Making me some miso

I don’t actually eat that much miso at home, but having gone to all the effort of obtaining my koji inoculated rice, it seemed a shame not to. In any case, I figured that once I had my home made miso, perhaps I could use it as a swap item at future crop swaps; or that I would use miso more frequently.

The recipe I used was based on Sharon Flynn’s “Ferment for good”, and I was aiming for a sweet white miso. Miso keeps fermenting, so I thought that if I started with the sweet white, as it kept fermenting it would settle towards a ‘red’ style miso.

Mistake one: Don’t plan on making miso on your yoga weekend away.

You are supposed to be relaxing. Attendance at all activities is compulsory. And you’ll end up getting super stressed watching your soy beans alternating between refusing to cook and boiling over.

Mistake two: check the batteries in your kitchen scales. Bring a spare set of batteries. Or raid all the kitchens at your yoga retreat for any other sets of scales available.

Otherwise ‘guessing’ the weight of salt ends up with astounded comments of “you put HOW MUCH in?!” when you ask about the progress of your miso in an internet forum.

I ended up with…
500g dry rice koji
360g soy beans
185g salt (Note: Use LESS if you want a sweet white miso)

Pinch test:
Soybean cooked yet

I was supposed to cook the soybeans until the point that I could squash the bean together between my fingers. At this point, I figured “that’ll do”, plus I had one hour to finish this before the next yoga session, lunch, and packing up to go home.

After mushing the soybeans up (very hard to do manually), I then mixed it with the dry rice koji, salt, 2 tbs “starter miso” and soy bean cooking water.
This was formed into balls and then “thrown” into my cookie jar fermenting vessel – to remove the air pockets, and once again “squashed down”.

Capping layer

I put a thin layer of organic genmai miso on top as a protective layer, and then fine salt into a zip lock bag ontop as a weight. The lid on the cookie jar with its rubber seal was placed on top, and then the ‘seam’ sealed with some plastic wrap, and my concoction stored under the house.

Seven weeks later… well I was supposed to ‘turn’ my miso one month in, based upon discussions with another Australian miso maker. I forgot. Also I was busy.

The jar smelled amazing when I opened it up:
Miso - open jar

The miso has expanded above the salt weight during the fermentation process. Or perhaps the action of pushing the lid down has pushed the stuff below up.

After removing the salt weight:

Tamari

I’m pretty sure that the dark coloured liquid is tamari. This is confirmed later on by the internet forum. I excitedly decant this off – later on I smell this again, and it smells a little more alcoholic than tamari like. Apparently this is a problem in smaller batches.

Stirring:
Miso layer

I break the crust, and I can see the top 1cm has darkened in colour. This is definitely a thicker layer of the darker colour than the protective miso layer that I smeared on top originally. I stir the whole lot through, then replace my salt weight and reseal my jar.

So my sweet white miso was only supposed to ferment for up to six weeks. I’ve let it go past that, plus I have no fridge space to slow down the fermentation, so it’ll probably keep on going until I can use it. Under the house is the closest I can get to ‘fridge’ I tasted a little of the tamari – and it tasted yummy and moreish, or perhaps I was just craving salt.

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Finding Koji in Australia

I’m not quite sure how this happened. I read one fermenting cookbook that mentioned nukkado, then another, then I found an article that mentioned using Koji to inoculate meat and give it a funky unami taste. So of course I was interested.

I was trying to find a source of Koji and sake lees in Sydney. Mail order and shipping in Australia starts at $11 (2017 prices), but I was trying to reduce the amount of packaging and food miles I’m using.

The Fermentary (Daylesford, Victoria), stocks dried Koji rice and frozen sake lees.

Rice culture (Gold coast, Queensland) sells dried Koji rice that they have made themselves.

Jfc Australia claims to sell frozen sake lees and Koji rice from Japan but I wasn’t sure how to order, how much it was, and if I had to order wholesale quantities.

The Go-shu sake factory (Penrith, Sydney) sells a limited quantity of sake lees and shio koji. Availability is dependent upon the brewing cycle.

Vision brewing (Western Australia) sells Koji kin, the actual spores, for $16.50 USD.

Grain & Grape Homebrew (Yarraville, Victoria) onsells vision brewing’s Koji kin for $19.95.

Finally, I remembered Tokyo Mart in Northbridge. This place used to be the only place in Sydney you could buy Japanese Plum Wine, so I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it sooner.

So finally, here we have it, my stash of koji in three stages:

Three stages of koji

Koji Kin or aspergillus oryzae spores ($19.95), inoculated koji dry rice ($16.75), sake lees ($5.45).

Now let’s make something!

Post-post edit:
After visiting Brisbane and Melbourne recently, I figured that I needed to add a few extra koji related product availabilities.

Rice cultures (Gold Coast, QLD) has multiple stockists of its non-pasteurised miso, generally in the Queensland/Sunshine Coast area. Fundies wholefoods, Paddington QLD, stocks the miso.

Alice (Sunshine Coast, QLD), sells her own homemade miso.

Tang Emporium (Melbourne, VIC) sells a liquid from Japan called “shio koji”. Alchohol is one of the ingredients.

Hinoki Japanese Pantry (Melbourne, VIC) sells Inaki Miso (Chunky rustic style miso that includes bits of the koji), shelf stable shio koji (looks a lot like the stuff in the fridge @ Tokyo Mart, Sydney); and shelf stable amazake.

Taste Organic (Newtown and Crows Nest, Sydney NSW) and About Life (Sydney, NSW) sell shelf stable amazake.

Alfalfa House (Newtown, NSW) sells organic genmai miso. It is probably shelf stable, as it is not stored in the fridge.

[not checked] Saskani Kobo (Brisbane, QLD) sells fresh koji rice (white rice, brown rice); Shio koji, tamari koji, Gochujang Style shio koji, miso (brown rice, white rice, barley), and amazake. All products require refrigeration.

Yoshiko Takeuchi (Sydney, NSW) sells the raw ingredients to make miso, as part of her “power of miso” cooking class. This class is only run during winter.

[not checked] Soramame (Sydney, NSW) sells Ama koji (amazake), shio koji and tamari koji at the Kings Cross markets. They claim that there is no alcohol in their product – which doesn’t make sense at it is a by-product of the fermentation process; unless it has been pastuerised.

Southern Wild (Tasmania) sometimes sells fresh shio koji at the Sunday farmgate markets.

Harvest Monday September 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related.

Salad mix:

Salad mix

Various things, gathered from the garden, for this week’s salad mix for inclusion in sandwiches. This includes mustard greens (plant obtained via a swap), horta, butter lettuce (swap), curly kale, parsley (self seeded), rocket (arugula), land cress, beetroot greens.

I finally have some broad bean flowers showing. I planted six broad beans directly into the soil in the planter box. Two months before I got any shoots – only one for the direct sowed, and two shoots for the ones that I soaked in seaweed solution.

Spring Seedlings 2017

Other stuff obtained in the past two month via swaps:
– yellow capsicum (pepper) seedlings
– tomato seedlings (black krim & yellow something)
– pak choy seedlings
– bitter melon seedlings (I planted two, will onswap the other. I don’t eat it.. so not sure why I planted it!)
– dwarf bush bean seedlings
– random lettuce seedlings (red oak, cos, butter)
– kabocha seedlings
– mushroom plant (I killed it by not planting it)
– pomegranate tree
– 2kg of cumquats
– Yacon, some to plant, some to eat
– Seed Potatoes (Otway red, snow queen, royal blue)
– coffee chaff & coffee bags (hessian sacks)

Other stuff still growing in the garden/seedlings:
– celery
– onion
– garlic
– kohlrabi (getting a bit late in the season)
– beetroot, grown from seed
– potatoes (pontiac, snow queen, royal blue)
– brussels sprouts (took a cutting from my infested brussels sprouts earlier in the year)
– land cress (as a sacrificial lure for the white cabbage moth)

I have planted some green coffee beans that I found in the hessian sacks, after first soaking in seaweed solution. I hear that germination rate isn’t high. But hey, free coffee beans. Fingers crossed!

Learning to brew

When you “make” honey (after you extract the honey from the honeycomb), you are left with a sticky mess of wax and honey. I then wash this wax mixture so I can then refine the wax from the propolis and other bee related items. It feels so wasteful to then throw away this honey water (honey washings), that I tried several times to make mead. But each time, I made vinegar. I then went out and bought a bottle of mead to see the end product that I was aiming for: and I did not like it .

Oh dear.

Now what?

Then up popped an ad for a beer brewing workshop at the cornersmith picklery. Sold!

The beer brewing kit that is readily available in Australia is kind of like mixing cordial. Add substances A, B, C to water, let sit (brew) for 7 days then decant into your bottles, adding a carbonation ‘drop’ (dextrose sugar tablet) to each bottle.

The brewing method at this workshop was the next step along, where you might select the hoppiness of your brew by selecting the type of hops, and how long your brew your mixture for.

We were guided by Chris Sidwa of Batch Brewing in the method of extract brewing, which is a little more hands on than cordial brewing.

He ran through the importance of sterilisation, the difference that the type of hops makes to the flavour profile, as well as how long it is boiled and when it is added to the mixture.

Working in groups of 3, we got our 3 litres worth of water per person boiling, before adding the light malt extract, stirring to prevent the sugar burning on the bottom, or the foam exploding out of the top.

malt:

Malt

Cascade Hops:

Cascade Hops

These hops were developed by Oregon State University, and is one of the few freely available non-trademarked variety of hops. We added these at the -30 minute mark, and at the -5 minute mark. Everything is measured in terms of “time from ending the boil”.

You pack your hops into a double muslin bag, so that you can remove it from the brew when you put into the fermentation vessel.

Wrapped in muslin:

Hop bag

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble:

Brew

The process of boiling is to drive off unwanted flavours and remove bitterness. The reason the second lot of hops is added is to add the hoppy flavour back into the brew.

After adding the second lot of hops, we divided the mixture into our brew buckets, and enjoyed a small taster of Batch Brewing’s American Pale Ale, sourdough, cucumber pickles and capsicum (sweet pepper) relish.

We got to take our fermenting buckets home with us, and issued with a second set of instructions.

I didn’t think this one through:

Public transport

After carrying my brewing and decanting buckets home on the train (Luckily I didn’t have my pushbike, unlike one of the other attendees), we were instructed to add 3-4 litres of cooled boiling water and let brew for 7 days.

Recipe (makes approx 5 L):
3 litres boiling water
840 g malt after the ‘hot break’
1 x 30g hops @ -30 minutes
1 x 30g hops @ -5 minutes
Place mixture into your brew bucket.
Cool to approx 20 C
3g yeast (US-05)
3L chilled boiled water*.
Let brew for 7 days in a constant temperature environment, about 20 deg C, away from sunlight
35g dextrose into sterilised bottling bucket
Decant from brewing bucket into bottling bucket, leave yeast cake behind
Decant from bottling bucket into each bottle – gently – you don’t want the yeast to get all excited and foamy
Leave a little headroom (equivalent to your bottling wand)
Cap the bottles.

I had trouble capping the bottles with the supplied ‘hand capper’.

I left the lids on top of the bottles for a day to keep contaminants out, whilst I looked around to borrow someone else’s bench capper. I ended up buying one second hand.

Capped (L), Uncapped (R):

Capping

Considering the amount of force required to push the cap onto the bottle even with the benchtop capper, there is no way that I could have made the hand capper work. No wonder they are known as the deathstick in the industry!

Buy one bench capper, receive microbrew kit for free, BOGOF:


Bench capper


This was not my intention, to gain the equivalent of three home brew kegs in the space of 8 days! I’m going to have to try this recipe again, because instead of the second lot of chilled boiled water, I added honey washings which I had boiled (pastuerised). Note to self – if you do this, the beer may need to ferment for a longer period of time. This style of beer is called a braggot.


Braggot

A few months later, I did try my beer. I was left with 1/4 in the bottle, as the other 3/4 ended up all over the kitchen walls, floor and counter. Yep, it was still fermenting in the bottle. I was lucky it didn’t explode! The result was very tasty, but highly alcoholic.

The class was attended and paid for anonymously by A Sydney Foodie.

Guava swaps 2017

This is what the poor guava tree looks like right now:

Guava tree 2017

The birds… and the bats… have told their friends. So I had to double exclusion bag the fruit, because they had worked out that they could still bite the fruit through the netting and suck the sweet goodness out. This meant I had half the number of bags available. My partner saw a magpie fly past, and then hang *upside down* from a fruitfly exclusion bag, then swing and peck at the fruit within. No photo!

I ran out of netting, and fruit exclusion bags. The local hardware store had 4 x 4m netting for $25. Instead, I went to the local haberdashery store and bought gauze curtain remnants – about 3 pieces for the same price.

Gauze remnants

So I promised you last time, that I would tell you about my guava swaps.

In previous years I have made jelly, jam, guava butter, guava bread, guava nectar, dehydrated guava (failed – don’t do this), guavas in sugar syrup and then just frozen guava with dots of butter, ready for my next pie. Then I changed jobs and lost access to incredible amounts of freezer space.

So this year, I decided to swap them. I have no idea how many kilos have fallen off the tree, but it’s at least 10kg.

Swap 1: 1-2 kg guavas for 12 dozen backyard eggs
No photo.

Swap 2: 500g odd guavas for 1.5 pomegranate fruit

Guava swap 2
These were really very tart pomegranates. My co-swapper had been having them in cocktails

Swap 3: 2kg guavas for vegetarian kimchi from the intertwined foodie, preserved lemons and 6 passionfruit

Guava swap 3

I didn’t even realise that standard kimchi wasn’t vegetarian – it uses shrimp or fish sauce. The substituted seaweed added a really moreish yumminess that made me want more.

Swap 4: 1-2kg guavas for fermented honey & garlic and 3 seeds potatoes (royal otway, snow queen, royal blue)

Guava swap

Fermented honey and garlic is supposed to be a good health tonic, warding away colds and flu type things.

Swap 5: 1-2kg guavas for soapwort cuttings, dwarf peach seedling, broad bean seeds (for planting)

Guava swap 5

I planted the tripoli directly about a a fortnight ago, but still haven’t seen any shoots come up. This is against my better judgement, because I think broad beans are just *so* *much* *work*.

Swap 6: 4 guavas for purple asparagus seedling and pineapple sage cuttings. Some of the pineapple sage I then used to swap for a horseradish plant and a chinese veggie – White Mugwort.

Swap 7: 6 guavas for 3 x monsterosa deliciosa fruits (fruit salad plant/swiss cheese plant)

Guava swap 7

This fruit comes off a very common ornamental plant. The fruit is actually the “stamen” of the lily-like flower, and may take up to a year to ripen. You have to wait until the ‘scales’ start falling off (& ricocheting across the room) before the fruit is ripe. To me, it tasted like custard apple. Of course, once I had swapped this fruit, I started to see it *everywhere*, and got so excited when I managed to harvest three in short succession from a roadside ornamental garden.

Swap 8: 6 or so guavas for some “not too hot” chillies (Bishop’s crown chillies)

Guava swap 8

I still haven’t tasted them. My co-swapper was just happy to get rid of some, but he did promise that they weren’t too hot.

Swap 9: 6 or so guavas for a little butternut pumpkin and a few lilli pilli fruits

No photo.

Swap 10: 2kg guavas for 8 empty jars
No photo.

Swap 11: 6 or so guavas for cumquat & lime marmalade (big jar) and spicy plum jam (little jar).

Guava swap 11

The spicy plum jam reminded me of a spicy rhubarb pickle that I had made recently. At the end, I had a little of the spicy sugar syrup left over, so I added some plums, mushed it up and called it done. My co-swapper makes jams and jellies professionally, but only uses a little guava to make a jelly for one client. The rest is bulked out with apple juice (!?!).

Swap 12: 6 or so guavas for a ginger bug from kitchen adventures!

Guava swap 12

Ginger bug makes drinks fizzy. You start off with ginger, sugar and water; and the bacteria on the ginger ferments. When you feed the bug, you take a little of the liquid off and add that to tea in a sealed container. A few day later – fizzy!! The bottle of tea blew off the swing top lid because it didn’t get out of the way in time.

Guava swap 12

Swap 13: 1 kg guavas for 1kg homegrown mandarins

Guava swap 13

Some of the mandarins were a bit tart at first, but when they ripened up they were sweet and delicious.

I didn’t actually realise until I started writing this out, how many good things my guavas had gained me this year. Guava season started about mid May this year, and I’m now 3/4 of the way through June. Thirteen swaps!! Really?! That seems like so many.

Harvest Monday, June 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related.

I gave in, and finally pulled out my hairy winter melon cross vines. The leaves had started to die back as winter and frosts had hit. Final lot of hairy winter melons:

Hairy winter melon

3 from one vine (the main producer); the fourth from a vine on its own. 346g, 700g, 664g, 900g. That’s a total 10.64kg from some random seeds that just popped up in the garden bed.

Banana.

Banana

Its started to rain – quite a lot. My second hand of bananas started to form in about April 2017. One of the bananas had started to split – probably because of the rain. The upturned ends had also started to rot. So I harvested it, with the hopes that being indoors and warm, my bananas would start ripening to yellow without deteriorating further. 1675g the hand. Perhaps I need a ripe banana to put with them, give off some ethylene gas and help with ripening them to yellow.

Planted:

The second lot of onion seeds took, so some of these I have planted. What is interesting is a little stalk grows up, and the onion seed (slip) is on the top.

I have planted out those seedlings I showed in the last garden update post – kohlrabi, snow peas, dwarf peas. I have also planted out some garlic – elephant, and some other purple type that I picked up from the organic food store.

I also ripped out the brussels sprout “tree” – which was infected with many aphids, and possibly white cabbage moth – lots of little white moths the size of the aphids, very hard to squash. There were a few sprouts which had rootlets on them, so I replanted them. I’m trying an alternate method of control – land cress seeds. Apparently if the white cabbage moth is around, it lays its eggs in the land cress, and the larvae eat it (in preference to the brassicas). This kills them.

Guavas:

Guavas 2017

Guava season has started. I haven’t really eaten that many this year, and I haven’t had much time to process them. I’ve been swapping them mainly, more on that next post.

Horta:

Horta

Looking good for a patch entirely in the shade! I’ve harvested from this once. Not quite micro greens, perhaps mini greens. I’ve actually been harvesting dandelion leaves, sweet potato leaves, malabar spinach leaves, parsley and mustard greens for my local greens boost.

Horta, June 2017

Olives, three ways

Olives! Available as a crop to swap. I got about 1kg (and then another 1.3kg later) from one crop swapper of mostly black olives. I swapped a hairy winter melon cross, about 1.7kg.

My dream olive is a green sicilian olive from Darling Mills Farm; or a smoked olive picked up from the Orange Grove market.

I tried three ways of preparing my olives.

1. heavy salt brine
(1 litre water, 1 cup liquid)
To tell the correct amount of salt, you float an egg in it. The first egg chosen was a little long in the tooth, so I then used a slightly younger egg (3 weeks old). Then I read up at skillcult, how to make a Sicilian style olive, but more importantly, proportions of salt to water was given.

2. A dry salt pack

This I got from milkwood permaculture. You put a layer of olives in your jar, then cover with salt. Repeat.

I was at a little loss as to what to do with the olives that had slightly bruised or bad bits. My source of the olives said to throw them out, because they turned mushy. My maltese neighbour told me that she put them all in , warts & all. I made a slight compromise, chopped the bad bits off, but then I fermented them separately in a heavy salt brine. I figured that with the extra exposed surface area, they would take less time to ferment.

Here they are (left to right, as above):

Olives, two ways

I’m already having trouble from stopping my olives from floating to the surface, and my weights are obviously not weighing them down.

I also notice the bubbles of the fermentation process coming to the top. About a week in, I tried one of the olives. When I cracked open the lid, I noticed the aroma was starting to smell like the familiar ‘olive’ type smell, but it was still quite bitter. I also noticed that the colour actually starts leaching a little out from the partially green and black olives, so they turn more green.

With a later batch of green olives (swapped for a pumpkin, which I swapped previously), even though I know that they weren’t the Sevillano type, I thought that I should ferment them the skill cult way.

3. Skillcult way
One litre water. 1/4 cup salt. 1/4 white vinegar. I chucked an orange leaf in to add a little tannin, to follow in the steps of my neighbour.

I can’t wait to try the finished products!