because we feel it better for the development of the taste of the miso, but use really strong tasteless vodka or something that is at least 80 proof to rinse things with if you like – and our space and faces were clean and smiling.
We also used gloves, and make sure we didn’t pour anything directly down a drain or anywhere else without a strainer.
We mixed our salt and ground kojis together with the water and seed koji with a clean spoon – whole unground koji would have been massaged with the salt – then mixed in the okara then the rice.
Then we massaged the miso mercilessly until it felt turgid like a really thick balloon filled with liquid, incapable of crumbling and willing to yield just a little when pressed down.
Because we had already created our two labels for our miso – for the side of the container and the hoodie or whatever covering you use, and we already had 2500 grams of weight ready because we always try to weigh it down with at least half the weight of the finished miso – did we mention you really should be using a scale for this? – it took about 30 minutes from start to finish.
So the next post we’ll show you how to use shio koji in your misos, pickles, salads, salsas and condiments and more.
4 TB/66 grams coarse sea salt (plus a little extra)
3 cans/650 grams canned cooked drained beans (see note below)
2 1/2 cups/567 grams rice koji
1 cup/245 grams bean liquid
Don’t obsess over the weights of things for this recipe. Just use the first figures given for each ingredient. Do not throw your bean water away. You need about a cup of it – a little over half of one of your bean cans full – and you need to follow the easy and exciting steps as we describe them. Ignore the words in italics below (they look slanted to the right) entirely if math stresses you out.
The important thing is that you get about 1 cup or 245 grams of the bean liquid and that you follow the order of the steps we describe. Otherwise, you will need more bowls, and most likely a scale. And something besides your hands to mix with. With the 3 cans of Brad's Organic salad beans that say 15 ounces on them that we used we ended up with about 5 1/2 cups or around 650 grams of beans, and a little more than two cups or 565 grams liquid from the beans. If you use brown rice or barley koji, you might need almsoit twice the amount of bean liquid. And more salt.
Any plastic bucket you use must be food safe, and cleanable if it looks dirty. It’s really easy to find these from a restaurant or other place that gets thick ones with food in them all the time. You can also order them online. If you are using a recycled container make sure it hasn’t been used for chemicals or bleach, or exposed to heat. The thicker the better. Make sure you don’t have a leaky bucket with tiny or obvious holes in it.
We always use coarse salt. Use coarse Kosher salt if you can’t get an only salt coarse sea salt like the red La Baleine container on the right. The fine La Baleine sea salt actually has several added ingredients. If you can get coarse Maldon smoked or regular coarse sea, or another brand that is just salt you can use that instead.
Don’t open the cans all the way. Keep the beans in the can when you drain off the liquid. When you remove the bag of koji from the container you will have a container to drain the liquid off the beans into the koji container. But keep the beans in the can.
If you are using beans with a pull off top – Goya organic, for example – don’t pull that top all the way off either. This is important unless you have other containers and a strainer you have already cleaned.
This is a recipe for a one bucket miso. You could use other beans like Eden brand black soybeans or yellow soy beans or garbanzo (ceci) beans, or whatever ones you find that don’t have preservatives or chemicals as long as they say organic.
Actually, beans with seaweed in them, or spicy beans also work unless you don’t want spicy miso. With certain beans like garbanzo beans just make sure to crush each bean between your fingers as you mix up the miso. This ensures that you really mix everything together well. Unless you are intentionally trying to make a country style, chunky miso, you really want to mash things up very well.
Let’s Get This Party Started Right
Take some of your bean water and swish it inside your bucket. Try to get it on the sides. Dump the three tablespoons of the coarse sea salt in the bottom of the bucket. Try to get as much of the salt on the sides but don’t get stressed about it.
Add all your koji. Start massaging it together. If you were using fresh koji it would break down really quickly, and even start to melt. Because we are using dried koji in this case, it might take longer for that to happen. Massage a minute, let it rest for two. Then massage a minute then let it rest for two. Again. Repeat.
After the frottage you should only have little bits of rice covered with enzymes, hungry for beans. Shove all the beans into the koji and salt mix and use your hands to prod the beans, forcing them to yield between your finger tips.
You should be able to start to make balls that start to hold together (see above). After about seven minutes, you’ll start to see splotches of beans, koji and salt that have stuck to the bottom or sides of your bucket. Let it rest for a few minutes if you must. Otherwise keep going.
The next day we added our cup of room temperature bean water. It’s okay if everything, including the bean water sat out, covered, for 12 hours or more. We put our bean bean water in the koji container into the miso container then cover the entire thing with our rags so nothing gets into either.
If it above 80F where you are making or storing your miso, sprinkle a little salt into your bean water. It’s likely your miso will be melding together at that temperature.
After rolling your balls of miso together you can start to pack them down with your hands into your container. The balls should hold together and feel firm, yet still pliable and yield. If they crumble, they are too dry and need a little moisture. If you have any bean water or just a tablespoon or two of clean water massage that into your miso before packing it down very firmly.
After your miso is well packed down sprinkle with at least 1/2 tablespoon of coarse sea salt. If it is 80F or higher, you can sprinkle up to an entire handful (one heavy tablespoon) onto the top. If you have a lid, cover it. Otherwise, start wrapping it with your rags.
Unless you will be making other misos just take a picture of this one and name the picture with the date and type of miso. Otherwise label it with a piece of tape and a marker or pens that doesn’t run. You can wrap it up even further if you like. Keep it out of direct sunlight. This could be ready in as little as ten days, or maybe two months if it started off and stayed cold for that time.
You can check on it at any time. Just untie the rags and take the lid off. After a few days it might have a slight smell. Let it air out a few minutes, mix it up again with clean hands and repack it in.
If there is a very strong smell, or some mold or yeast growth on top you’ll have to take that off and air it out at least an hour. We don’t recommend stirring that back in with a fast ripening miso like this. Add a little more salt.
If the miso is a little puffy or loose there is probably too much water in it. Add a teaspoon or more salt and repack. Check it in a few days.