Chili with Koji and Beans



At tonight’s first #Zymes2020 event at Fifth Hammer Brewing we presented a chili made the typical way. A very small amount of ground beef was browned with onions, garlic, peppers, oregano, lime and other seasonings.

It doesn’t matter what your actual chili base is for this if you decide to make it, although some people do not like spicy foods. When preparing food for a crowd it is always a very considerate and professional thing to consider the preferences of a wide spectrum of people.

The place was packed. Actually the busiest we’ve ever seen it. The people attending the event truly appreciated the samples of food, as well as the unique condiments they could use to alter the taste of the chili to their liking.



A lot of people actually ate the condiments as if they were unrelated to the chili. That’s why you should always aim to prepare whatever it is you are making as if it is the main dish.

We brought ten things tonight that represented the ending of #Kojifest2019, and the beginning of #Zymes2020. We will be publishing recipes for everything we brought tonight.

On the one hand, it’s never a good idea to throw too many ingredients into a dish – and then describe all of them because their eyes will roll back in their heads after ingredient number five and your dialog will quickly become meaningless if not irritating – because one or more will likely not appeal to someone.

On the other hand if everything has so many ingredients and layers of flavor taste buds can get overwhelmed and senseless by the variety. Balance of tastes is important on the level of each dish, and to the extent that each dis contributes to the eating and tasting experience of a diner.

Like, seven different kinds of cake at every meal is not really tasty after a few meals. Would seven different types of wines for every meal be tasty after the first one or two meals? Be simple and let people choice things like condiments and drinks according to their preferences.

The home made doubanjiang (豆瓣酱) we brought was the hottest thing there. And untouched. That’s why condiments are so useful. In a previous post on mother sauces we explained that you can’t remove certain ingredients once you add them.

The chili would not have been so well received if we had added the doubanjiang to it during cooking or right before serving. Once again, that’s why it is so important to know your ingredients, know your techniques, know what has been done in the past, and remember that an artesan of any kind must take into account what others might like when preparing food or drink.



Tasty Functions

The purpose of everything we brought tonight was first and foremost to provide tasty things. The fact that some of our foods serve as functional foods by providing beneficial microbes, or by not providing discomforting or harmful ones, is always secondary.

Functional foods are important, but there are so many ways to get beneficial microbes into your body when eating fresh or unprocessed foods as all or just a part of your daily intake that you shouldn’t stress about it. In fact, condiments are another way to add live tasty foods to very simply prepared foods.



Functional Enzymes

The chili involves adding dried or freshly made barley koji, garbanzo bean koji, and wheat barley koji – the three made with different types of Aspergillus or a combinations of different types of spores – with salt and water to a meat or plant protein based already prepared chili.

Water or some liquid is important in facilitating the work of enzymes, as they involve hydrolysis. Hydrolysis is not possibly with water.

The unique thing about this chili, and much of which we spoke about, is how we prepared the dish to maximize the contribution of enzymes to the texture, taste and digestibility of the dish.



The Amasake Technique

If you have ever made amasake, typically a sweet rice based beverage or sugar substitute made with rice that has had Aspergillus oryzae grown in it, you know that it is made at a temperature of 140F for at least 12 hours.

If you are uncomfortable about controlling the temperature precisely aim for 135F. If we don’t actually grind our rice koji up first we usually make ours over a 24 hour period and add more water than typical recipes. Because of the sugars created during the process another cooking procedure with amasake tends to be risky if you are in a hurry.

A higher water content makes it less so. We find more water dissolves the added cooked rice as well as the koji rice more completely. Besides, if we have to remove some water we can always boil it down and make rice syrup.



During the process of making amasake the koji uses the enzymes to transform the food, prominently by splitting up starch molecules into simple sugars. That’s called saccharification.

Breaking big molecules or chains of sugar down into littler pieces can greatly aid in overall digestion, but also specifically make certain things digestible at all.

The enzymes that do this with starches that include cereal grains or anything that has carbohydrates in it such as legumes and some vegetables are amylase and gluycoamylase.

But those are not, by far, the only useful enzymes that are produced. Which enzymes and how much of each are produced was part of tonight’s event and will be continued in all 2020 events and posts at Cultures.Group.

In the case of the chili all the ingredients in it, just like the rice that had the fungus grown on it, become substrates.

Other enzymes like proteases – the wheat berries were grown with Aspergillus sojae and Aspergillus luchuensis that provide some of these – acted on the dish much like the amylase enzymes act on the rice. Proteins, fats and even cellulose got broken down into very simple, digestible units.

Esters and other olfactory benefits were produced as well.

We cooked the chili – which could easily have been made with a plant protein – at 140F for 36 hours, stirred it, added some more koji then cooked it for another 12 hours with some additional salt.

If we added even more salt and water we could have made a soy sauce type liquid out of it. Remember that.

It’s part of the koji continuum you’ll hear us talk about often. Remember reheating this on a direct flame can create amost instant singing and often burnt pots.

The more you can complete the dish during the fermentation process, just as with rice amasake, the less chance of that happening.



Recipes and Techniques

The dishes we brought were all, in one way or another, transformed by a filamentous fungus such as Aspergillus or Rhizopus as a substrate, or with the fungus grown onto a substrate. Yeasts and bacteria were also involved, and discussed at the event with respect to how they interact on a very specific level with particular strains and combinations of the fungus.

  • Three Koji, Three Filamentous Fungus Chili
  • Koji-cured Chicken Liver Mousse
  • Wheat and Fava Bean Koji Doubanjiang
  • Cashew Tempeh
  • Shiso and Koji vinegar
  • Aged Koji Kefir Cheese
  • Moromi miso
  • Three year old, thrice cooked Misodama
  • Corn shoyu kasu miso
  • Russian Sourdough bread
  • Ginger, Kombu, Garlic Betterazuke
  • Aged Plum and Barley Koji (A.awamori) Mirin
  • Fig, walnut, caramel, sweet plum, and wheat koji conserves

The first event of 2020 is on January 27th. The second is February 17th. Same time, same place, same presenters with new practical tips, guidance and practical ways to use enzymes from microbes or malt.

Thanks to everyone that helped to make tonight a really great nose, eye and palate pleasing event. Register at Eventbrite.


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Mother Sauces

Mother Sauces: Tomato

Classic French cooking has a long established tradition of using five sauces that pair with specific traditional ingredients. They are called mother sauces. If you were going to make a gratin of potatoes or macaroni and cheese, you would make a Béchamel sauce. If you added salt, pepper, nutmeg and Gruyere cheese to it a Mornay sauce was created – a child of Béchamel.

The five types are Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole, Hollandaise and Tomato. We count Mayonnaise and Vinaigrette in with the Hollandaise since all three are emulsions of an acid base with fat that can be the start for thousands of variations.

Classifying something as a mother sauce is useful because it makes it easier to keep track of the variations. The French have a highly regarded cuisine, but so do the Chinese, Indians, Mexicans, Japanese, Italians and, really, every region and ethnicity throughout the world.

Sometimes, depending on what culinary tradition you were following, the classic mother sauce was made with rigorously chopped celery, carrots and onions (called a mirepoix), and aromatics. An aromatic could include almost anything like mushrooms, peppers, garlic, bacon, etc.

Defining specific techniques and defining basic preparations, such as what the mother sauces are, is what makes varying from these standards so important and interesting.

Today there are a lot more types of mother sauces, including jiangs. The Jiang category includes all kinds of legume based pastes, soy sauce, shoyus, misos, fermented grain or nut pastes. It also includes other protein rich sauces typically made from animals as in fish sauce, garums, and beef sauces.

The way we make any sauce today often ends up using concentrated essences and other ingredients that are easier and faster made with things like sous-vide cookers or pressure cookers. But they can also include short or long fermented ingredients based on jiang such as soy sauce or a fish sauce as mentioned above.

We also consider pestos, barbecue and dessert sauces as mother sauces.


Types

All of these sauces can actually be turned into something you are already familiar with. They are typically easy, and usually tastier than store bought. But you can make some part or all of them to make them your own. Or just add a dash of soy sauce or fish sauce to a store bought one.



We will explain how to make and use these all of them, classic and unique sauces, condiments and other things we consider essential items to have in your larder. You’ll learn how to cook and ferment everything as we go along, or at least become a better informed eater.

The French perfected the food preparation protocol of mise-en-place. It’s not like they invented it. It’s that they codified it, and described it. Everyone was pretty much taught that to make a basic Béchamel sauce you made a flout and butter mix and cooked that with milk.

The traditional French mother sauces are great classic sauces, but cuisine is being invented, reinvented and recycled all the time. We know so much more about what cultures around the world have been doing, sometimes for thousands of years, that it’s clear that the French way only way to create a mise-en-place.

Asian basic sauces including miso and soy sauces are now incorporated into all types of cuisines.


Mother Tomato

Here is how we make our classic tomato mother sauce. Remember that the more things a mother or base sauce contains, the less adaptable it will be. If you add meat or a specific spice to it, you can’t use it for a vegetarian dish or something that just doesn’t taste good with that spice.

Our tomato sauce is not very much like the French original but it’s uses are incredibly varied. You could just as easily make a concassé or a coulis from fresh tomatoes and herbs – we consider those more as vinaigrettes or pan sauces – but this sauce works for us.

The use of peppers makes this an ideal stepping off point for Cajun, Creole and other cooking styles, including Italian, Spanish and Indian cuisine.

Adding proteins such as peanuts, vegetable protein (TVP) make this a quick and fast meal sauce to have on hand. You could add ground meat or shrimp this, but we’ll exlan those sauces in upcoming posts.

Use toasted almonds or sunflower seeds for an equally tasty sauce. If you to go bean free skip the textured vegetable protein and use dehydrated tomato flakes, sun-dried tomatoes, or a cup of chopped carrots or parsley.

Regardless of whether you choose to add meat or a fish stock or lots of mushrooms, it will be tasty and last at least a few weeks. If the fennel bothers you add basil or some other spice. The variations are almost endless.

Remember that you can’t remove meat or anchovies or cheese or rosemary from a sauce, but you can always add things.


Dried fermented soybeans or shih, make a great base taste for tomato and other sauces. We make out own. You can buy them readily online on in Asian grocery stores. These are plain. Some are already seasoned. If you use pre-made seasoned ones, rinse and soak well before frying unless they suit the dish you are making.

Tomato Mother Sauce

  • 1 cup or 3.1 ounces or 88 grams TVP or protein substitute
  • 1 small or 1.5 ounces or 45 grams chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup or 125 ml olive oil
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 TB or 1.4 ounces or 40 grams fermented black beans (shih)
  • 1 cup or 250 ml water or stock
  • 1 cup or 60 grams dried celery
  • 1/4 cup dried garlic chips
  • 1 cup or 84 grams dried peppers
  • 2 cups sake, white wine or stock
  • 2 TB dried oregano
  • 6 3/4 cups or 53 ounces or 1500 grams crushed plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup or 60 ml extra virgin olive oil

To make the sauce cook the textured protein and chopped yellow onion in the regular olive oil with the fermented beans and fennel seeds until golden brown. Add the water, then the dried peppers, garlic and onions. Add more sake, wine or stock and simmer for ten minutes.

Add tomatoes and oregano and simmer another 15 minutes, gently. Add a very small amount of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, although it is not necessary. Add the extra virgin olive oil and any fresh, chopped parsley you like at the end after removing from the heat. Usually, we use a cup of parsley.

Put this tomato on sauce on rice, or spread on a pizza crust with cheese, or eat with toast on on vegetables. Mix it with beans and you have chili. Tempeh curry or parmesan with or without dairy or nut cheese is tasty!

We will publish several other basic recipes for tomato sauces. Each one will serve to illustrate why sauces typically vary depending on what you are going to cook in them, what ingredients you have at your disposal, what you are putting them on, blending them with, or how you will finish a dish right before serving.


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Making Koji, Malting

Making shio-koji
Shio-koji. Also called salt koji. See below for instructions below on making it.

Shio

Spent rye grains inoculated with Aspergillus luchuensis and Rhizopus oryzae and other microbes for a sour rye liquid for baking and for brewing. That’s advanced level. Keep reading.


A fermentable sugar is something that a yeast or bacteria uses as an energy source. Grains (cereals) such as barley or millet or rice have a lot of starch. To be useful they have to be broken down into smaller pieces called simple sugars.

Filamentous fungus are a specific type of microbe capable of doing this. Either alone or in different combinations koji (Aspergillus and another specific fungus called Rhizopus) does this by creating enzymes that power or catalyse this process. They can break down lots of things.

Specific types of cultures or microbes that either include koji or are entirely made up of koji are used. They break things down into smaller pieces by creating many different types of enzymes.

Koji can break down starches, fats, proteins and other things from organic sources. Usually this is done through a process called hydrolysis, which just means water is involved in the process.

Koji (A. oryzae) is better at – and does not produce harmful toxins like a close relative Aspergillus flavus – at breaking things down. The breakdown enzymes that brewers are mostly concerned with are amylases, glucoamylases, pectinases, proteases, and lipases.

Koji is genetically and specifically capable of making hydrolytic enzymes and enzymes that move sugars and other substances around during fermentation. Remember that without enzymes everything would need more energy that would ever be available.

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.

Aspergillus oryzae has been specifically selected out over many years so that the strain we use typically knows what to do. When a great batch of sake was made, brewers used the same strain that had made that batch to create a new one with the same desirable koji properties.

Malting is done by sprouting or germinating a grain. Many different kinds can be used including rice, barley, and corn. All grains contain a lot of starch. The serve as a seeds energy source.

If you expose dried grains to water and the right temperature they will sprout, creating enzymes to break down starches for the grain to grow. This is called malting. Very useful for a plant until there are leaves that can get energy through photosynthesis. But brewers get the. enzymes before they are spent on growth. They are used to break down their starches.

As long as some fermentable sugars are available we create a moromi or wort to make alcohol. Whether you are making beer, sake, vinegar or soy sauce, wild yeasts or specifically selected yeasts turn the sugars into alcohol, carbon dioxide and heat.

The heat comes from the microbes doing their job has to be carefully controlled during koji making, as well as during the process of making beer or sake or another product. There are different ways this can be done, as there are different types of koji better for specific outcomes such as sake or shoyu。

But whether it’s sake or beer – which actually usually uses malted grains that produce the same type of enzymes as koji – the same saying applies to all microbrewing: “Ichi koji, ni moto, san zukuri”. First koji, second the Moto, third the fermentation.


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.


About Enzymes

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).


Joichi Takamine

“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.


Takadiastase

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 2, next post.)


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.

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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.

Nixtamalized, Sprouted, Popped, and Maillarded Corn Jiang

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.


Recipe
  • 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.

Sprouted corn and popped sprouted corn after being cooked in corn stock with calcium hydroxide (nixtamalized)

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.