BLOG – A FERMENTED LIFE

A FERMENTED LIFE…

SOMEONE ASKED, “What are you going to do when you move there?” My thoughts were that I would continue what I normally do, but in a different state. Then, “Show me what you do for fun.” I hesitated because we switched to a fermented life. Is that fun?

My fondness for fermented food developed when I was a child during a summer vacation on the island of O`ahu. My older cousin had a young family (a girl and two boys around my age) who were left at home while he and his wife worked. One day, my second cousins and I had to fend for ourselves when it came around lunchtime. The four of us scrounged around the kitchen cabinets for food, and when that was unsuccessful, we raided the quite empty refrigerator.

A jar filled with white and green slices of something leafy sat in a red sauce. We opened it, and the first whiff was pretty awakening…like stink. My young cousin pulled a chunk out with her fingers and handed the jar to me. She warned, “It’s hot, you know.”

“What is it?” I asked. She didn’t answer because she was shredding a leafy chunk with her front teeth, her lips apart to avoid the side effects of the overwhelmingly hot and spicy thing all at once.

I tried a piece. The inside of my mouth and lips started burning. But there was a bit of a sensual sweetness with it. I had to drink a lot of water after that. Then like her, I pulled out another piece and ate that one the same way. The label said, “Kim Chee”.

By mid afternoon, the two of us had consumed half of the jar. But her brothers would rather starve than eat Kim Chee. Well, it is an acquired taste, but I was hungry.

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This was my favorite brand until I came upon another that contains no preservatives.

Like sauerkraut, kim chee is beneficial for your tummy. Kim chee contain probiotics which aid digestion. Some other foods are miso, 3-day old poi, pickles, yogurt and kombucha. http://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/7-fermented-foods-you-should-be-eating/

Years ago when I visited David on his 50’ sailboat in California, he had a gallon jar of kombucha brewing. This rubbery mushroomy substance floating in liquid looked pretty peculiar. I wondered about him already. He said the drink was healthy. I refused it, opting for wine. (Isn’t wine fermented?)

Aria’s Restaurant in Wailuku, Maui, Hawai`i serves kombucha-ginger-raspberry tea. I ordered a glass then and let my cousin, Andy, taste it. He said it was OK. I liked its fizzy and slightly sweet taste. (If your chardonnay tastes like that, throw it away.)  My daughter, Pua, has kombucha brewing in a warm corner of her kitchen in Las Vegas. “Well,” I thought, “this must be good because she wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t.” Even her children like it.

In April 2016, David’s sister, Sylvia, flew from Blenheim, New Zealand to Carson City with a “kombucha mother” in her luggage. How it made it through customs is questionable. A “kombucha mother” looks like an opaque rubber band floating in beige juice.

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Anyway, Sylvia is a persuasive person. By the end of her five week visit, she had David drinking kombucha—daily. She “mothers” that brew like how I would mother my own wine if I had it. I now have my own “scoby” (the starter) from her “kombucha mother”. In my first batch of kombucha, I added grated ginger and fresh squeezed lemon juice; all organic. Drink a bit after each meal, and it will also help with digestion. I feel really good when I see my own scoby fermenting in my refrigerator.

Further into my fermented life, http://www.wsj.com/articles/can-you-carbo-load-your-way-to-good-health-1463670677 the May 19, 2016 issue of the WSJ featured  some bread makers who are making the sourdough bread scene across the nation.

Wanting to be as trendy, I ordered two kinds of organic flour from the Keith Giusto Bakery Supply in Petaluma, CA., convincing myself that I can bake my own breads. My first attempt was pathetic. I used the organic whole Khorasan flour (African wheat berries) for my starter, and for the bread dough. The weather wasn’t warm enough yet, so I placed the starter on our heater to let it rise. It did rise—too fast. It also stank the next day. So I tossed the whole thing away, figuring I’d try again later.

My second attempt on a sourdough starter rose slower, and looked promising. It takes between four to seven days to ferment, mind you. No wonder the pioneer women gave away sour dough starters as gifts. Dang, this is art.

The resulting loaf was better than the first except that I didn’t have cornmeal to sprinkle between the bread stone and dough, and the bread stone cracked when I tried to lift the baked loaf.

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I hit the wall with my fifth attempt. The dough didn’t rise. It seemed like it did by a fraction of an inch, but actually I only wished it did. I think it failed because I didn’t feed my starter when I should have. Well, by 1:30 a.m. the next morning and a marathon  of “Orange Is The New Black” episodes (fourth season), I decided it was time for bed.

I’ve baked over a dozen loaves since July, experimenting with several different kinds of organic flour, and adjusting the baking schedule to fit my daily life. Although it takes three days for the dough to rise and then bake, it is always rewarding to cut the loaf in half and admire the beautiful crumb (when I’m successful), and the delicious, tummy-warming taste of real sourdough bread fresh from the oven.

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The natural fermentation process in sourdough baking with whole grain flour is so rewarding. Not only does it provide B vitamins and biotin, it also helps to control the absorption of fats and cholesterol, according to Wing and Scott (1999), “and will reduce the rate at which sugars are absorbed after a meal. Bran stimulates “the bowel, increasing transit speed and reducing the gut wall’s exposure to toxins, some of which will be detoxified by antioxidants from the bran and germ. Natural fermentation pre-digests bran so that its minerals and vitamins are more available for absorption….” (p. 5).

Also, certified organic flour retains its original nutritional value, unlike commercial U.S. white flour. 

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These days, I’m hooked on fermentation. I started a new journal entitled, Loafing, dedicated to my sourdough experiences. I even take photos of each loaf. (Don’t laugh). At some point, I’ll be graduating to new recipes like sourdough croissants, baguettes, pizza crusts. Maybe my next handle will be “Fermented Grandma”, but I doubt it.

Last year, I discovered gallon jars of Kim Chee in the refrigerator section of the International Market on Decatur Blvd. in Las Vegas, Nevada. The listed ingredients were won bok, salt and chili peppers. No chemicals or preservatives. I brought it home to Carson City in a cooler. I add it into our bowls of ramen, and use it as the accompanying vegetable for grilled meats. However, I need more practice on the Kim Chee fried rice recipe. http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/kimchi-bokkeumbap

And by the way, the answer to the earlier questions is I keep doing what I would do anywhere…I have fun by exploring, learning, and doing.

Works Cited:

Wing, Daniel & Scott, Alan (1999). The Bread Builders Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens. White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing Company.

K., Kirk. “ROAD TRIP; SF SUPERMARKET – ROWLAND HEIGHTS (LA), AND ALSO A QUICK QUESTION….” mmm-yoyo,typepad.com. Tuesday, June 2006.

Kohala Kim Chee photo. Accessed 28 August, 2016.

AN OLD POT SPEAKS…

through the recipes from Our Favorite Recipes published by the Maui Home Demonstration Council formed by Maui County Women’s University Extension Council, and Maui Extension Homemakers Council. Public Domain.

These recipe books created by the women (maybe some men) of Maui were the vertebrae of my cooking background since I first learned to cook way back in the early 70s. My first copy was the red one, then came the rest and ended with the Golden Anniversary edition.  

Through my moves, the blue copy disappeared from my collection. I inquired on FB if anyone had a copy they didn’t want. Fortunately, my friend Rose Lono relinquished hers to me from Washington State. I met Rosie (from Montana) around 1971 in the courtyard of the Kaanapali Beach Hotel when the hotel allowed several artists to share their arts/crafts during Sunday evenings. At the time, my husband and I made sand candles and wana candles. George Allan, an unknown artist at the time was also there. He had earlier arrived on Maui as a crew member of the Cartheginian.

Rosie and I hung out for a number of years until she moved off-island with her husband, Steve Lono from Hana, who was a hula dancer and musician for the late Emma Farden Sharpe in Lahaina. Anyway, their mana remains in Rosie’s blue copy, and I now have it in my possession. Mahalo Rosie, for letting it go.

My goal here is not to plagiarize these cookbooks although they seem to be in public domain since there are no copyrights. I want to celebrate these recipes that were prepared by the people whose cultural mix blossomed from the workers of Maui, primarily from the sugarcane plantation era. I firmly believe that many of these recipes are the backbone of the growing haute cuisine that has flourished through the islands and throughout the world. 

These recipes will never go obsolete. With a bit of creativity, any one can develop these recipes into good-looking, nutritious, gourmet dishes, as if they aren’t already.

This is my aim—to reintroduce these recipes. Use them to return to our roots, and give our families the taste that we remember from old Maui. (Oye, am I that old?)

Most readers have used these cookbooks from one time or the other. Share your mana`o on any recipe, and I will be happy to post it on this blog.

In the meantime, here is my first entry…KAU YUK or Chinese steamed pork from the red copy p. 86:

Okay, belly pork was only used for adobo or dishes like these. For a while, belly pork was a no-no, and only poor families prepared it. Well, guess what, now it’s on the pupu menu at most upscaled restaurants as Braised Belly Pork.

The braise belly pork reminded me of this recipe that I had tried about 20 years ago, not too sure about my Chinese cooking then, but tried it anyway. I loved the taste of it. It was time consuming and pretty saturated with the 5-Spice. My boyfriend at the time didn’t care for all the fat. Yesterday (which is at this posting several months ago), I prepared Kau Yuk. I must be over the ‘time’ thing because the preparation wasn’t that hard. And…I could care less what this significant other thinks of the fat…I ate it, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

First, I bought a pound of belly pork from our local butcher, Butlers, in Carson City. The grass fed beef they sell is raised around this area and as far as Kansas—more than a 50 mile radius, but it’ll do for now. The pigs are also raised in pastures around here too, and the pork is very sweet.

The Kau Yuk recipe calls for boiling the pork first, and then puncturing the fat to release the oil. There’s not much oil that seeped out. Second, fry the piece to brown it. Then rub the  ingredients into the pork and steam it for two hours. You can use a pressure cooker that will complete this step in 30 minutes, although I like the process of having it steamed for a long time. I also added potato slices. 

When the pork was done, it was very tender but it looked a bit sad, nothing fancy. So I placed it under the broiler for five minutes, checked it, and then returned it for another five. The broiling had charred the edges of the pork and potatoes, and the presentation was more appetizing—glistening under the lights. The potatoes were very tender and satiny like the pork. I served it with a martini, and my partner had red wine from Trader Joe’s. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of my result because I hadn’t thought about starting this blog then. (The following photo is from Trip Advisor.) But try to make yours look like this:

My pork pieces had shrunk and the potatoes were no longer standing upright between the pork slices as when I placed them in the steamer. My suggestion would be to re-arrange them on a smaller plate with Chinese parsley for garnish. The meat is very tender, and it will fall off the tongs, fork, or chopsticks, so be gentle.

This dish tasted like a mellow char siu, although more decadent because of the natural oils—not greasy. I think I may have diminished the oil content by broiling it. 

Here’s the copied recipe with some suggestions. I omitted the MSG, and I did not have red bean curd. However, the result was subtle without the MSG headache and worth making again:

2 lbs. belly pork (I used only one pound)

1 Tbls. shoyu

2 Tbls. brown sugar (I used raw brown sugar from Pu`unene Mill—sent in my gift package from the 50th MHS Class of ’66 reunion which I missed.)

2 Tbls. red bean curd (I didn’t have this.)

1/4 tsp. monosodium glutamate (You don’t need this.)

1 Tbls. thick shoyu (I used regular shoyu, as I’ve never encountered thick shoyu before. Have you?)

1 tsp. salt (I used 1/2 tsp. Hawaiian salt.)

4 drops red food coloring

1/8 tsp. 5-spice powder

1 slice ginger, crushed (I used about an inch thick. David wants me to use more next time.)

1 clove garlic, crushed (I used two.)

Boil pork for 15 minutes. Remove pork from water to cool, pricking skin with chopstick to get oil out. (I used a skewer to prick the skin. Do you know how blunt the end of a chopstick is?) Save water for soup. (Oh, that’s where abalone soup broth comes from.) Rub the pork with shoyu and fry in hot oil to brown on all sides. (I didn’t use any oil.) Slice crosswise, place in bowl with skin side down. Mix all remaining ingredients and pour over pork. Place in steamer and steam for about 2 hours until tender. Pressure cooker may be used to cook in 30 minutes. If desired, slices of potato may be placed between the pork slices.

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