Archive for the ‘ fermentation ’ Category

ATELIERS BRUXELLES AUTOMNE 2016

Nous avons passé des beaux moments avec des enthousiastes de la fermentation. C’est clair que la lactofermentation relève du partage et de la créativité de chacun et que les instincts de chacun, débutant ou pas, peut donner lieu à des belles découvertes. Voilà une pratique de liberté et confiance et pas un apprentissage classique où on suit des recettes. Néanmoins, ceci sera le lieu où afficher des recettes, soit des pistes de travail ou des grands succès !

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UN KIMCHI QUI UTILISE LE POTIMARRON – HOBAK KIMCHI

600g potimarron pelé et coupé en tranches de 5mm – 1 lt eau – 1/2 bouquet de cavolo nero coupétrès fin – 2 cuillères à soupe de sel + 2 et 1/4 cuillères à thé de sel – 2 cuillères à soupe de poivre Coréen en paillettes – 1 cuillère à thé d’ail coupé fin – 1/2 cuillère à thé de gingembre rapée – 2 cuillères à soupe des pignons – 1 cuillère à the de sucre
Dans un gran bol, mélangez le potimarron avec l’eau et les deux cuillères à soupe de sel. Après 40 min, otez la saumure et laissez sécher le potimarron dans une passoire. Mélangez dans une passoire le cavolo nero avec les 2 cuillères à thé de sel et laissez 15 min. Rincez les sel en trop sur le cavolo nero, puis posez la passoire sur un bol: de l’eau va se recueillir et on va la garder.
Mélangez bien potimarron, cavolo nero, poivre Coréen, ail, gingembre et pignons. Remplissez un bocal. Rajoutez 100ml d’eau à celle qui est tombée du cavolo bero, rajoutez 1/4i cuillère à thé de sel, le sucre. Mélangez bien tout cela et versez-le dans le bocal (le liquide couvre deux tiers du bocal. Laissez fermenter 2 à 3 jours à temperature ambiente et après refrigerez. Cela se conserve 2 sémaines.
L’INCROYABLE RECETTE JAPONAISE DE L’AIL DANS LE TAMARI
Ceci est une recette d’un livre japonais que j’ai adapté et testée plusieurs fois. J’ai aussi eu l’occasion d’en gouter un bocal qui avait dix ans: fabuleux!!! A faire à la fin de l’été, quand l’ail arrive de France…
10 tetes d’ail – 500 ml vinaigre (de cidre ou de riz) – 370 ml tamari –  2 cuillères à soupe de sucre
Epluchez la peux extérieure des tetes sans les casser (ils restent les gousses avec leur peaux). Lavez un bocal à l’eau bouillante, remplissez-le bien avec l’ail et puis verser le vinaigre jusqu’à recouvrir. Après 2 semaines, enlevez 2/3 du vinaigre (utilisez-le pour des vinaigrettes). Mélangez bien la sauce soya au sucre et rajoutez-la au bocal. Il faut attendre au moins 6 mois avant de gouter.

 

 

 

 

 

NUT CHEESE AND REJUVELAC VARIATIONS (and the kamut scam)

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You can’t exactly say that grains are very popular these days. It’s not just because of intolerance to gluten but also because those nice whole grains like wheat or rye are meant to remain intact until they reach the ground and are able to grow into a plant. They are meant to survive the encounter with possible predator who could consider them as food and therefore grains are enveloped in substances that discourage ingestion and make digestion problematic. This is why we rehydrate whole grains, to get those toxins to dissolve in water and the grains to start sprouting. When you have sprouted grains (rye, wheat but also quinoa, buckwheat, millet) you can make a simple drink called rejuvelac. Rejuvelac was discovered by Ann Wigmore, the inventor of living foods and of the raw food diet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=BE&v=vs3FaCpHAxE

(this is a link in which Ann Wigmore shows how to make rejuvelac)

It contains many enzymes and vitamins. The nutrients in rejuvelac are broken down to their simplest form, aminoacids and simple sugars, making the nutrients immediately available for assimilation. It contains the full vitamin B complex. It helps cleanse the intestinal tract and it helps with constipation problems.

It should be used as a tonic, which you can drink in small quantities a few times a day. It can be stored in the fridge for a few days but, as most raw foods, it’s best made fresh and consumed fresh. At first I made rejuvelac with kamut, which has become ubiquitous in most health food stores. But then I came across an article explaining how kamut is a protected brand from a huge farm in Montana (so protected that you cannot even copy paste their mission statement from their website…), it’s marketed using false claims about it having been found in Egyptian tombs. Basically nobody can freely grow kamut and sell it under this name because it’s a trademark imposing a commercial monopoly. So you will pay from 80% to 100% more than normal wheat for a grain that is not so different from organic wholewheat and you will also leave a larger ecological footprint in the process.

http://www.qbsenigallia.it/articoli/articoli/news/kamut-tutta-la-verita

(sorry the article is from a trusted Italian source – I could not find any echo on English speaking literature…pressure from the firm must be pretty hard to keep dissenting voices out).

Anyway, if you decide to use rye you will have to wait more days. The same goes with buckwheat, which actually yields a very subtle and refreshing rejuvelac. I have been experimenting with buckwheat in order to have a lower content of gluten. On the issue of whether people allergic to gluten will be allergic to rejuvelac made from wheat, the Ann Wigmore health institute says that not everyone will have an allergic reaction. That’s why I’m currently experimenting with a second batch of millet. My first batch of organic millet did not sprout. I’m afraid this may have to do with the quality of the millet that was sold to me. Though labeled as organic, it may have been treated during the production process and thus unable to sprout.

MAKING REJUVELAC

Take 100g of dry soft wheat grains (or more, see below), wash them under tap water, drain them and place them in a 500ml glass jar. Soak in water for 10 to 15 hours.

Discard the water, rinse the grains and place in the jar once again. Cover with a cheese cloth and fix to the brim of the jar with a rubber band. Place the jar in a dark corner of the kitchen, better if in a warmer place. Make sure the grains are slightly wet, maybe sprinkle them with a few drops of water once a day for a couple of days. You should start to notice that the grains sprout. In warmer temperatures, they will already have a root that is 4 to 6mm long. If they have not sprouted, keep for an extra day. If it takes much longer, then something is wrong with the grains (rye does take much longer and must be rinsed more often to avoid mold).

After two days of sprouting, fill the jar with the grains with pure water (better if bottle or filtered water). The amount of water you add to the grains at this point, will be the amount of rejuvelac you will get. So if you want more than 500ml of rejuvelac, you will need a bigger jar and more water.

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Rejuvelac is ready after 24hours. If you want a stronger rejuvelac you can wait an extra day. It’s ready when the water gets cloudy and small bubbles form on the surface. A white foam can also form on the surface of the jar and it should be skimmed off. Rejuvelac can taste a little lemony and flavor will be stronger, the longer the berries have been soaking in the water. After removing the rejuvelac from the berries, it should be stored in the fridge, where it will keep for about 5 days.

NOTE: It can be handy to sprout more grains than you actually need to make rejuvelac. You can store the swollen grains in the fridge for a few days and you can use them to cook, you can add them to soups as you would do with rice or make raw cereal with fresh fruit and nuts. They are a very healthy food, much better than pasta!

YOU CAN USE REJUVELAC TO MAKE FERMENTED NUT CHEESE

When you add pure water to the sprouted grains to make rejuvelac, you can already begin preparations for making fermented nut cheese. In a time of lactose intolerance, making your own nut cheese offers a surprisingly delicious alternative.

You can use macadamia nuts (which are horribly expensive) or cashew nuts (more reasonably priced and equally delicious), hazelnuts or almonds (ideally with their skin on, but then the skin will have to be removed after soaking). Sunflowers and pumpkin seeds can also be used but the soaking time and fermentation time are much shorter and the taste more pungent and less creamy.

Soak 150g of cashew nuts in filtered water for 8 hours (Almonds take about 10 to 12 hours, sundried seeds are fine after 2 hours).

When your rejuvelac is ready, pour it off the wheat berries into a jug. Strain the soaked nuts and place them in a glass jar. Add a small quantity of rejuvelac, just enough to be able to mix the nuts into a smooth, thick paste. You can add more rejuvelac to mix more easily but then you may have to strain your cheese through a cheesecloth at the end.

Basically you leave the paste in the jar, cover it with a cheesecloth and place it in a warm spot in the kitchen, away from direct light. You will notice small bubbles forming, assign that rejuvelac is fermenting with the nut paste. After 10 hours the paste will acquire a slightly acidic flavor. You can wait a few hours more for a stronger flavor, if you prefer. If the paste is too liquid, strain it through a cheesecloth until it gets firmer. Nut cheese usually comes out as a spread. You can add salt, dry spices such as thyme, rosemary, peppercorns, cumin seeds or crushed cardamom for a different flavor. The nut cheese keeps very well in the fridge for 1 week and up to ten days.

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If you make cheese in this way, you are going to be busy for a certain number of days (the time is takes to have rejuvelac). While giving a workshop about rejuvelac and nut cheese in London, back in February, one of the participants asked me whether the fermented juice of lactofermented veggies could be used as a starter. On the moment I could not really imagine if the lactobacteria would enjoy eating up the liquidized nut puree but I told myself I would give it a try.

My first attempt was to use a mild gingery juice from Korean style kimchi on cashew nuts. It actually added a complex and pleasant flavor to the nuts. At that point, herbs were not necessary anymore. The second time round I used the juice of fermented salicornia with sunflower seeds. The result was ok but nothing to scream about, maybe not because of the juice but also because sunflower seeds tend to go a bit bitter and after a couple of days they developed oxydation and a pungent yeasty smess.

I actually noticed that a complex juice from a mixture of veggies and herbs, worked better. I then took the fermented juice of homemade umeboshi plums (will have to write a separate post on this…). It worked again and the combination was really nice. My next experience will be with fermented tomato salsa…

EXPERIMENTS IN FERMENTATION

 

1b.Exotic cucumbers 1. Kiwano

Ahead of the workshops I will give at the Wise Tradition conference in London in February 2014, several experiments have been under way in my by now too small kitchen.

After visiting Marie at Ortieculture, I acquired four rather remarkable species of exotic cucumbers (featured in the picture below). The bright yellow spiky one, the Kiwano cucumber – is from Kenya. When you cut it in half you see lots of large but soft seeds arranged within a bright green mush. It kind of takes you aback because you first had to remove the spikes and then you discover that the harshness was just there to hide the loose pulp inside. No point in trying to slice it, no chance it would hold. This was still a time of bright warm days, full of summer echoes. The Kiwano made me think of those Thai smoothy drinks using large tapioca pearls mixed with different densities of fruit, for example thick coconut cream and kiwi juice, to create a play of translucent layers. I declined in a salty preparation, a comforting salad one could just eat with a spoon and swallow. I scooped out the Kiwano pulp, added hand-mushed over-ripe pink tomatoes from the farm of “Fanes de Carottes” (they are ripe from the end of September…), a dash of home-made red wine vinegar, fresh marjoram and some good olive oil. And if you really want to play on the slimy translucent while being super-healthy, you can add some flax seeds too (soaked in water for 1h beforehand, of course).

I’m not sure many share my Asian appreciation of cold slimy foodstuff, so I will get back to the point of fermenting the unusual cucumbers in salt.

The small green ones are those that resemble most closely cucumbers as we know them. The two brown skinned ones are white inside, more juicy than European cucumbers but with a tougher skin.

In the second picture you can see the “Snake cucumber”, its thin, dark green with white stripes, a sort of cucumber in a skinny pin-striped suit…This is my favorite one of the batch. Inside it is mostly empty, except for tiny bits of bright red pulp surrounding oblong seeds with curly edges. This bits of pulp taste like fruit, they are decidedly sweet, while the rest of the cucumber is firm and vegetable tasting.

At first we skinned all big cucumbers except the Snake ones, sliced them finely and placed them in different jars with a brine of 30g of salt for 1 litre of water. We differentiated the jars by the fresh herbs we added to them, some had tansy a very aromatic but bitter herb we thought could free marvelous aromas when fermented with salt; others had Wormseeda herb with a strong flavor that is similar to satureja.

After one week we tried the jars: first of all tansy was pungent and full of character. Wormseed worked even better. But the main problem was that the cucumbers had become a mushy pulp. I still had some specimens in my fridge and so I made a new batch using the cucumbers cut in halves with their skin on. I was trying to find a way in which they could keep their crunch and so I added a few chestnut leaves (like the leaves of cherries or vine, they contain tannins which preserve the texture of vegetables). Herbs-wise, I also changed my tune: I added some cloves of garlic and the dry flower of onions (the crown studded with tiny onion seeds), and let the cucumber swim in a large quantity of brine.

I told myself that if texture did not keep, the recipe could have delivered an interesting juice. This was actually the case. The cucumbers collapsed into the brine and after ten days or so, I could already add small quantities of pulp or juice to soups like bortsch or meat stews, to salads to bland steamed vegetables like Chinese cabbage, potatoes or lentils. Basically, it was a very handy jar to keep in the fridge and to use in very different preparations. When textures don’t lend themselves to classical idea of small crunchy vegetables morsels, it is worth investing in aromatic fermented juice.

www.ortie-culture.be

“Biochymickal Arts” workshop at Foam, Brussels – Fermented vegetables

Between September 13 and September 15 I was invited to the “Biochymickal Arts” workshop held at Foam, Brussels. I gave a talk and a practical session on lacto-fermented vegetables.

As part of the talk, we tasted some samples I made and some kefir based drinks and fermented mushrooms prepared by Rasa. I will already post the recipes of what I made, hopefully Rasa’s will follow in a subsequent post.

PRIOR NOTICE:

You can ferment vegetables in a glazed crock with a water lock. This makes sense if you are working with large quantities. But screw-top jars or jars with a rubber seal on the top are perfectly good and much more handy to store in a kitchen (provided you keep them away from direct sunlight). Note that a screw top jar may bulge due to the CO2 pressure building up inside it (no worry, it will not explode unless you travel with it on a plane). A rubber top jar lets bubbles go out but then you can also lose more fermenting juice than in a screw-top jar.

fermenting seafood kimchi

To ferment, you need salt. Use fine sea or rock salt that has no additives inside it (iodine, anti-coagulants and so on…). These inhibit fermentation or can be potentially toxic, so please avoid.

 MEDITERRANEAN STYLE FAST FERMENTATION

Ingredients:

The base:

16g artichokes (already clean, only heart)

88g patisson (small white pumpkin with a curly rim)

40g celery leaves

90g carrots

38g radishes

 

The condiment:

4 dry porcini

3 sun dried tomatoes, soaked in water

3 twigs of marjoram

1 tbs pine nuts

4 tbs parsley

For this kimchi I took inspiration from typical vegetables that are used in Mediterranean cuisine, such as artichokes and the “duo” celery + carrot. Radishes and patisson are less usual and are included for crunchiness. On the level of flavors I took inspiration from Korean recipes, where pine nuts are dry mushrooms are used to add flavor and then I thought I would also add some sun-dried tomatoes. This is a fermentation that is best samples when it is young, since the parsley will still have some texture and individual flavor and where all the different notes of vegetables and condiments will be quite sharp.

PREPARATION

1. First get the ingredients of the base ready: chop all the vegetables in size-bite chunks and place them in a bowl.

2. Get on with the condiment. Place the dry porcini in a small amount of warm water and let infuse for a few minutes. Do the same with the sun-dried tomatoes. Keep the steeping water.

3. Now chop the porcini, sun dried tomatoes and parsley. Mix this with pine nuts and marjoram and add to the bowl containing the ingredients of the base. Add the salt, to a ratio of 30g for 2kg of vegetables, thus 4g of salt for the quantities of vegetables mentioned above. Mix well.

4. Boil some water and pour it in the jar you mean to use for your fermentation. Close the jar, shake well and pour water out (this is meant to sterilize your jar).

5. Now press all the vegetable mixture into the jar, making sure you do not have big gaps. Pour in the juice of mushrooms and tomatoes.

6. Close the jar well, store it somewhere at room temperature and away from direct sunlight.

Wait for 4 days. Your kimchi should be ready then and will taste best until day 8. By “best” I mean what appeal most to me, namely with the different flavors still distinctly present in the mix. Some people may find it best when all flavors blend, which happens around day 8. So this is up to you. After opening the jar, you will expose it to air and so to possible contamination. You may want to refrigerate after that, a measure that will also slow down further fermentation.

TIMEFRAME – 4 to 8 days.

 

KOREAN STYLE KIMCHI

Lately I have become increasingly interested in Korean fermentations. This is a recipe adapted from “The kinchee cookbook” by Kim Man-Jo, Lee Kyou-Tae and Lee O-Young (Periplus, 1997). The main characteristics of kimchee is that the vegetables are salted (in a brine or just salt) for a while, then rinsed and drained before being mixed with a seasoning paste. Oysters and shrimp paste usually speed up the fermentation. But there are also fish-based recipes requiring several weeks.

KOHL RABI KIMCHI WITH OYSTER

3 medium sized Kohl rabi (reserve the leaves or substitute with 1 bunch of radishes leaves)

85g sea salt

1,2l water

SEASONING PASTE:

65ml rice porridge (made with ½ cup water and half TBS rice flour)

1/3 cup fermented shrimp paste

1/8 cup red chili flakes

1/3 cup red chili powder

1/6 cup finely chopped ginger

1/3 cup finely chopped garlic

5 spring onions cut in 4cm lengths

½ cup fresh oysters

PREPARATION

1. First cut the kohl rabi into 1,5cm cubes.

2. Then make a brine by dissolving 70g salt in the water. Let it cool down.

3. Now add the cubes of kohl rabi to the brine and let stand for at least 4 hours (make sure they are immersed in the water, otherwise use a plate to keep them down). Drain, rinse under cold water and drain again.

4. Make the seasoning paste by combining in a bowl the rice porridge, the fish paste, chili flakes and powder, ginger, garlic. Add the scallions and kohl rabi. Toss everything together gently.

5. Place everything in a container, place the leaves on the top and let stand for 3-4 days.

6. Transfer to a fridge afterwards and consume within 4 days.

TIMEFRAME : 3-4 days

 

GARLIC PRESERVED IN TAMARI

This is an all time favourite. It can store for years and the tamari juice becomes an ultimate delicacy. The one I brought to the workshop was more than a year old and I’m sure it will be all gone before the new year arrives. Anyway…I have made it by adapting a recipe from the very precious book “Quick and Easy Tsukemono” by Hikuko Hisamatsu. Instead of soy sauce, I go for tamari, which is itself the juice of miso and hence a fermented product. Whether you use tamari or soy sauce, go for the good stuff and stay away from supermarket brands. You will be rewarded.

You basically take whole cloves of garlic, you wash them and pat them dry with a cloth. Then you place then in a glass jar (which you will have sterilized in advance) and you pour tamari over them. You can also add a small quantity of rice vinegar or apple vinegar (a proportion of 1 cup to every liter of tamari). After that you basically forget your jar for a few months. The best flavors develop after 5 or 6 months and then the mix keeps improving indefinitely.

I once had a chance to try a ten year old jar, it was fabulous and the garlic melted in my mouth like a sweet…

Links to the workshop and to foam:

http://fo.am/biochymickal-arts/
http://fo.am/splinterfields/

CHEESE OR GRAIN? IT’S KISHK

Kishk is one of those amazing foods that are created to overcome a situation of poverty and which turn out to be ecologically meaningful and incredibly rich in taste. I tried it for the first time at the Slowfood Convention in Torino, where a Lebanese delegation had come to present this traditional product from the village of Majdelzoun, near Tyre. Kishk tastes like fresh goat cheese. It is often flavored with herbs and spices and preserved in olive oil. When I asked how it was actually made, I discovered that there was not a drop of milk in it and that it was actually made by fermenting wheat, or more precisely by fermenting bulgour (which is parboiled wheat) in salty water for several weeks and by rolling the fermented paste into small balls. Wheat was the only product readily available to poor farmers and fermentation, being a reaction with the microorganism that live in the surrounding environment, made up for a unique and complex flavor. The rhythms of making kishk were adapted to the times of harvest and of grinding the grain in the mills. The mixture was left to ferment in the normal environment (no fridges) and it adapted to those conditions. Basically, a tale of great resourcefulness.

It is really surprising to be confronted with a grain product that tastes so much like cheese and that draws so much of its character from…the surrounding air. Especially at a time when dominating discourse on food relies on refrigeration and sterile environments – as if the history of our foods was not the result of a clever bond with the life that surrounds us (micro-organisms, yeasts and bacteria included).

A few months ago, I tried to make my own kishk, adapting a very reliable and simple recipe from the book “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz. Basically, all I had to do was mix buttermilk and wheat in a jar, knead it once a day for about 9 days and then let it dry in the oven until I could roll it up into balls. The experiment was very successful. I then tried again using yogurt instead of buttermilk but the mix develop almost an alcohol-like smell I was not too fond off. I then tried buttermilk mixed with cous cous, and the texture of the kishk was even smoother and more pleasant in taste. With or without spices, it is a very delicious grain-cheese that one can make at home with very little effort (the main thing is to choose a glass or ceramic container, place it in a clean and warm spot and cover it with cheesecloth so that the mixture can breathe).

Why make kishk at all? For me it is all about the pleasure of a unique flavor that develops over time and which is always different. It is also a form of resourcefulness, making the best out of very simple ingredients. And also an adventure, trying to understand the process behind food.

more info on KISHK recipe

KIMCHI making in Brussels

Thanks to Effi and Amir, who came to the January workshop, we have some “live” images of kimchi making using a ceramic crock made for lactofermentation (with a water-seal lid). This kimchi was made with white vegetables and roots and flavored with miso, lavender leaves and other spices.

On the same day, we were introduced to a Syrian recipe of stuffed fermented aubergines. These could be bought in a Brussels store at the beginning of Ch. De Louvain (metro: Madou). The shops’ name is “Naya” and it is opposite snack “Anatolia”.

I actually managed to get there a couple of days ago. I wanted to check this temple of fermented vegetables and other wonders. Actually, the jars of pickles vegetables reminded me of an Iranian shop I visited in Utrecht. Basically, I think there is a sort of “golden rule” or “golden proportion” ruling over which foods will be imported from far away countries and also how good they will be. It is only the most loved ones that make it all the way, preferably if canned or in jars (the perfect counter-example to this are African grocers. They import raw vegetables, which often really suffer as a result, such as bundles of royal fern buds or amaranth leaves…). But then, my guess is that the canned versions or the most loved foods are the industrial versions or foods that are most consumed in an homemade version. I have not been to Iran or Syria but if I think of the South of Italy or Morocco, it is clear that any food is at its best when home made, by women who have time and experience to do it. In Brussels, the cakes eaten at Moroccan weddings are not made by a famous Moroccan patissier but by women gathering together for that purpose.

Anyway, back to my Syrian shop, it sold several fresh unexpected leaves, like red basil, tarragon and dill. Also several intricate versions of loukums with pistachios and almonds. Plus whole candied fruits (these were really industrial specimen using a sugar that reminded me of aspirin). In the back shelves I came across the famous aubergines, a paste of goat milk called “Iranian suace” and lovely globes of lebneh, a cheese made out of strained yogurt. In short, a minor paradise or food gateway to the Middle East.

watch video

CULTURE CLUB 30.03 – HOMEMADE MISO

Miso is one of those foods that take one right at the heart of the whole thing, meaning right at the heart of Japanese cuisine. It is a simple and straight road, so simple that one wonders.

Miso is a fermented food. It consists of beans, rice and salt. Nothing more. Most of the time the beans in question are soya beans but you can make miso with lentils, barley, chickpeaks, aduki beans and so on. The rice is not ordinary rice but it is “inoculated” with a fungus called KOJI (Aspergillus oryzae). Basically the cooked rice is left in a warm environment where the mold or fungus would naturally grow on its surface. The the rice is dried and broken into chunks that will be added to the salt and cooked beans. The paste takes months or years to ferment, depending on the salt content (more salt = slower fermentation).

I go into these details because MISO is really the result of a tranformation operated by a mold, reacting with the surrounding environment. In a traditional miso workshop, the containers for miso were made of wood. Wood is the king material of natural conservation and diplomat of bacteria and molds. Just think of the fact that cheese, wine and other products of fermentation are kept in wood. Back to miso, the wooden vats contributed to give it a more complex flavor. On the top of these vats, liquid would rise and drip from the cracks and this liquid is TAMARI a dark, salty sauce that is at the ancestor of soy sauce. The mold or KOJI is also used to ferment rice for making SAKE and soy beans to make NATTO. It is a mold that is naturally found in rice straw and this is why in farmhoused miso was made by wrapping balls of cooked beans and salt in straw and hanging them outside in the cold air.

The most informative book, full of beautiful drawing of how a miso workshop was organised and run is THE BOOK OF MISO by William Shurtless and Akiko Aoyagi. A rare book that would be difficult to imagine when one looks at foodbooks that are written today, it is the result of serious research and travelling and it provides a cultural translation of a tradition that reaches back to China in the 3rd Century B.C.

In Japan MISO is first and foremost a homemade food. It is made once a year, stored and used to make soups, sauces and other condiments. The idea is that every household has its own miso and its own specific soup flavor. The same goes for nukazuke, small pickles made by hand daily using a base that keeps for years and can be passed on from generation to generation.

MISO is not difficult to make and then all one has to do is let it ferment in peace. The resulting flavor depends very much on the beans used, the freshness of the ferment and surrounding environment but it is definitely more complex and subtle than industrial miso or instant miso powder. It is a food that puts flavor in a direct connection with the individual maker, a sort of “foodprint” that is unique.

It is a concentrate that goes into dozens preparations, it is a base. A good miso can be the secret behind the enticing flavor of a salad or a dip. I made the experiment by grating carrots and other vegetables and by mixing with a dollop of different misos and the different quality of the UMAMI food (umami is the “feel good” taste linked to meat, mushrooms, parmesan, it points to a food which is full of natural glutamatic acid which triggers the production of neurotransmitters including serotonin).

I have been making miso at home for the last two years, three batches so far, all very different and also getting better as I try to procure fresh koji, transported by plane from Japanese supermarkets in New York, and taking inspiration from Sandor Ellix Katz’s book “Wild Fermentation” and South River’s “Three year barley miso, traditionally food fired” into use of different grains. It makes a hell of a difference. I even harvested a small cup of tamari in the first stages, when the beans were still wet. And it tasted delicious!

KISHK AL KHAMEER

Unfortunately the picture is rather small but enough to make out the little balls of fermented bulgur. I tried out the first batch a month ago, using bulgur and kefir. I placed them in a pot which I put on the radiator. The mix had to be stirred once a day and I kept it going for 8 days or so. The second time I used yogurt instead of kefir but then there was a quasi-alcoholic thing going on, so I think that kefir and buttermilk are a better and safer bet.

The experiment worked out fine in the end. I dried the fermented mix in the over and rolled into balls, trying to re-create the flavor of the KISHK AL KHAMEER I had tried in Torino a year ago. Below some info from the Lebanese Slowfood Presidium:

Definitions and Traditions
Kishk is a food product made from fermented milk and crushed wheat (burghul). Davidson (1999) distinguishes between 2 types of kishk that were first documented in the 13th century. They are:
* Kishk al khameer or fermented kishk, which is burghul fermented in water and later dried in the sun and ground into powder. This kishk originated in Hawran in southern Syria, where it was the staple food of poor farmers;
* Kishk al laban or yoghurt kishk, which made by fermenting burghul in yoghurt. It is believed to have been developed as a later variation of water-fermented kishk. This richer-tasting, more costly product was favored by the wealthier classes.

Kishk al khameer production has virtually disappeared from Lebanon, although anecdotal evidence indicates that the very poor who cannot afford to purchase milk may still make it for their personal use. There is no information in the available literature besides that of Davidson (1999).
Kishk al khameer is also sometimes known as kishk al fouqara. This should not be confused with a dessert known by the same name in Egypt and Syria, which is made of milk, sugar, starch, almonds and other nuts (Al-Ghazi, 2001).

Ingredients, Characteristics and Techniques
Kishk al khameer is produced in two forms:
1. The fresh or “green” form, which is usually shaped into small (3 cm) balls and preserved immersed in olive oil. The product has an ivory color with a slight orange tint;
2. The dry form, which is a light yellow powder produced from sun-dried green kishk.

The procedure for making kishk al khameer is the following:
* The burghul is fermented for 1 week in water at a ratio of 1:0.5. One tablespoon of salt is then added to the mixture;
* The burghul is placed into sealed containers. It is removed and kneaded every other day for a period of 30 days (15 kneads) at which point it should have the consistency of cream cheese;

At this point, it is considered fresh or “green” kishk and can be treated in 1 of 2 different ways:
* It can be consumed immediately, or shaped into balls to be preserved immersed in olive oil. It can also be flavored with sesame seeds, red pepper, thyme or other herbs; or
* The mixture can be placed in the sun (usually on roof tops) for 7 days. During this period it is kneaded 2-3 times a day. It is then sieved and packaged as dry kishk. The green form is usually produced in the winter when there isn’t enough sun to dry the cheese, while the dry form is produced in summer.

Muna al Durr and the kishk al khameer of Majdelzoon
The only location where we were able to find producers still making kishk al khameer on a small commercial scale was the village of Majdelzoon, in Jabal `Amel, South Lebanon. Situated atop a hill overlooking the Mediterranean, 7 km south of Sour (Tyre) and 95 Km from Beirut, Majdelzoon is a

small village surrounded with agricultural fields and oak woodlands. It appears to have been inhabited for at least 2 millennia, as it houses several cave dwellings dating back to Phoenician times. The name is believed to be a combination of the Aramaic word “magdla” meaning “the high security post” and of the Syriac word “zuna” meaning region.

It is in these surroundings that Muna al Durr, also known as `Umm `Ali (the mother of `Ali), lives. Muna inherited the kishk al khameer-making knowledge from her grandmother, but she had not considered its commercial potential until she met Nelly Chemali. They partnered in the creation of Earth and Co, a company specializing in natural foods, and started producing kishk al khameer for vegans who wanted to a non-dairy product with a fermented taste similar to that of some local cheeses. They brought their kishk to Souk el Tayeb, Beirut’s farmer’s market, where it came to the attention of Slow Food. In 2006, kishk al khameer became a Slow Food presidium (an endangered food that is being commercially produced).
Kishk al khameer is sold both nationally and internationally, and demand in the Gulf countries is high. The total quantity produced per year is around 500 kg. It is packaged and sold in 600 gram jars. Compiled by Rami Zurayk. Editors: Imad Toufeili (technical), Deborah
Chay (English). Researchers: Sami Abdul Rahman.

DAY 15 -KALUSTYAN

I heard about this famous NY dely at the museum of Natural History, during a public talk by oral-historian Lucy Norris about pickles. The talk boiled down to a rather shallow intro to the fact that since time immemorial people have been preserving veggies in salt brine and/or vinegar. Disappointing indeed given the fame and means of the prestigious venue. In addition, the “talk” lent a generous amount of spotlight to a young entrepreneur who I will note cite here but had little more to say than the fact that his was a family business, i.e. that he learnt pickling from mum and dad. Given that what he learnt was the precedure of pickling and pasteurizing which is used by any factory around the globe, I see little point in bragging about “family”. Except of course, it this meant to be a clumsy attempt to capture the semantic connections to “the good old ways” and “the authentic and the healthy” that such branding can evoke. And the evening was full of strange exceptions, from a public venue with a pedagogical and cultural mission to a paying audience, paying to look at a few slides taken from Norris book and some more from thingy’s factory and then been entertained to a wide array of pickles which they were warmly welcome to buy in the near future. It was decidely Pavlovian and I felt like a guinea pig on a school trip.

The only “up” for me was the mango pickle Norris said had come from Kalustyan, a historical deli run by a Lebanese man and stocking its own brand of exquisite pickles. The mango was delightfully tangy and full. I could not work out the exact ingredients and procedure. I suspected vinegar may have been playing a role there but was intrigued by the appearance of exotic mango in a Middle Eastern recipe.


The next day I entered Kalustyan, walked by shelves full of the most incredible spices and up to the restaurant part. The I began wondering. The foods had very, very little to do with the opulent cunters of Lebanese snack bars I know from Brussels. There was something hopelessly sad and dusty about the stuff at Kalustyan. To just mention one thing, fresh raw vegetables were not there to be seen. I thought that this may be the NY spin on Lebanese or that maybe old Lebanese immigrants must reproduce an older version of their cuisine compared to more recent immigrants. Still it did not fit. It did not fit with the stacks of pickles below, which were anything except Lebanese. I ask one of the men working in the shop if Mr. Kalustyan was there and if he could tell me which was the mango that had been used for the public presentation to the museum of natural history two days earlier. I was bruskly pointed to a jar of industrially made mango pickle from Bangladesh.

Nothing wrong with Bangladesh and pickle, nothing wrong with industrial pickle, except that people should not be misled. Upon returning home I checked on the internet and found that Kalustyan had died in the 80s and his shop to two brothers from Bangladesh in 1988. Did “oral historian” Lucy Norris fail to notice that when she wrote her book on pickles or when she purchased her mango pickle or was it better to keep on selling the “Kalustyan brand”?

At home I opened my treasured jar and found the tangy flavor I had fallen for. After a brief search I located it in the mix of vinegar, spice, toasted fenugreek and mustard seeds. Still don’t know how long this can keep, given the small amount of salt and use of oil…


DAY 14 – DESTIN’S MISO SECRETS

I love miso. And respect it deeply. It is a food that matures at home, over a period of at least six months (and more often more than a year) and which reacts to the surrounding the environment and develops a uniquely characteristic “home flavor”.

The industrial version of miso is available at every Japanese restaurant or take away, it is the clear soup you get at the beginning of the meal, but this is not the stuff I want to talk about.

The first time I saw people making miso was at Tako Furuno’s farm on the island of Kyushu. Furuno is a remarkable man, a genius-producer of rice following the aigamo method. His wife runs miso workshops, during which large quantities of cooked soy beans are mashed and mixed with koji-inoculated rice and pressed into large ceramic jars. My visit was too short and rice-focused and miso sadly kind of dropped out of the picture. However, anything interesting that enters my visual field will be picked up, sooner or later, and the same happened to miso.

Once back in Europe I did some reading, wrote to Furuno, search the internet and obtained: a) detailed instructions from the miso-master and b) a bag of the necessary ferment from a shop in Hamburg. My first miso was ready in the winter of 2008. But my second batch was already under way in October of the same year. A Japanese acquaintance had brought me a bag of fresh ferment and the result was much better. Both experiences were quite limited because I did not really know the details of the whole thing. For example I was fixed on the idea that miso was about fermenting soy beans and soy beans only. Now, any beans can serve for miso, in fact they may even taste better that soy beans, be faster to cook and more readily available.

The Copernical revolution, miso-wise, came about when I visited Destin at her home in Brooklyn. Destin’s cuisine is a celebration of fresh vegetables in ways that I find really inspiring, like wrapping up fresh kale, avocado, powder miso and sprouts in nori sheets. Destin gets many of her goodies from a local Co-op, where prices are really affordable and quality very high. And she had a small selection of miso that was going to blow my mind. A three year wood fired barley miso, or a chickpea miso or a millet miso. I don’t like to mention company names but as far as I can tell South River is doing a wonderful job. You can taste that the beans have been wood fired in the same way as meat cooked in a wood over will be ten times more delicious than meat cooked on a gas stove. And there are many variations due to the kind of beans used.