Archive for the ‘experimental cookery’ Category

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!

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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.

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!

Small Scale Kombucha Brewing

I think I like kombucha brewing. It is far less effort and commitment that my attempts at mead (honey wine) have proved and delivered. Plus the turnaround is so much quicker!!

I have described earlier how I grew the mother from a batch of store bought. Win! This saved me $35. Before I gave her a mother jellyfish, my friend Heidi was buying the same quantity that I am brewing here, for $15 a pop. Ouch.

I don’t actually drink that much of the stuff (like a tablespoon or so a day), so I really needed to brew small scale. Most recipes that you find on the internet are for making batches 2 gallons (4 litres) at a time!! This is my recipe which makes 1 litre per week.

I started off with a 400g “gourmet” instant coffee jar. This holds over a litre worth of brew, which is perfect for me.

Kombucha Mama

First Fermentation:
1. Brew 1 litre of tea*, add 1/3 cup of sugar, let cool to room temperature. I do this step overnight.
2. Add tea to kombucha brewing jar, reserving 1 cup worth of the existing kombucha brew in the jar
3. Cover jar with double layer cheese cloth – allowing the brew to ‘breathe’. Store in a warm location, away from potential bumps.
4. (Optional) Taste your brew daily using a plastic spoon, your brew is ready when it shifts from tasting like sweet tea to “vinegary”. In summer, with 35 deg C days, this takes me 4-5 days.
5. After washing hands with water, shift your mushroom ‘mother’ to a clean plate/bowl. This makes it easier to decant the kombucha to your storage container.
6. Decant kombucha brew into a your glass drinking bottle, from which you will take your daily drink. Reserve 1 cup of kombucha brew for the next ferment.
7. Return the kombucha mother to your brew jar, and the 1 cup of reserved kombucha. Start again at step 1.
Secondary Fermentation:
8. (Optional) If you want flavoured kombucha, add tumeric/ginger/apple juice/fresh strawberries to your glass drinking bottle, let it ferment two days in the fridge (or really, just start drinking it). It’ll flavour as it goes. I generally add a splash of the sweet tea from step 1, and what ever random herbs I have lying around. Herbs used so far include mint, vietnamese basil, thyme sticks, rosemary.

Brown floaties OK, mould not. If your mother (jellyfish) gets mouldy, peel off the mouldy top layer, wash the remainder under cold running water, stick it back in the jar and start step 1 again with 1 cup of reserved kombucha tea (or apple cider vinegar)

The kombucha eats up the sugar, so it doesn’t matter what kind you use. Just don’t use honey (it is antibacterial, it might kill the mother). Honey for the secondary “flavouring” ferment is fine.

If you’re making too much kombucha, stick the whole thing in the fridge to slow it down. Add a little bit of room temp sweet tea to keep the mother alive. Do this when you go on holidays.

*So far on the tea front I have used generic black tea bags, green “silver tipped” tea, herbal ‘raspberry’ tea (tastes like pink) and rooibos tea. Don’t try and flavour the first ferment with ginger or tumeric (both antibacterial). The black tea has fermented the fastest, the rooibus the slowest. Perhaps the scoby really does need the caffeine.

This is my current batch:

Kombucha drink

Brewed with green tea. Then a pinch of matcha tea power, some slices of fresh tumeric and a bit of home grown honey.

My favourite flavouring addition is grated ginger & finger lime ‘pearls’. You get the zing of ginger with the added crunch of citrus flavoured pearls in your daily constitution.

The Pique of Pickled Chillies

I had a kilo of long red chillies sitting in my fridge, purchased about a month ago. I had intended to make another batch of nahm prik pao (chilli jam) from David Thompson’s Thai Food cookbook. This takes to a total of four recipes that I have cooked from this book. I actually have had a Laotian friend go through this tome and bookmark all the recipes that she would cook on a regular basis. The chilli jam was one of them.

Pique, from Linda Ziedrich’s The Joy of Pickling:

“The simplest hot sauce of all – and one that is immensely popular in the West Indies – is a vinegar in which hot peppers have been stepped. In Puerto Rico a rum bottle full of pique sits on every restaurant table, displaying long, thin peppers in assorted colors.”

Pickled Chillies, from Adam Liaw’s Two Asian Kitchens, focuses more on the chillies. It doesn’t have the extra flavour additives like garlic and peppercorns that the Pique recipe has.

One focuses on the Vinegar, one on the chillies.

So instead of making nahm prik pao, I decided to make the simplest preserved chillies recipe of all. Stick ’em in vinegar!

Wash, boil, and the dry off in a 100 deg C oven your jars so that they’re sterilised.

I found that the vinegar/liquid quantities in Adam’s recipe not enough to fully cover my deseeded chilli slices. From the looks of it, this would have also been a problem with Linda’s recipe. I had to make double the quantity of liquid. I used a combo of no-name brand supermarket vinegar and apple cider vinegar.

Here is the final product:

Pickled chillies

They look so pretty, I am now regretting tossing the rest of the chillies into the compost bin!

Kombucha me, baby

I had seen some kombucha ready to drink at the Castle Hill markets for about the past two years. I bought a bottle, didn’t hate it, but also didn’t go mad for it either. I looked it up and realised that my mum had been making this kombucha around twenty years ago. Go mum!

Harris Farm had bottles of kombucha fizzy from another brand to buy, and I brought some of these along to try at our yoga class end-of-year party. At the end, we had a little bit left, so I looked up to see if I could make my own kombucha jellyfish from this store bought stuff.

The instructions I followed were from PaprikaHead.

As I would be away for several weeks, I started it growing by putting it first on the counter for two days. Outside temperature was about 35 C (95F). I did this because the label on the bottle recommended consumption within a week of opening. The jar was returned to the fridge whilst I was away, to slow the fermentation process.

Here she is, after about 1 week on the counter with 35 deg C temperatures:

Baby kombucha

The baby kombucha is about 3mm thick (1/8 of an inch). The liquid is that gem-red colour because I didn’t read the instructions properly, and started with a no-tea leaf raspberry herbal tea.

I then transferred to a larger container, fed the mother 1 litre of water, 1/3 cup of sugar, and two black teabags. I was supposed to leave this on the counter for a futher two weeks. However, after a week of hot and humid weather, she looks like this:

Kombucha mama

The thickness of the jellyfish ranges from 5mm to 10 mm (1/4 inch to 1/2 inch). I think that I’m ready to brew!

Baja Kale Chips, Baja

I borrowed two books on “raw food” from the library. Then I went to the shops and bought some lamb’s fry (liver) because it was there, on impulse. I suppose that that is my random liver moment. I’ve already told you that I’m a disbeliever to the ‘raw food’ movement. I guess I’m craving iron. So it was time to make kale chips again.

There was a recipe for Baja Kale chips (mysteriously filed under ‘B’ for Baja). The sunshine coast daily has kindly put Baja Kale Chips on the internet.

The next day, there was a function and a fruit platter at work, so I took advantage of the free pineapple to try out the recipe.

Flavour Mixture:

Baja kale chips flavouring

The mixture was a lot more wet than I’m used to. After tasting it, I compounded the problem by adding a splash of apple cider vinegar and a lot of pepper. I think that the mixture needed a little more acidity.

Once the kale chips are dried, they look much the same as any other kale chips. So I ate them. There is no photo. They were an interesting sweet and sour flavour that I wouldn’t have picked as pineapple, if I hadn’t made them myself. I would probably make them again if I had access to some spare pineapple. I wouldn’t purposely go out and buy a pineapple just to make them.