The story continues from here. Its spring and i am working on a very posh tomato dish at 64. And also the first watermelon just appeared in my favorite shop in town (TAJ) so i remembered that i have an unfinished project. When i created tomato from a watermelon by using shio koji.

But this time it has to be a fully controlled ‘fermentation proccess so i have to test out each step to control it.

Before I had to face with the main problem – that my koji (I used black awamori) ate a lot of my watermelon. The outside layers – so it was a lot of waste and the watermelon lost its firmness and became a bit mushy. It’s obvious as my mould has been chewing on it so it’s really not a surprise. But is there anything I can do to make this not happen? Is there anything I can do to make the watermelon firmer so it can hold its shape and become a truly enjoyable tomato? :) Well I believe it’s a yes.

NIXTALAMIZATION. This is an ancient procedure when we create an alkaline environment for our food so it will be more approachable to our body to consume and digest. The biggest sample forever is gonna be the corn becoming masa becoming tacos.

But lets see this step by step. We need alkaline environment – more likely a limewater brine – so we need calcium hydroxide. Then everything else coming after this.

Calcium hydroxide is kind of a poison so the use of it in food trade sounds a bit insecure and weird. I nixtamalize stuff before and I love making quesadillas for breakfast. But I can’t really find more information about it – or we treat our food with it or it makes you blind and can cause death. LOL funny or maybe not so much. So this is a thing – I only saw this technique with 2 main ingredients – one was the maiz and the other one was squash (I did read something about cucumbers). I read in an article that the cal makes vegetables n fruits firmer outside because it reacts with their pectin. Or something like that. And that this chemical reaction increases at higher temperatures – like slow cooking. But again, I haven’t found useful data if we need to cook the vegetables in cal solution or macerate it for a while. Or both. And for how long is best and what’s the ratio of the calcium hydroxide to the water and to the weight of the main ingredients… lots of questions. So I started in the middle of the story.

What. Only FOOD GRADE STUFF. I failed in this in the first attempt, i bought a very pure’ calcium hydroxide but i did not check if its food grade. And it doesnt say anywhere – neither that its food grade neither that its for industrial use. So i cant be sure – i will not risk and i will not going to actually try/eat the results of the first test. Im focusing on the texture this time – till my food grade cal will arrive and i can restart the test.

Ratio. There are several recipes online saying a different thing. They are all based on corn – guess should be safe to follow (500g corn, 5g cal, 2,5 l water). However, I tend to be a bit more cautious because I work with watermelon – with a very spongy texture so I am only worried if it will work as a sponge. It’s unlikely as it’s already got 85% water itself – but it still feels more fragile. However in the first round of testing, it’s not that it soaked more stuff in – but on the contrary – I could squeeze the slice of a watermelon out like a lemon. Weird n wonderful. Also, my fermenter friend Jelena found a Serbian recipe where they use cal to preserve the shape of their peeled plums – very interesting and worth a try – they used a handful of cal for 2 litres of water (handful – haha sure what is that even mean/!) but they only used the water (after been mixed) and poured over from the cal sediments before they put the peeled plums in. Indeed this sounds very safe. She said they only leave the plums in for 30 minutes… we see. I left mines in the cal for 36 hours :)

How long. Yes, well this is it. I don’t know. Corn recipes call for cooking an hour and leaving it in the brine for another 12-16 hours. As my friend Jelena said in her recipe they left the plums in the limewater only for 30 minutes (not cooking). I found a blog where they put pears in cal for 3 hours before they slow cook them. How long I dont know. In my first round, I left my two pieces of watermelon in my cal bath for 1,5 days.

What’s next? Yes, cook it or not cook it… that is the question. And do I cook it in the cal or do I cook it in something else? Wait, what do I want to do with it? What else can I slowly cook in it? COOKING WATERMELON. AM I TOTALLY INSANE? Well,,, maybe. Cause first I just tried to create a skin so my koji shio won’t eat the surface that badly but still create a tomato-like umami flavour profile… but now I am thinking about not making a tomato but maybe a new generation of steak? After the first test, my watermelon pieces feel like raw meat. I simmered one in cal for about 20 minutes, the other one never got any heat.

The one with no cook still got some of the original watermelon-like crunchy wetty texture in the middle – assumingly still manage to hold some of its water contant.

The one i cooked… well it does not look or feel like a watermelon anymore.

keep continue shortly…. :)

Open up your mouth…!

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