Byczki (bulls)



One of the things I like so much about Zuza Zak’s book is the amount of history and lore associated with a book ostensibly about Polish dumplings she calls Pierogi. I’ve been making dumplings professionally for over half a century. Besides the fact this is the first time I’ve heard some of the really fascinating history of Poland – a country that William Woys Weaver once said has a diverse, region focused cuisine as varied as France – some of the recipes included are not what I would have considered a pierogi, or even a dumpling. Zuza explains. Take potatoes. Here is an excerpt about them from her new book.

Her video on how she makes byczki is in the showcase now with the description: “Looking at these buttered byczki (the name means bulls) in a dish, we can assume that they are so named because of their shape: wide and stout, with little horns at the edges. “ With leek and apple slaw. Yes, please.

And this includes sweet potatoes, and gray potatoes. “Whether they’re eaten with plenty of dill as a side dish to pork cutlets, fried until crispy the next day with a glass of kefir, enjoyed in the form of dumplings, or eaten straight from the fire in the last light of the setting sun, potatoes are undeniably
a big part of Polish (and Eastern European) cuisine. 

Potatoes have also been a symbol of both hardship and of women’s roles within a poor society. In 2001, artist Julita Wójcik peeled 50kg (110lb) of potatoes at Zachęta Gallery in Warsaw as an exploration of gender roles within Polish society. She made a poignant point, as many of my memories of my babcia Ziuta (who was a cook, both professionally and within the large family) involve her peeling potatoes, and her roughened hands also told that story. However, the symbol of the potato as the quintessential food of the Poles isn’t historically accurate. 

Potatoes came to Poland only after Jan III Sobiecki won the Battle of Vienna in 1683. Even then they were viewed with suspicion by the lower class, though they were used decoratively (in the court gardens) by the nobles. It was only in the 17th century, when the Saxon kings’ policies, mismanagement by the gentry and frequent attacks brought poverty to the peasants that the potato finally became an indispensable part of the Polish diet – through necessity rather than enjoyment.

So, if you can make it you should jump on this Sunday, Sept. 25th at 11AM EST. Passcode: ZuzZZ


Pierogi: Over 50 Recipes to Create Perfect Polish Dumpling by Zuza Zak is available now in both digital format and hard cover the in the US on Amazon and anywhere books are sold.  Photos in the book are by the amazing Ola O. Smit @olasmit. Register to attend a live event on September 25th, 11AM EST of the month of Dumplings at the Vimeo site:  https://tinyurl.com/ybzedfhh , then $10 to PayPal.me/ZuzaZak

$10 gets you the addresses and codes for the demonstrations by Zuza on making dumplings from this lovely, simple and tasty looking book that will have you eager to make dumplings and other things. There is no charge for the live event. No charge for annual members or video makers, but you must register for the live event, though.

Cultures.Group

An annual membership for $75 gets you access to hundreds and hundreds of videos, as well as live events like the one above with 5 videos and to the December events and access to the library until the end of the year on 12/31/2022.



Winter of Our Content



Pierogi: Over 50 Recipes to Create Perfect Polish Dumpling by Zuza Zak is available now in both digital format and hard cover the in the US on Amazon and anywhere books are sold.  Photos in the book are by the amazing Ola O. Smit @olasmit. Register to attend a live event on September 25th, 11AM EST of the month of Dumplings at the Vimeo site:  https://tinyurl.com/ybzedfhh , then $10 to PayPal.me/ZuzaZak

$10 gets you the addresses and codes for the demonstrations by Zuza on making dumplings from this lovely, simple and tasty looking book that will have you eager to make dumplings and other things. There is no charge for the live event. No charge for annual members or video makers, but you must register for the live event, though.

Cultures.Group

An annual membership for $75 gets you access to hundreds and hundreds of videos, as well as live events like the one above with 5 videos and to the December events and access to the library until the end of the year on 12/31/2022.




September Fest


Dumplings, that is. There are so many really brilliant recipes and stories in this book. Each dumpling or recipe has a tale that sounds tasty. And, the history of the ingredients and where the dumplings come from is fascinating. Zuza will demonstrate 5 of them over the course of the month!


Register to attend a live event on September 25th, 11AM EST of the month of Dumplings at the Vimeo site:  https://tinyurl.com/ybzedfhh , then $10 to PayPal.me/ZuzaZak

September 25th Live, plus videos 

Register to attend a live event on September 25th, 11AM EST of the month of Dumplings at the Vimeo site:  https://tinyurl.com/ybzedfhh , then $10 to PayPal.me/ZuzaZak

$10 gets you the addresses and codes for the demonstrations by Zuza on making dumplings from this lovely, simple and tasty looking book that will have you eager to make dumplings and other things. Seriously. You can watch the videos for this event until the end of the year.

No charge for annual members. You must register for the live event, though.


Released in the UK, but also available in digital format and soon hard cover the in the US on Amazon and anywhere books are sold.  Photos in the book are by the amazing Ola O. Smit @olasmit.

Register or Contact

An annual membership for $75 gets you access to hundreds and hundreds of videos, as well as live events like the one above with 5 videos and access to the library. https://paypal.me/FermentsandCultures


Dumplings



Pierogi: Over 50 Recipes to Create Perfect Polish Dumpling by Zuza Zak. The essential cookbook for preparing perfect Polish dumplings at home.

Released today in the UK, but also available online now in digital format in the US on Amazon. Photos in the book are by the amazing @olasmit.

Photo by Ola O. Smit (@olasmit)

Delve deep into regional recipes from all over Poland with the traditional ingredients and stories that define these delicious dumplings. From the Baltic Sea with its abundance of fish, to the unique smoky and sour flavours of the mountainous south and beyond, discover endless options to satisfy every craving. As well as regional classics, Zuza Zak offers sweet and savoury dumplings for every occasion. With new and original creations, plus crowd-pleasing vegan and gluten-free options, Pierogi is a fascinating celebration of this beloved Polish speciality.


Photo by Ola O. Smit (@olasmit)

Sweet curd cheese manty with raspberry sauce 
“Another speciality of the Podlasie area, this recipe is where Tatar manty meet sweet, Polish pierogi. Poland specializes in sweet dumplings, but in many other countries people don’t quite know what to do with them – a sweet lunch? Whoever heard of such a thing? We are certainly not averse to eating a sweet lunch in Poland, and I would like to gently suggest that you try it too one day – or you can add them to your brunch repertoire. “


September 25th Live, plus videos 

Register to attend a live event on September 25th, 11AM EST of the month of Dumplings at the Vimeo site:  https://tinyurl.com/ybzedfhh

$10 gets you the addresses and codes for a series of demonstrations by Zuza on making dumplings from this lovely, simple and tasty looking book that will have you making dumplings and other things quite quickly. 

No charge for annual members (See below). You must register though.

Register or Contact

An annual membership for $75 gets you access to hundreds and hundreds of videos, as well as live events: https://paypal.me/FermentsandCultures


Varenets and Riazhenka



Silky divine varenets. The steps: raw or pasteurized milk is baked for hours until a deep golden skin forms. Lift off the skin and eat it, or save it for later. If you don’t have or don’t want to use an oven, an Instant Pot at 200F for 10 hours works well. Traditionally, this was made when the masonry stove in your house was cooling down.

Once you have your cooked milk, called топлёное молоко in Russian, cool it down. It then gets inoculated with sour cream, buttermilk or milk kefir. A teaspoon of any of the above added per cup of cooked milk is enough. The milk should be about 110F. Make sure your sour cream has live bacterial cultures – not just enzymes.



The more sour cream you add, the thicker it will be. Inoculate it for 6 to 8 hours exactly like yogurt, although 110F is the ideal temperature for this. Any yogurt maker will do, as will your Instant Pot or any place it can stay warm and covered for 6 to 10 hours at 85F or higher. But try to get it to 110F at least.

The baked down milk you make is never really sweet, but even after chilling down and adding the sour cream starter and inoculating it, it’s also not very sour. Just smooth and tasty. By the way, milk kefir can make this a little grainy and a little more sour, so we always use sour cream or buttermilk.



Eating varenets – actually, drinking it chilled – alone is rarely enough. It is typically eaten with other things as a snack. Sometimes these garnishes go in, or on the varenets.

This is an example of how to take varenets and turn it into riazhenka by adding heavy cream. You can actually just add heavy cream to it when eating it. The contrast in tastes and textures makes this a real joy. But add some heavy cream, about 1/4 cup per cup of baked milk, to make riazhenka. It should be much thicker.

As any cook knows sour cream cultured dairy will not curdle, so we really use it in everything. Using varenets and riazhenka as an alternative to sour cream can add a new taste to everything from salad dressings to smoothies to baked goods.

Quick riazhenka with all the garnishes: heavy cream in a bowl, the milk skins, stewed dried figs, sour cream and of course the tan colored silky smooth, thick and chilled varenets. 


Sour Cream, Heavy Cream, Baked Milk Skin, Varenets, and Figs

There is from an event that is an ongoing benefit for World Central Kitchen. This $45 benefit package is available until 12/31/2022. An annual subscription of $75 to Ferments and Cultures – or creating a video for any event during 2022 – gets you in as an annual subscriber with access to hundreds and hundreds of videos in our library as well as future events in 2022. Everything in the library is also viewable until 1/1/2023.

Whether or not you are making a donation or getting an annual membership that also gets you into hundreds and hundreds of videos, you must register at https://paypal.me/FermentsandCultures to get on our mailing list. Otherwise send an email to kojibook@earthlink.net and we’ll figure something out.


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The Kingdom of Rye


What is Darra Goldstein’s latest book, The Kingdom of Rye: A Brief History of Russian Food, about? The simplest answer is bread. And Salt. Saltness. Rye Bread and Saltness (Khleb da sol’).

The concept of using bread and salt to communicate hospitality is so important that even under the most severe circumstances, such as famines, during which the only ingredients available were chaff, sawdust, cellulose, tree bark, acorns and maybe a little actual rye, these ingredients were made into bread.

This is not simply some ancient ritual. In 1975, when Americans and Russians jointly ventured into space, salt tablets and crackers were used in the actual spaceship of the Apollo-Soyuz mission to express hospitality and hopes for success.


Varenets Skin – the top of the slowly evaporated milk that has caramelized into a tasty treat that is sometimes layered into rice pudding. Riazhennka is basically the same thing as varenets, but with cream added.

A narrative history of food in Russia (and Russian food), The Kingdom of Rye is a compendium of sorts to Goldstein’s previously published cookbook Beyond the North Wind. Despite outside influences that during periods of nationalist rallying were often denounced as not “our food,” Russian cuisine developed over hundreds of years based on a small number of ingredients coaxed from a harsh environment, and these foods came to define national identity. According to Goldstein, Russian cuisine is characterized by

  • the sour taste of fermented foods, found in pickles, brined fruits, rye bread, kvass, and cultured dairy products like sour cream
  • the earthy flavors of wild mushrooms and buckwheat groats
  • the zesty bite of horseradish and mustard
  • soups soured with kvass and pickle brine
  • the tart tang of Antonov apples and sea buckthorn
  • the sweetness of honey and milk baked to caramelized sweetness
     

Sourdough bread for kvass, a refreshing mildly alcoholic drink typically made from leftover or stale sourdough rye. Hops can be added to it – and any bread or even fruit can be used – to make a quick, tasty beer. The colder the better.

There’s so much in the book about how food was grown, made, procured, and eaten that any culinary enthusiast will want to try making at least a few of the dishes mentioned. Some are actually meticulously described, including how and why the beloved Russian rye bread was sliced in a certain manner – as on the cover of the book itself. 

In fact, the title of the book comes from an expression translated from the Russian that means “the tsardom of rye,” but I think we can all agree that The Kingdom of Rye better suits the English language. Rye was sacred, a bountiful crop that could subsume memories of eating famine foods. A small piece of bread represented both talisman and community. And it very often was the difference between life and death.

The Russian kingdom of rye was one in which “begging for crusts” was a ritualized practice, something well known to serfs who could easily starve to death if their supplies ran out. 

But the book is also about fermentation and the beloved tang of sourdough and fermented cabbage and beets and kvass, made from stale rye bread. As Goldstein notes, the Russian expression for “living hand to mouth” – as most people have lived throughout history – is living “from bread to kvass.”

This book is a trail of bread crumbs left over hundreds of years by writers and workers and peasants and the landed gentry and soldiers, reminding us that food and comfort and freedom are often controlled substances, often weaponized, or used as a beadle for religious compliance, or manipulated to encourage or enforce a state mandate or a politician’s ambitions.

The first thing I look at is the index of a book. Other than hospitality, the most indexed topic is food insecurity and famines, something Russia has a long history of confronting. Woefully, not all of the starvation periods during Russian history were the result of nature, or anything that a devout believer could be convinced was the result of divine retribution. 

As Goldstein notes, famines and starvation are frequently the results of “cynical political determinations.” Such decisions are immediately relevant today, as Russia destroys farms and ravages farmlands, steals grain, and destroys the equipment and Ukraine’s capacity to grow more, thus potentially starving millions of people around the world. 

Putin has done this before. Very recently, in fact, when hundreds of thousands of tons of food imported from Western countries and the EU were destroyed in mobile crematoria in response to the rage against sanctions imposed after Russia invaded and annexed Crimea.

But, these bread crumbs also lead to a very special kind of place where “kitchen dissidence” occurs: “The kitchen table defied the constraints of a life defined by scarcity, as abundant vodka and food invariably appeared on the table. Friends crowded in, sitting on stools and laps, often with a dozen adults and children crammed into only five or six square meters. The impromptu meals of hearty black bread, tins of canned fish, and home-salted mushrooms pulled from the stash under the bed, accompanied as they were by a lively exchange of ideas, represented an undeniable triumph over diversity, a genuine, loving communality.” 



Goldstein claims that The Kingdom of Rye is an historical and ethnographic addendum to Beyond the North Wind.

But, no. 

It’s also a review of Russian literature that includes lush, evocative details about specific foods. As Goldstein states: “Writing about food calls for an appreciation of food’s sensory qualities, whether it’s the heady fragrance of Antonov apples in autumn or the visceral smell of pig’s feet simmering into the meat aspic called studen’. What equivalences are there between an aristocratic table, laden with flowers and shimmering with candles à la russe, and a peasant family’s rough board, upon which a communal pot of wild mushroom and barley soup has been set? Where but in Russian literature can you find that nineteenth-century prototype, the superfluous man, bemoaning the emptiness of life even as he reaches for another piece of pie as if for the embodiment of truth? And who is to say that the superfluous man isn’t right to find truth materialized in sensory delight? This domestic history of Russian food offers a look into people’s daily lives, to serve up a history that originates from the wooden spoon rather than from the scepter.


Sourdough Rye bread with cracked coriander seeds, with spiced and salted tvorog cheese

Every word in this book is relevant to the situations we face worldwide in regard to sustainability, famine, food justice, foraging, self-determination, ingenuity, the weaponization of food, religion, politics, and what Goldstein describes as the most crucial attribute of culinary identity: “..and, perhaps above all, [food’s] cultural resonance and the emotional value of traditional flavors, how people know who they are by what they eat together.

Goldstein isn’t a stranger to receiving awards for her cookbooks. This one, however, deserves a Pulitzer. There has never been a book like it – an ethnographic treatise on the history of a people as told through their food and the techniques they devised to feed themselves through centuries of victory, defeat, the miseries inflicted by the state or by nature, and the sheer joy of eating. After reading the book, you will not look at bread, grains, pickles, mushrooms, pies, restaurants or politics the way you did before.

This book leads through the forest of history to a place, where we can hopefully all taste food and taste freedom. 

It’s a generous invitation to learn from the past, using food as a universal language. 

We all eat. History is filled with stories of those involved in violent conflicts or centuries-long animosity coming together by sharing bread or recognizing that it’s a universal need. A source of survival. And of national identity. And always a bargaining chip that should not be used to starve or blackmail. 

But will we ever learn from history? Will we ever accord food security and equity the same status as political power? Will we ever learn to quickly and rapidly deal with tyrants and bullies who would gladly let grain and other food rot to advance their control over others? This is not exclusively a Russian tactic of waging war. 


Buckwheat Blini with Onion Vzvar

Hopefully, by communicating the importance of sharing food and drink, this book will encourage everyone to stop the use of food as a weapon in Ukraine, and in every other country around the world. This book is indeed a culinary ethnography, but for anyone that has ever felt love, hope, gratitude, and belonging when eating, when sharing food, when tasting home. The world desperately needs this book right now. 

Full length interviews with Darra Goldstein on both of her books, Beyond the North Wind and The Kingdom of Rye, is available in our Ferments and Cultures library for members.


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March – Koji, The Japanese Way


WritersCultures 2022
Koji: The Japanese Way

Japanese Style Pickles (漬物) – Advanced Tseukemono Techniques with Chef Ken Fornataro on March 30th.

Sessions last about an hour (1 hour). Limited to 100 people. Use PayPal and specify what you’d like to attend.

If you’d like a replay of any live event and access to videos associated with all the events of 2022 purchase an InRetrospect subscription for the year, $75 Use PayPal

All times are Eastern Standard Time (EST) but may be broadcasting from sites around the world. Scholarships are available.

InRetrospect 2022 

Now Playing. With over 6 years of re-edited and first time viewable videos on a wide number of topics.

InRetrospect is $75 USD for the entire year of 2022. There are already 400+ videos there, some that are an hour long, some much shorter, on everything from making shoyu, miso, pickling, making tempeh, wild fermentation, foraging, vinegars, curing meat, vegan cheese making, sake making, and much more. More will be added as we go along.

The passcodes and addresses get changed frequently so stay in touch.

Micros with Haruna Deasy


WritersCultures 2022
Koji: The Japanese Way

Haruna Deasy shows you how she makes koji by introducing her tools and her muro and what she does with her koji . You would be remiss not to also check out the amazing instagram Micros_life site. March 28. English. 4PM EST


Betterazuke pickles made by Chef Ken Fornataro
InRetrospect 2022 

In order to watch any replays of live events you must subscribe to InRetrospect. Use PayPal. With over 6 years of re-edited and first time viewable videos on a wide number of topics. We add new videos to the showcase all the time. Be forewarned that the passcodes change frequently!

InRetrospect is $75 USD for the entire year of 2022. There are already 400+ videos there, some that are an hour long, some much shorter, on everything from making shoyu, miso, pickling, making tempeh, wild fermentation, foraging, vinegars, curing meat, vegan cheese making, sake making, and much more. More will be added as we go along.

The passcodes and addresses get changed frequently so stay in touch.


In Retrospect and Beyond 2022



The latest version of the onion tangzhong sourdough bread with lactofermented onion salt. Just amazing. And a really great third attempt at a new type of bread I’ve been trying out. A sourdough starter that gets turned as if you had already made the dough.

It sits at 39F for a few days or even weeks during a very long autolyse, the step after you first mix the flour and liquid. No salt, levain, or any other ingredient gets added. It’s very important not to use a flour that has added malted barley (almost all commercial white flours in the US) or it will begin to ferment much more quickly.

It’s like bread bouillon. When needed, you remove some, add your levain such Incredibly tasty. I actually ground the berries myself because the malted barley that gets added to most AP flours eventually turns this into a super hard dough to work with. Should have used a hard red winter wheat, but the flavor of this soft wheat at 11% protein is great.

Incredibly tasty. I actually ground the berries myself because the malted barley that gets added to most AP flours eventually turns this into a super hard dough to work with. Should have used a hard red but the flavor of this soft wheat at 11% protein is great.

So this will be my breakfast treat. An olive oil and pepper cured two year old goat cheese labneh – use milk kefir grains to make the cheese, then strain and press – that has fresh herbs and toasted seeds that over time have developed amazing flavors. And yes I am going to eat the entire loaf.

Ferments and Culture 2022 

Now Playing. With over 6 years of re-edited and first time viewable videos on a wide number of topics. Interested?

InRetrospect is $75 USD for the entire year of 2022. There are already 400+ videos there, some that are an hour long, some much shorter, on everything from making shoyu, miso, pickling, making tempeh, wild fermentation, foraging, vinegars, curing meat, vegan cheese making, sake making, and much more.

More will be added as we go along. The passcodes and addresses get changed frewuently so stay in touch.

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