TEST KITCHEN – Koji’beet

So i tried another brilliant thing. Vegetable charcuterie. But it wasnt easy i tell you.

Im reading a lot about koji and techniques right? Keep learning new things all the time. Got some brilliant books – one of them is Koji Alchemy from Jeremy Umansky, Rich Shih and Sandor Ellix Katz . Well they are talking about ageing meat then writing a whole chapter about doing the same with all sorts of vegetables. And here is the thing. I tried the method they ‘using’ in the book and it didnt work.

Have i done anything wrong? Maybe. Possibly. I skipped one step only. But let me tell you…

was lookin’ pretty sexy for sure

I picked the beetroot as my root vegetable. They talking about most of the hardcore root vegetables are great for this technique. So my favourite is beetroot and why not? Here are the steps.

  • cook it and peel it
  • smoke it and cool it down
  • salt it and cure it anything between 2-10 days
  • inoculate it and culture it
  • dry it till lose half of the weight
  • enjoy it.

So these were the steps i followed – apart from the smoking (thanks for sensitive fire alarm). I cured in salt for 4 days first – koji didnt grow. Then i though it needs more time – so put back to salt for another 4 days. Still no koji growing whatsoever. I took the beetroots out from the fermentation chamber and just let it sit in my room. After a couple of hours something changed. Crystallization.

The salt that was forced inside of the beets – started to coming into the surface and creating beautiful amazing crystals. It was gorgeous. And all happening in a couple of hours. After a few days all these beets been covered with salt crystals. Was mesmerizing – and soooo obviously oversalted. No way that koji can survive in there. Like we trying to breathe in Marsh. Hehe.

So lets get to the brainstorming part. Too much salt. Why we salt it anyways? To cure. To get rid of some water from the vegetable right? But what if we can get rid of this water in another way? Like… dehydrating it? Yes. I mean why not? No salt involved but less water – more preferable environment for koji – i was assuming. So lets try.

  • beets cook, peeled
  • dehydrated for a few hours at 80 degrees
  • inoculated with spores and let it culture

Here i was a bit Maverick – as i skip the previous salting part i was thinking that i have to ‘season’ it (or keep it safe for longer shelf life) somehow so i tried in 2 ways – a simple salting and a brine curing. Had no idea about timings (keep in mind that in the case of meat – salt curing happening for days and weeks) i started from 5 hours till 36.

  • salting
  • dehydrating for a few days in the sun
  • enjoy.
look at this flurry fun!

KOJI DID APPEAR! OMG and it was a very happy koji. Very very happy – after the first 24 hours was fluffy as a kitten. This part of the job has been completed. :)

Talking too much again – im sure we all want the results really. I made 3 groups – the first 2 is obvious, group 1 is the simple salted ones, group 2 is the brined ones and the 3rd group is made up by the very first unsuccessfully inoculated oversalted ones. Got some pressure on me from friends so i after-soaked them to see whats happening – as before it was tasted 100000000000% salt – wasnt very nice no no.

GROUP 3.

Obviously inoculation hasnt happened. But amazing crystals.

  1. left alone – hardcore salt shell. Pretty looking but not too nice to eat. Texture is great but just salt.
  2. soaked for 10 hours – got a nice little white mold growing on it. Not koji mold but very similar one (wild) to any other ‘salami’ type – flavour was not bad but had no ‘charcuterie’ texture whatsoever. Just simply interesting.
  3. soaked for 24 hours – got a bigger fluff of white mold on it – no koji im afraid but also nothing too dodgy. Tasted no salty and also got back the real texture of a beetroot – was less interesting apart from that moldy bit. Sexy looking though.

GROUP 2.

Koji inoculation happened. After they all got to swim in a 20% brine solution for different timings anything between 5-36 hours. I could do details here but its really unnecessary. Even the 5 hours salting was a ‘bit too much’. Basically i can say – 5 hours is the top limit of salting. Was still enjoyable but you would not want to have it more saltier. All the rest was a touch too salty. The texture was an absolute winner.

GROUP 1.

Koji inoculation was successful. Same results than before. 5 hours is the top time limit of curing. No need more time. The flavour was nicer and rounder in this case – however the texture was slightly better with the brined ones. Either way THE TEXTURE IS ABSOLUT FABOLOUS.

p.s.> i regret not leaving one piece of koji beetroot without any salting – for curiosity. Next time i will. Also will reduce the salting time – i think something between 2-4 hours can deliver more perfection.

p.s.s.> with all the leftover ‘bit too salty beet’ charcuterie i made a cheeky little risotto with lacto blueberries. Was a great seasoning btw. Fingerlicking.

nom nom nom

more coming. keep reading.

Open up your mouth…!

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