Taucho Pesto



Fermented black beans, also called shih or taucho, can be made with different cultures. The most common type is made with Aspergillus sojae. But they can also be made with Bacillus subtilis, a useful and ubiquitous bacteria that secretes enzymes that are very widely used on food processing as well as other industrial applications.

When beans or someone other substance such as seeds or nuts or grains are made with B.subtilis they are known by different names based on the country they are made in. Almost every country in the world has a ferment that uses Bacillus subtilis one way or another. It’s a very common alkaline ferment.

In Japan, for example, small black soybeans or small yellow soybeans (both a species of legume called Glycine max) are inoculated with B.subtilis they are called natto. But there are many different types of natto with different names depending on the size of the bean used, whether the outcome is dried, and even if the beans used were pieces instead of whole beans.

And, like everything else, sometimes things have names based entirely on where in Japan they were made, and of course what you do with them. In future posts we’ll describe how to make a great miso using natto (なっとう)、as well as a few other things you’ll like as much as this. We made a pizza with this the other day with this taucu pesto.

Taucho is the name used in Malaysia. They also make a taucho manis, a beloved sweet version that finds a use in just about everything. Most people know the word kecap manis, which is a version of very sweet soy sauce that used to be made with fermented black beans. Yeah, we have a recipe for that.



After making natto from black soybeans and other ingredients, we decided that after two months at 34F they really smelled exactly like Parmiggiano-Reggiano. Or maybe an aged Romano cheese.

That all changed, however, when we decide to dehydrate them to make several dishes. After the first four hours of the most intense cheese smell they started to have background notes of maturing protein. As in ammonia. After 16 hours of open windows they were finally done.


Cheese Raisins?

They tasted great. So we decided to make a special pesto type sauce that can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a year. It makes about four cups (or 1900 grams).

Two to 3 tablespoons on a plate of pasta, or mounted in a sauce, or used as a marinade ups the flavor and protein level of just about anything. Obviously a great topping for bean soup or any stew.


  • 113 grams dried black natto (or fermented black beans)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sake or white wine (optional)
  • 76 grams nutritional yeast
  • 4 cups or 265 grams dried tomatoes (sun dried work as well)
  • 1 cup or 100 grams dried onions (or 2 cups minced and cooked down until brown)
  • 1 cup or 60 grams dried celery
  • 1 1/4 cup or 240 grams of mirin (the alcoholic one) or water
  • 4 TB oregano

Mix all ingredients together and let sit overnight or a day.


  • 1 cup or 115 grams raw, trimmed garlic cloves
  • 2 cups or 410 grams light olive oil
  • 2 cups or 525 grams of thick, salted basil puree
  • Above mix from 24 hours ago

Fresh basil and salt from the Sumer of 2019

Fry the finely minced or pureed fresh garlic cloves, trimmed of the stem ends, gently in the heated oil. Add the mixed ingredients from the day before to the hot garlic and oil. Cook gently for 15 minutes stirring constantly. The alcohol will cook off while helping to preserve the mixture. Add the basil and salt puree and cook for a minute.

Let cool, stirring as it cools down to ensure all the oil gets mixed in evenly. Refrigerate. Last at least 6 months, 12 months if well refrigerated. Makes about 3 pints.


Corn Sourdough with wild yeasts and S.bayanus


Come try this tasty bread at our event this Monday, January 27th, 7 to 9:00. We still have 9 seats left! Eventbrite (Register at this link, or at MeetUp for cash donations). With Chris Cuzme and Mary Izett that create their brews at Fifth Hammer Brewing Company in Long Island City, where the event is taking place. And try some things that we made using enzymes, and yeasts starters.

We typically have an ongoing sourdough starter that we feed at least once a day. We never throw out any of it because we have so many uses for it. It’s fermented dough.

We typically feed the starter based on the formula described below. If you are taking it out of the fridge where it has been stored for a while, you have to feed it at least 3 or four times before it will be active enough to raise your dough. That means at least 24 hours.

First, put the recently used starter into a clean jar and add the water. 75F degree water is best. Not hotter. Mix it very well. Then add the flour and mix. Cover tighly or not.

Keeping it at 72F to 85F is best unless you want to grow it more slowly. It typically takes about 3 hours to become active after each feeding. It should at least double in size. The most common failure to rise issue is that the starter is not active enough. Same with brewing.



  • 40 grams sourdough starter from a recent previous batch
  • 70 grams strong bread flour
  • 70 grams water at 75F

After you have started the process of getting your starter active, mix the flour and water that you are going to use for the bread. We like to let it sit, covered, in a warm spot for at least three hours as well.

We highly recommend you do this step. If you want you can mix your flour and water then refrigerate and bring to room temperature the next day. Or even several days later. This is called autolyze, a part of starch hydrolization that is very similar to the process called gelatinization.

  • 700 grams bread flour
  • 450 grams water


  • 640 grams corn biga with S. bayanus yeast
  • 140 grams active starter
  • 36 grams shio-koji (if omitted, use coarse sea salt as specified below)

A biga is made by mixing flour and water together with a small amount of yeast. It is then refrigerated overnight or longer. We used corn bran and rice bran for this biga.

The yeast we used was S.bayanus. This yeast is typically made for wine and beer brewing. You could use another yeast if you like.

We mix the biga and the sourdougb starter together very well, turning it onto itself in a bowl for several minutes.

We then took the mix of water and flour from several hours earlier and mixed that into the biga and sourdough starter mix. We did this while adding the shio koji.

We aimed for 2% salt in this bread, based on bakers percentages. That means that we added up all the flour we used including the flour that was used in the sourdough starter and the biga.

The total flour amount was 1100 grams. That means we needed 22 grams of salt or 170 grams of aged, salty shio-koji. We added 148 grams more of shio koji to the mix after we rested it for 30 minutes.

We kneaded dough, several times while letting it rise again. Finally, we put one half in the fridge to test the yeast – and the other half in a large loaf pan. It was lft to rise for 120 minutes.


9 AM
11 AM

Bake at 450 for 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 2 hours.

We already have some great ideas for some other yeasts. All baked goods should have one form of filamentous fungus (Aspergillus, Rhizopus, etc.) or bacterial enzymes or both in them. We already have some great ideas for some other yeasts.



Shio Koji (salt koji)


Shio koji can be kept in an air lock sealed jar but we prefer the refrigerator unless we are aging it. When aging shio koji we typically add some alcohol. We will have some quick pickles made with shio koji at Monday’s event.

  • 300 grams of koji (rice, barley, corn, wheat, etc.)
  • 100 grams of coarse salt
  • 400 grams of water

As you can see the golden rule of shio-koji making is a 3:1:4 ratio. You should try to make the salt equal 12.5% of the total weight of your shio-koji. By weight, not by volume.

The salt percentage of any shio-koji should be between 12 and 15%, but never exceed 15% or go below 7%. There are yeasts and microbes that can still live in a 7% salt solution. Over 15% and protease and other enzymes are denatured. You could still use it as a seasoning though.

If you are using 300 grams of koji, you massage that with 100 grams of salt. Just like when making miso you should always massage your koji and salt.


Quick pickles made with shio koji

If you wait an hour you will see a dramatic change. The temperature may even rise. That means your koji has active enzymes.

You can make this in a blender – our preference – but remember that any time you expose koji to mechanical action it will produce heat. Don’t make a lot at once, and chill your Vitamix or blender first.

After grinding or massaging the salt and koji add the water. You add 400 grams of water, cover tightly and place in a dark place for this recipe. Shake every day for 10 to 14 days.

Store in refrigeraor or at room temperature under air lock. Don’t make too much at a time, as it will become infected with wild yeasts and bacteria if you keep opening and closing the container.



When using shio koji to replace salt you should use 2 to 3 tsp to replace a tsp of salt.

A tablespoon of shio koji per pound of fish or meat to marinate for 15 minutes is enough. Usually 10 to 15% of the weight of whatever you are using the shio koji on will suffice.

There is sugar in shio koji so careful when you cook it. Wipe the shio koji off if you like. It’s excellent in baked goods.


Coconut Fennel Beer


Roasted Sourdough Coconut Fennel Bread in a rich malt broth.

Eventbrite (Register at this link, or at MeetUp for cash donations)

January 27th, 7 to 9:30 come ask questions about any of the recipes or methods used in this post. Two extremely skilled fermenters, and cutting edge brewers, Chris Cuzme and Mary Izett will be in house helping us answer questions.

They create their brews at Fifth Hammer Brewing Company in Long Island City, where the event is taking place. Take a look at their menu! And try some things that we made using enzymes, and yeasts starters. We’ll answer any question that you have about anything fermented.


We used lots of different types of grains inoculated with koji. We made syrups out of them by making amasake from both rice and barley inoculated with Aspergillus oryzae (koji), then slowly boiled them down to a very thick sweet paste.

You could use store bought barley malt or rice syrup.

We also added some DME, or direct malt extract, to the broth or what is called the mash if you are making beer. You could use all powdered DME if the syrups are too time consuming or expensive.


Sweet Malted Wort meets Toasted Coconut Fennel Sourdough Bread

Our yeasts were from what are sometimes called Shanghai yeast balls. These typically contain koji as well as other fungal enzymes like the ones you can make tempeh with called Rhizopus oryzae.

These enzymes work to break down big starches into small digestible sugars for humans, and for yeast food. When starches are broken down like this they are then called fermentable sugars. The yeast can eat them and create alcohol and gas.


Yeasts balls crushed up, and a fancy instrument to measure the SG of your beverage. This is important when you want to know how much alcohol something contains. Not much at all at the start – or at the end.

Chinese yeast balls called 麹 in traditional Chinese also contain specific bacteria that are widely used in the food sector to turn starches into sugars, including for fermenting. The Japanese recognize the word 麹 as meaning koji as well.

But the Japanese got their alphabet (or kanji) from the Chinese. It’s a system of pictograms. The Japanese dramatically altered both the language and the koji so that now most people refer to koji as the purified, Aspergillus only Japanese version.

Chinese starter cultures are dramaticaly different, but do often contain some Aspergilllus oryzae as well. It can be confusing when 麹 is used. All the great spore producers are in Japan.


The original koji mash we boiled.

We wanted to introduce people to the concept of mashing, above, as well as adding house made or store made malt extracts in powder or liquid form.

If you have enough you won’t even need the powdered malt extract. On the other hand, you could double the dried malt extract and skip the koji syrups. (original recipe)


The yeast forming a nice top of the beer. This beer doesn’t have hops, though. So this is really, really old school.

After straining the liquid we had intended to use for something else we realized we had lots of liquid koji extracts in the refrigerator. We also had lots of sourdough bread that had some flavoring components in them. Those became this spiced beer.

  • 6000 grams liquid cooled down to 95 to 105F
  • 950 grams heavily toasted sourdough bread (coconut and fennel sourdough bread was used in this recipe)
  • 22 grams crushed yeast balls (2 to 3 balls)

When the malted liquid made from either koji syrups or liquid or powdered malt – your goal is a starting SD of 1.040, but don’t worry about it if you can’t measure it – is below 105F, pour over the sourdough and let it absorb the liquid. Keep warm.

After about an hour the bread should have absorbed the liquid and be around 95F. As long as it’s between 72F to 95F it’s okay. Add the crushed up yeast balls and stir for about 5 minutes.

Cover with a towel and leave in a warm place for about an hour. Stir well again and put in a sanitized container. It should not fill the container more than half full. Put in warm area, maintaining a temperature as close to 82F as you can, covered with an air lock or just a sanitized cloth. Stir once or twice a day for 3 days, tasting as you go along.

At day 3 strain the mixture well with a sanitized strainer. Put in smaller sanitized container and let it settle for a few hours. Then pour off the top liquid into sanitized bottles and let sit again, this time in a cool area.

Either pour off the liquid again after about 12 hours – rack it some more while pouring the liquid through a very fine nut bag or brewing bag – or don’t and refrigerate until very cold.

Leave about an inch space in each bottle, then seal the bottles tightly. Be aware of carbon dioxide buildup. Burp the bottles if they appear to be building up gas.

Careful when taking the bottles from a very cold refrigerator to a warmer area. As with water kefir and milk kefir, open bottles with a towel over a bucket if necessary.



Ask questions at our upcoming event! There are two ways to register depending on whether you have cash or credit. Most people are registering using Eventbrite, but register at our MeetUp page if you have cash or can’t afford anything. Just register.


Part 2 of the Chocolate Brew

Eventbrite (Register at this link, or at MeetUp for cash donations)

January 27th, 7 to 9:30 come ask questions about any of the recipes or methods used in this post.

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

Try some things that we made using enzymes, and yeasts starters. We’ll answer any question that you have about anything fermented.


The following recipes demonstrate methods that are useful across the board for anything you brew. Yeast is involved, as are bacteria.

We measure the starting SG (specific gravity) and PH of everything. We count on bacteria to create lactic acid to lower the PH in some brews, but not this one.

We could easily just add some lactic acid up front to lower the PH quickly to protect the yeast from infection in any brew, but that does not avoid the need to always be sanitary. Even when you have an open brewing system like with sake.

Once the yeast takes hold it will be able to control the environment of the brew, but in many cases unless the lactic acid producing bacteria are prevented from infecting the moromi or mash, the yeast may not stand a chance.


Utensils hanging out in Star-san. You can even save it for bottle washing weeks later.

We’ll talk about sanitation in future posts. For now wash everything, use gloves, and boil everything that could come in contact with your brew.

Everything always follows strict rules of sanitation. Get some Star-san and use it. You could also use bleach, but that’s a lot more tricky.


Rice sugar extract, similar to a liquid malt extract.

We wanted to introduce people to the concept of mashing, as well as adding house made or store made malt extracts in powder or liquid form.

Obviously introducing people to some basic principles of yeast starter building and maintenance for everything from sake to shoyu to beer if they haven’t been introduced is always a good thing.

We’ll discuss all these things at the event, and in future posts after the event.


Chocolate Koji Kvass (濁酒)- continued
  • 3785 grams (1 gallon) water
  • 1400 grams rice koji syrup (warm)
  • 445 grams barley koji syrup (warm)
  • 240 grams dried powdered barley malt extract

After straining the liquid we realized we had lots of liquid koji extracts in the refrigerator. We also had lots of sourdough bread that had some flavoring components in them. So we set the liquid we made in the previous post – our sweet little wort – and decided to make a more refined base for our Chocolate Koji Doboroku.

We boiled these together in a sanitized pot being careful not to scorch or burn the bottom.

  • 85 grams bittersweet chocolate

We added the chocolate right near the end of the boil of 60 minutes and mixed it well with a sanitized whisk. At the 50 minute mark is fine.


The cooling down wort waiting for it’s yeast.

When the boil got down to 90 F we added the yeast and stirred. You can use an ice bath and cold water to get the temperature down.

Proofed S.bayanus yeast ready to go.

After that, we put a sanitized lock top lid on top. We waited a week or so until we sampled it. Keep it at 72F or below if you can.

We may add some additional chocolate at this point similar to an infused sake. If you plan on doing that hold back some chocolate and let it steep in a small amount of alcohol or water in the fridge. Come try some.


Chocolate Koji Kvass (濁酒)


Heavily toasted rice koji (A.oryzae) sourdough bread.

Recipe
  • 150 grams rice koji
  • 200 grams wheat berry or brown rice koji (or more rice koji)
  • 300 grams heavily toasted cubed or ripped apart sourdough bread.

Mix above ingredients and toast slowly in oven for two hours at 200F. Stir occasionally. Not burnt, but really brown for the bread. The koji won’t change color much but will smell amazing.

The rice koji bread above is obviously not as dark as a pumpernickel bread would be. Bread made with rice or another koji is preferred, but use whatever leftover bread you have.

Use whatever koji you have. Can’t get your hands on koji? Use malt extracts. We’ll discuss those tomorrow.


Two hours after slow roasting our kojis and bread.

  • 24 cups boiled water, cooled down to 140F

Pour the water onto the mixture hanging over your fermenter in a brew bag. Stir the contents in the bag well.

Let sit, covered with a sanitized cloth or plastic wrap for 24 hours as close to 120F as you can.

It’s okay if you can only keep the temperature at 72F.


In the sanitized brew bag. In a fermenter (a plastic, food safe bucket that fits right into our cooler) that can easily be chilled.

We’ll decide what to do for yeast once you lift the brewers bag out carefully letting every last drop drip out. Don’t squeeze the bag, though. Save the dregs to make vinegar or compost it.

You can also dry it out and use as breading for fried foods or as a thickening agent.

You should have either brewers yeast, yeast balls, champagne yeast, sake yeast or even another type of yeast for tomorrow.


Ask questions at our upcoming event! There are two ways to register depending on whether you have cash or credit. Register here if you want to bring cash or make donations. If you want to register with a credit card use the Eventbrite link.