Tea but not

by Josh Evans I like tea. I like how one plant becomes many different kinds of drink. I like that one can cultivate the craft of brewing it, as well as just enjoy it simply. I like that it has rituals, and its psychotropic effects. I like that lots of other people like it, but not everyone likes it the same way. This is a 3-years-long story about tea and tea-like non-teas. But it didn’t start with tea. It started—as more than a few of our projects do, it seems—with a fungus. Part 1—A. niger and Pu-erh Meet Aspergillus niger. Yes, it is part of the same genus as our homeboy A. oryzae. But the similarities largely stop there. While the koji mould is white, for example, this one, as its name suggests, is black. And while koji mould is used for making all sorts of fermented products like miso, soy … Read more

Faux foie

by Josh Evans 4 October 2012—the day before Ben and I departed on a research trip to the Netherlands, we took a bunch of kojis we had made from different nuts, seeds, and grains, cooked up a bunch of pulses, raided our dry store for aromatic things, boiled a big pot of brine and bashed together a bunch of sauces to start fermenting. The method was deliberate madness, mixing and matching kojis, cooked pulses, aromatics and brine in ratios that seemed to work based on similar previous trials and tasting as we went. Textbook shotgun approach. Three months later, in January, we had a tasting. Of the twelve trials, we kept seven that had further potential and tossed five that were horrid. One of the former was particularly exciting—it was unmistakably reminiscent of foie gras, with that fatty, nutty taste and rich mouthfeel, and made only of plant-based ingredients. We … Read more

On measuring

by Josh Evans and Arielle Johnson ‘2% salt’. How many times has this phrase passed our lips? By the summer of 2013 we were realising that this simple edict, the core of many lacto-fermentation recipes, contained a crucial ambiguity. This post is an attempt to explore and clarify how different cultures—namely, those of the kitchen and the laboratory—measure things differently, and why it matters. The problem Many of the recipes and processes we talk about on this blog scale according to ratios. For example, for a typical lacto-fermentation, rather than starting with 1000 grams of vegetables and 20 grams of salt, it is simpler to weigh the vegetables you have and add 2% salt to them.  But what do we mean when we say “2% salt” or “25% sugar”? A chef might, when presented with 1000 grams of something to which they need to add 25% sugar, add 250 grams of … Read more