Maple Syrup and Smoked Pomegranate Kvass


Organic beets. Do not discard the greens, including the stems.Do not discard anything you trim off, unless it is not organically grown. You only need the actual beet bottoms for these recipes, though.

Come and ask questions of two extremely skilled fermenters and cutting edge brewers, Chris Cuzme and Mary Izett. They create their brews at Fifth Hammer Brewing Company in Long Island City, where the event is taking place. Take a look at the menu!

The Event is January 27th, 7 to 9:30 Come ask questions about any of the recipes or methods used in this post about beets. Try some things that we made using enzymes, and yeasts starters. We’ll answer any question that you have about anything fermented. Plus, this is a #vegan event.


Pomegranate powder about to be incorporated into a smoky maple syrup and fennel seed beet base for a great probiotic drink. And for cockatils as well. Got shochu?

Smoked Maple and Pomegranate Beet Kvass

  • 425 grams washed and diced raw organic beets
  • 1250 grams of water (enough to cover the beets in a half gallon jar)
  • 1 to 2 tsp toasted fennel seeds
  • 30 grams coarse sea salt. Do not use fine sea salt for this. Kosher salt is okay.
  • 4 TB maple syrup
  • 4 TB pomegranate powder (or just add more maple syrup or molasses)
  • 1/8 tsp liquid smoke or ash. Do not use more. Add more when finished if you like.
  • 2 TB unpasteurized vinegar (apple cider vinegar with the mother, etc.)
  • 4 TB Pomegranate Molasses (or more maple syrup)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (organic, any type. If replacing maple syrup and pomegranate with dark molasses, use 1/2 cup more)

Mix everything together in a large bowl with gloved hands or a spoon. Otherwise, your hands will get stained. If you can’t get pomegranate powder or molasses use more maple syrup as indicated. You can also use organic dark brown sugar or organic molasses. The fennel seeds are essential, but can be replaced with anise seeds.

Other natural smoke flavorings or even smoked soy sauce or smoked salt can be used, sparingly. Smoked salt does not replace the coarse sea salt. Add some smoked salt to your kvass before serving if you like.

Ferment in an area where it is between 72 and 85F. It should take a week to ten days. If the temperature is lower, it will take at least 14 days before it is ready.


Put baby in the corner.


Shiso Leaf and Beet Kvass with pickled beets
  • 216 grams ( about 3 medium sized beets) raw organic beets. If not organic peel them. Otherwise after cutting into thick matchsticks wash them in cold water by rubbing them gently.
  • 1500 grams warm water. This will cover the beets that are placed in a well washed and sanitized half gallon glass jar.
  • 190 grams Shiso Vinegar*. Our Shiso vinegar has enough salt in it to act both as a starter culture, and as a deterrent to unwanted bacteria and yeasts. The base is an apple cider vinegar with lots of the mother in it. There are both yeasts and bacteria in vinegar.

Cover the jar tightly and shake. You could also dump the content of the jar into a bowl and mix them well. Then, put them back into the jar and cover with an airlock, or a tight lid. To be safe put the jar in a bowl or dish. If it looks like air is building up in your jar, loosen it to let it escape then retighten it.

This should be done in 5 to 7 days, but can go for two or three weeks if you like. Save the beets for a fantastic beet, pickle and apple salad. Or dress them with a miso dressing as a side dish. You can also start a new batch using the liquid if you like as a starter culture.

*Perilla vinegar substitute – You can use unpasteurized apple cider vinegar and mix in some umeboshi vinegar (about 1/4 cup), or use some shiso furikake (check the ingredients if you are a vegan) with vinegar and salt. You could also use vinegar, 3 TB of coarse sea salt and fresh dill or toasted dill seeds, or roasted black peppercorns.

The perilla vinegar could also be replaced with 40 grams of coarse sea salt. If you know beforehand then cut the beets thinner or into smaller pieces. Either way it should taste just a little salty at first, but not extremely salty.

Only salt will take about 2 weeks, but check it as you go along. Don’t stick unclean spoons, forks or fingers in your ferments.


Let’s Get Startered

Yeast starters and starter cultures that contain yeast – like the original koji for which the Chinese Kanji (麹) was created – sometimes also contain other types of bacteria, fungus and even other yeasts.

Take, for example, sourdough starter. It’s easy to turn that into vinegar because there are already some bacteria and yeasts in there just like there are in kombucha.

Eventually, often with the help of wild yeasts and bacteria, both of these will eventually become alcohol. Vinegar is made from alcohol, either fermented fruits like apples or peaches, or from grains.

But controlling how much yeast, and especially what kinds of yeast get into a specific starter is how most alcoholic and non-alcoholic fermentations are successfully made.

It’s essential that any utensils and containers you use are very clean. Always kill off as many wild strains that may be lurking before starting or proceeding – unless these are part of your fermenting culture.

Sometimes rinsing everything with boiling water is enough. Other times it is woefully inadequate. Equally important is making sure ever ingredient is properly prepared.

Soaking tree nuts or beans, for example, helps to remove undesirable substances that can ruin fermentations, or mess up your digestive system.

Some yeasts work remarkably well at protecting crops from diseases. These are benign and helpful yeasts. But even then sometimes these microbes in large amounts actually cause allergies, and what are sometimes mistaken as intolerance to a specific grain or nuts.

So soak your nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Some recipes call for salt, vinegar, alcohol or lactic acid to help the process along, but it’s usually about how much salt is involved and how the water or moisture content of ingredients is affected.

Some yeasts can take can take up to a 7% sodium content, so controlling the entire microbiome of the things that you are making is crucial. Some harmful microbes can be eliminated by pre-drying or curing.

Soaking ingredients, along with treatment with enzymes produced by sprouted grains or microbes such as Aspergillus strains or lactobacteria, can also greatly assist in making breads, misos, kefir, and soy or amino sauces more nutritious, digestible, and free from potential residues.


January 27, 2020 – Event at Fifth Hammer

Come and ask questions of two extremely skilled fermenters and cutting edge brewers, Chris Cuzme and Mary Izett. They create their brews at Fifth Hammer Brewing Company in Long Island City.

You’ll also get to try some things that we made using enzymes, and yeasts starters. Plus, we’ll answer any question that you have about anything fermented. Of course it would be great if you had any hard core science related questions posted here, or sent to koji@earthlink.net beforehand so we could have a concise answer for you.

We revised the agenda based on specific requests from people about yeast starters that are useful when making a wide array of things such as beer, miso, soy sauce, meat or fish sauce, sourdough bread, vinegar, sake or kvass.

For example, someone really wanted to know about using a yeast starter for making beer. Although someone knew what sourdough bread kvass was, they asked if a yeast starter could improve it. Kvass made with fresh or old sourdough bread, heavily toasted for flavor and color, can be improved by a yeast starter, and can be flavored not only with wild herbs and roots and dried fruits but also with hops like beer.


Making Kvass

  • 1/2 gallon room temp water, left out overnight, covered, if you are concerned about chlorine or other substances.
  • 4 cups of leftover sourdough starter at room temperature (most people collect it in the fridge or freezer)
  • 1/2 cup Zante currants or other dried fruits such as raisins or cherries
  • 2 cups heavily toasted cubed or ripped apart sourdough bread. Not burnt, but really brown.
Heavily toasted sourdough bread and dried carrots were combined with a yeast starter to make a deep carrot and caramel toast flavored Kvass. Kvass typically is made with dark breads that contain rye, wheat, barley and often dried fruits, but you can use any heavily toasted bread.

Mix all the ingredients above in a well cleaned vessel that is able to take a doubling in volume. Unlikely, but until you’ve had to clean an overactive or over yeasted beverage that didn’t actually explode we recommend not letting it get above 80F.

Do not increase the amount of yeast. Give it space. The mixture will most likely be very thick after about an hour, at which point you will add:

  • 12 cups room temperature water
  • 1 – 2 cups sugar (jaggery, piloncillo, dark brown, organic cane, palm sugar, etc.)
  • 1 tsp brewers yeast, or bread yeast or even unpasteurized kasu (the pressings or dregs) from a recently made sake.

Do not add more yeast unless, at four or five hours at 75F, it appears that nothing is happening. The bread wil most likely have floated up to the top, so once you mix it the yeast will grow. Because yeasts love oxygen. And the bread top may be blocking air flow. Stir.

Always cover loosely with a cloth or several layers of mesh. Do not cover tightly. Strain at 24 to 48 hours if you like the taste. It will becomes a little more sour each day.

Once you strain it – don’t discard anything – put it in bottles and chill. Do not fill the bottles to the top. Do not screw lids on tightly. After a day at 50F or less degrees, you can rack off your strained kvass.

Racking is siphoning off, or pouring off the liquid on the top and leaving the sediment. This is a standard brewing technique and it comes in very handy for a whole range of different things.

Strained kvass being racked and chilled. We added dried carrots to the brew. Very low alcohol content, lower than most kombucha.

Hope you did not throw away anything. We’ll make vinegar and a beer from the dregs! Register for the January 27th event for more details and recipes.


Malted Grains, Koji and Rhizopus. Amazing tasty foods and brews. #Zymes2020:

Monday, Jan 27, 2020, 7:00 PM

Fifth Hammer Brewing Company
10-28 46th Ave Queens, NY

13 Members Went

Yeast starters and starter cultures that contain yeast – like the original koji for which the Chinese Kanji (麹) was created – sometimes also contain lactic acid or other types of bacteria, fungus and even other yeasts. Take, for example, sourdough starter. It’s easy to turn that into vinegar because there are already some bacteria and yeasts in the…

Check out this Meetup →


The Name of the Rose

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 recipe for this is actually already posted at culturesgroup.net

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.

Ketchup and Worcestershire Sauce were derived from jiang, as were dozens of ither things such as miso and soy sauce and fish sauces and even preserved meats and game.

Nope

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

Millet koji.

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.

Corn: Vinegar, Koji and Hamma Natto
Three corn kojis, three tastes (vinegar, koji, shih)

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.

Nukazuke (corn pickles made with corn nuka or bran). Thank you, Lactobacillus plantarum and friendly halophiles, for everything you do

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.

Shiitake mushroom shoyu or soy sauce.

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.

And this old world is a new world
And a bold world – Nina Simone, Feeling Good

Knowledge begets new customs and traditions. Don’t repeat history and not learn from the past. Using new tools and techniques, it’s time for new generations to experiment and create new foodways.

Not that we know everything we want to know yet. Just that it should be a fusion of the traditional and the modern, a sustainable and enlightened way of creating new foods and tastes.