Ferments and Cultures


Event Registration: https://conta.cc/2X2xdzo

Events in this 15 part program will cover fermentation, preservation, increasing food resources, science, traditional/novel applications of microbes, soil development, farming, fungus and bacteria as environmental tools, waste management, and international cultures that include foods, drinks and traditions from Armenia, Georgia, Iran, China, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Russia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Israel, Finland, Denmark, China, Japan, Mexico, France, Norway, Sweden, Korea, Palestine, African and South American and North American countries and indigenous people and immigrant diaspora throughout the world including the USA. 

The program Starts August 6 – Register here. You can register up until August 6th for the first event, but you should probably do it by August 4th! Thank You!

Jessica Alonzo of Petra and The Beast in Dallas, Texas demonstrates two types of rice amasake she uses based on what type of fruit or vegetable she is using. This is a great video, and a good example of one of the newer videos we are making of all presenters for the series. You record the raw footage, we edit and place titles, recipes, pictures of books or products, etc. Cucumber Kasuzuke from Petra and The Beast

This event includes some new videos edited from raw footage submitted by presenters. The third and last hour of the meeting 3PM to 4PM EST will be devoted exclusively to video making.  1 to 4 PM EST , August 6 Live Event. $30 USD Videos, and Chat in English, (preguntas y repuestas en Español en chat) Program Hosts and Presenters (both confirmed or invited) must ask for entry codes unless purchasing tickets.  Event Registration


Sesame koji paste for Armenia style flatbreads for our Silk Road, Halal and Kosher Event

24 hours before the event watch at https://conta.cc/2DfBTuI. The 3 hour live part of the takes place 24 hours after that start time of August 5, 1 PM EST. 

Go to registration page, purchase a ticket or use code to access. You’ll receive a passcode for the live event 24 hours before the event. 

In this 24 hour showing is the world premiere of the first five episodes of Season 1 of Cultured&Cured: Asian Fermentation with Chef Ken Fornataro



The last hour of the August 6 event: Video Presentation Assistance Q & A with award-winning TV producer, Amy Kalafa. How to create a video with recording tips from a professional. Join hundreds of presenters from around the world. 


Green Mango with Lime and Salt, and a ripe mango 2nd ferment Water Kefir

Events in this 15 part program will cover fermentation, preservation, increasing food resources, science, traditional/novel applications of microbes, soil development, farming, fungus and bacteria as environmental tools, waste management, and international cultures that include foods, drinks and traditions from Armenia, Georgia, Iran, China, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Russia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Israel, Finland, Denmark, China, Japan, Mexico, France, Norway, Sweden, Korea, Palestine, African and South American and North American countries and indigenous people and immigrant diaspora throughout the world including the USA. 

Event Registration: https://conta.cc/2X2xdzo

Mailing List: https://conta.cc/30SSPiv


Super Powers – Rice Koji with R.oryzae and A.oryzae


An in depth discussion of how to grow koji on fragrant long grain rice using a combination of A.oryzae and R. oryzae cultures or spores from these filamentous fungi.

In the coming weeks we will be publishing quite a few recipes that use this super enzyme charged rice! Using this you can both preserve and extend and improve the life and quality of what you eat.

Perfectly Steamed Rice Yearning for Spores

Kojify All the Things with All The Spores!


A discussion of all the things you can make koji on. With All The Spores.

Make koji using A oryzae, or combined Rhizopus oryzae and A.oryzae for koji or tempeh. Also, intro to make koji on green coffee, chocolate, toasted rice, rice flakes, soy grits, corn bran and more.


Three Misos


We made a big batch of basic miso – over a gallon – using converted brown rice and canned organic chick peas. It’s very tasty, easy and inexpensive. As is, it makes a great basic miso. It’s also gluten free and contains no soy products.

However, we added some really special ingredients to it to make 3 different kinds of miso. It’s something we like to do when we make miso. If you have the base, why not create variety? So we made a black garlic miso, a koji cured bacon miso, and a truffle shio-koji miso.

Roasted dried mushrooms of any type work really well if you can’t get truffles. You can add just about anything to it, including dried or partially dried vegetables, or even dried fish.

This is a 4 part series. If you have any questions or think something was left out let us know.


  • 2700 grams rice koji (koji recipe)
  • 5 cups or 850 grams canned chick peas, cooked and drained
  • 2 1/2 cups or 385 grams of coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup or 150 grams of black garlic
  • 1/4 pound or 106 grams cooked bacon (koji cured preferred, but smoked is okay)
  • 1/4 cup truffle shio koji (or dried mushroom powder)

After you have bought or made your rice koji, grind it up if dried or mash with the salt while still fresh and slightly warm. Let sit for an hour or more, then add in the cooked and very well drained garbanzo beans. The beans should have been pressure steamed for 10 minutes, or just heartily boiled for about 15 minutes.

If you mash up the beans before hand they will easily mix with the rice. As you mix, the water inside the beans will make it so that no additional liquid is necessary. After mixing, let sit covered for up to 48 hours at room temperature before remixing and packing it into a container. You could also just pack your miso into a container straight away.


Quick Box Koji



Powdered Rice Koji. It’s a thing. A Smart Thing.

  • 5 pound bag of parboiled rice
  • 1 tsp Aspergillus oryzae

We had a leftover, heavy cardboard box that was the perfect size for making rice koji in. We took a 5 pound bag of parboiled rice and rice it off very well. We then put it in a preheated 350F oven in a stainless steel container. The rice was well wrapped with foil to prevent dryness or steam escape.

As soon as we put the rice in the oven we turned it off and let the rice sit undisturbed for 12 hours. It easily fluffed up and was cooked but not at all mushy. We then added a teaspoon of Aspergillus oryzae (tane koji spores) and grew the koji out on the rice. We then made 3 different types of miso from the koji.


Awasemiso

Some people actually start off to make miso with an eye towards using some or all of that miso at a later date, typically to blend with another miso. A blended miso is called an awasemiso.


Awasemiso

We considered awasemisos as a way to build layers of flavor. Let’s say you took a sweet red miso and blended it with a mellow white miso. Is there a way you could have just made that blended miso from the start?

You could get pretty close, but why would you lessen the number of miso types you had to chose from? You couldn’t unblend it if you wanted to use mellow white miso.



That’s why we try to always create distinct items that can be blended with something else, or have something added to some of it to create a new item. Although this onion awasemiso is a blended miso, it can still be considered a distinct item.

You can use it just about any way that you would use chicken soup if you added some to hot water. You could use it just like you would a chicken bouillon cube.

Take a tablespoon of this miso and add iot to an oil and vinegar dressing, or a cup of mayonnaise. Then dress greens, or steamed vegetables or a pasta salad with it. Mix it wit buttter and use it as a bread sprea. Or like a compond butter.


  • 1 cup or 154 grams kosher salt
  • 2 cups or 180 grams dried onions
  • 3 cups or 552 grams ground rice koji
  • 18 – 20 cups or 4000 grams miso

This recipe combines multiple techniques such as slow baking (or sun dehydrating) a miso for several days, or even freezing it when you want to stop it’s fermentation. We used baked corn and aged corn misos. You don’t need additional. Just keep mixing the miso.



If you start off with a wheat and soybean free base, like we did here, everything you create from there on out can be wheat and soybean free. If that’s not a concern, use soybeans. It’s very hard to beat the protein content of soybeans, although some people prefer garbanzo beans.

After a while, most misos and soy sauces begin to taste the same. That’s why we always have shio-koji on hand as well. Because that, too, can be blended with a miso to make a really spectacular awasemiso. Or used instead of miso if you don’t want that miso taste.

Taste. That’s another reason why we like awasemisos so much. Let’s say you have a 3 month old miso that you had planned to cure for 9 months. At 3 months most misos taste pretty good. A little young and not quite ready maybe, but still tasty.

Specialty misos made with roasted corn, for example, really taste like fresh corn. At 9 months the fresh corn taste might turn into s more mature deep taste that isn’t so corn forward. So why not bake or sun dry some of that, and add some older corn miso, thereby memorializing that young corn taste?

That’s what we do here. But we also do something that makes it more of a namemiso. We add more ground up rice koji, and in this case lots of dried onions.

In 30 days, this will be a explosively tasty miso that will make anything you put it in be several times tastier than it was before. And it will be ready to do that for whatever you have on hand.

Have some fresh gardens vegetables. Wash, trim them and remove some of the water from them if you like by salting them down. Add some miso, and possibly some vinegar or oil. We do that with fresh tomatoes all the time.

When you aren’t really sure what you’ll have access to, having this suoer tasty miso on hand makes whatever you can get taste great, and be super nutritious as well.

五味 – The Five Flavors

The taste of Sour is associated with Spring (and one of the five elements, Wood).  Sour foods are said to be good for the liver and gall bladder. Vinegar, sauerkraut and other lactofermented foods, citrus fruits, and sourdough bread are classified as sour foods. 

Chef Ken Fornataro will discuss food and beverages based on the principles of five elements traditional Chinese medicine, and the five tastes. A specific organ or organ system of the human body is nourished by each of these tastes. Each taste has either warming or cooling energy, as well as a season.

Combining one or more of these tastes, like adding lemon or ginger to a piece of fried fish, creates compelling taste sensations while balancing the body’s energies. 

Ken’s Instagram virtual event on April 19th from 6 to 6:45 will include ways to create these flavors using cultures, alone or in combination:

  • Aspergillus (chhu or koji) and other filamentous fungus types grown on substrates including rice, millet, wheat, chocolate, mushrooms, seaweed, meats, fish, brans and bogassa
  • Rhizopus grown on rice, corn, fruits, fish, nuts, shellfish, squash, beans and other vegetables to make interesting fermented, preserved and inoculated foods and beverages such as #miso, baking flours, amino sauces and pastes, wines and other unique beverages.
  • Enzymes, Bacteria, Acids, and Yeasts, including malts, isolated out to create cultures to make functional and filling foods and beverages. For example, specific enzymes that come from koji can make doboroku, a country style sake, as well as barley malt or rice syrup.

Using these cultures, Ken will demonstrate how we create the five flavors by making five dishes that combine one or more of these cultures to make different types of kojis, misos, sauces, pastry and pickles.


  • Chocolate koji, corn, chipotle, and pickled onion mole
  • Peanut Koji and Sweet Shrimp Kecap Manis
  • Double fermented baked awasemiso
  • Tempeh and red pepper shoyu
  • White Soy Sauce with koji cured mushrooms

Ken Fornataro appearing at the Florida Fermentation Fest
We’ll have lots of recipes and additional videos at https://www.a-ray.tv/work-in-progress-cultured-cured and at https://Cultures.Group for those who send us their contact info including mailing address. Because you never know what really cool thing will arrive in the mail. 

Ken will demonstrate tasty, functional, medicinal, balancing, and strengthening food and beverages based on the principles of five elements traditional Chinese medicine, and the five tastes that have underlined all the worlds greatest cuisines for over ten thousand years. In combination, the above categories can create amazing, layered taste sensations.

Ken’s Instagram virtual event on April 19th from 6 to 6:45 presentation will briefly discuss:

  • Aspergillus (chhü or koji) and other filamentous fungus types grown on things (substrates) including rice, millet, wheat, chocolate, mushrooms, seaweed, meats, fish, brans, and bogassa to make fermented, preserved and inoculated foods, beverages, baked goods, pickles, sweets, and condiments.
  • Rhizopus grown on rice, corn, fruits, fish, nuts, shellfish, squash, beans, and other vegetables to make interesting fermented, preserved and inoculated foods and beverages such as tempeh, baking flours, misos, amino sauces and pastes, wines and other unique beverages.
  • Enzymes, Acids, Bacteria, and Yeasts, including malts, isolated out to create cultures to make functional and filling foods and beverages that are tasty as well as easier to make. For example, we’ll use specific amylase enzymes that come from rice koji to make doboroku, a country style sake. You could also just use the rice, but this is an example of the conveniences created by science.

Corn with A.sojae
Mixed Filamentous Fungus Corn Mochi Koji for Shoyu

As promised, we will further discuss the physiology of taste, and the receptors that influence how and how much we taste and smell, but also health. Combination therapy is the key. Properly balanced or combined as demonstrated in the food and drinks we describe, new flavors are unlocked, and new tasted are unbound. 

In the last 100 years spectacular advances in food microbiology have demonstrated how traditional techniques were well reasoned out. They worked in the context of the place they were made in. They provide a roadmap to adjust to ever changing resources and food supply and accessibility issues, climate change and cultural changes. 



We hope to be able to show you how to make many different types of koji, jiangs, soy sauce, shrimp miso, green tomatillo ketchup, koji and rhizopus cured coffee, manis kecap, tempeh flours, pickles, fruit and herb shrubs, malted sweets, and fermented chocolate breads. If we don’t have time, you’ll see recipes and hopefully videos for these very soon.

Always with an eye on affordability, accessibility and functionality. 


With
@sunshineandmicrobes
@hanihoneycompany
 @stpeteferments
@kirstenkshockey
@contrabandferments
@sarah_c_owens 
@sandorkraut
@fermentationonwheels
@theblacksheepschool
@goenfermentedfoods
@rgbpurafermentacion 
@zukemono
@kombuchakamp 
@rootkitchens
@awakenkombucha
@gystmpls
@culturesgroup
 @flyingboatbrewing


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.


https://Cultures.Group

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.