Saturday, December 22, 2012

End of jokes about using the oven for incubating Kome Koji

Cutting to the chase (is that the right idiom?).  Don't forget to check the incubation chamber before pre-heating the oven. Pictures to follow in the morning.

Yesterday, one ruined dairy thermometer.

Today one ruined batch of Kome Koji, Eff-en-eh.
"not for use in conventional oven"

Marilyn remembered to take the Koji out of the oven on Friday and didn't notice the thermometer.

I turned the oven on yesterday to heat dinner and didn't check first, crap.

For those late to the party, the oven-light keeps the oven in the mid eighties, perfect for Koji.  350 degrees is good for heating up the Spanakopita, not good for my Rubbermaid TakeAlongs.

Update, Christmas eve, having left the damaged bowl out on the counter waiting the dumping of the contents on the mulch pile, it is incredibly looking better than ever.  I think I will use it in a batch unless it shows signs of contamination, so far only white fuzzy Koji.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Noble Fish & Hopman's

Visited Hopman's for some brewing supplies and Noble Fish Japanese Market to find short grain polished rice.  Success on both counts.  Noble Fish is run almost exclusively by Japanese, the older people were very respectful of an old white guy that actually was making sake from scratch.

Got a giant strainer, some real straining bags and other supplies from Hopman's. What a nice store, everything you could need for beer and wine brewing. Marilyn got a cheese making kit so fresh mozzarella and ricotta are in the near future.  We have to find milk that is not "ultra pasteurized", haven't really looked yet.  

At Noble Fish we got a bamboo steamer, a fifteen pound bag of Nozomi premium short grain rice for more sake brewing.  They are famous for high quality reasonably priced sushi.  I got an eight-pack of California Rolls and they were excellent.  Very fresh, cucumber, avocado and crab meat.  No raw fish, hoping Marilyn would try them. Not.  Perfect amounts of pickled ginger and wasabi.  I'll be back.  

Sampled the sake pictured below last evening.  It is very good, a bit drier than the last batch and likely higher in alcohol by volume.  It fermented most of the time below 60 F, down in the low fifties for much of the time, just short of four weeks in primary fermentation stirred each day.  It went longer than I thought it would and was a little worried that it might be a bit bitter from lactic acid build-up.  The low temperature likely slowed fermentation in a good way.

I tasted it both the clear stuff and the combined stuff as it is supposed to be, the milky stuff has the nicer flavor.

There is another batch still going strong, with new rice and new Koji Kin I'll probably start another batch in the morning.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Newest batch

Doburoku.  Both jars are full to the brim. The one with more fines is the second pour.  Straining though the bag I made out of a T-shirt and using a kitchen colander is kind of a pain.  I need something to make that process easier.   I'll be getting some brewing supplies today at Hopman's, I'll be on the look out for some labor saving devices.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12 12:12:12



Couldn't resist a post at that time! Sorry.

BTW another batch of Doburoku is ready!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Grilled peppers

We use grilled peppers fairly frequently.  Often Anaheim peppers to eat with meat, mild red peppers on pizza, yesterday Poblanos to go with wiener schnitzel (pork).  Marilyn likes the Hungarian Hots, me not so much (the peppers;-).

You know, the darken up the skin with high heat and then let them steam in an aluminum foil envelope method.

Don't have a gas grille and can't see firing up the charcoal for a couple of peppers.

We have tried using the burners on the gas stove, lots of wasted heat and time consuming, but it works.  A little better method uses one of those BBQ stainless steel fish-grates over the gas burner, the grate distributes the heat quite a bit better, still difficult to get an even char.

I have an old Primus butane torch used for waxing cross country skis (yep, really old).  It works way better than the stove burners, much faster and more even cooking.  Can't find replacement fuel canisters in the states, only Europe and New Zealand. 

Primus X-C Waxing torch, the new Pro Culinary torch, both sitting on the Fish-Grate as mentioned above.  For those with eagle eye the blue masking tape is a reminder to not shut off the Koji incubation heating element aka (oven light).
So after searching tons of websites I found that there is a standard butane cartridge that can be found at hardware stores (even at Ace here in BFE) and in bulk at GFS.  It is the same cartridge used for those one-burner portable chefs stoves.

Research on the net yielded lots of culinary torches that use this common cartridge.  The Iwatani Professional Torch Burner model CB-TC-PRO has excellent reviews from commercial kitchens and chefs.  It has trigger ignition and adjustments for gas and air.  With four GasOne cartridges it was just over forty bucks on Amazon.

Marilyn's birthday present from Mark and Diana.  It arrived Thursday and was used on the poblano peppers with outstanding results last evening.  With the burners and other torch it was difficult to get  into crevices or the depression around the stem.  Where it didn't get a good char it was difficult to peel.  Not so with the butane torch.  It is almost scary hot and it is super fast.

I don't normally eat much dessert, but I may have have to make some Creme Brulee just to get another opportunity to play with my Marilyn's new toy. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pressure cooker for the steamed rice

Sake requires steamed rice, it doesn't touch the water when cooking.

We have one of those big seafood steamers.  Two parts of porcelain covered steel, the bottom part has a spigot on it.  The top part has holes in its bottom for allowing the steam up into the top.  Probably have to heat up a gallon of water and the rice needs to steam for one hour.  Heats up the house a lot, good for a really cold day.

I should remember to shoot the photos from a lower elevation ;-)

I read someone was experimenting with a pressure cooker.  We have this little six quart cooker from TFAL and it has a nice stainless steel steaming basket perfect for the rice.

Only two cups of water and twenty minutes cook time after it comes up to pressure.  A major savings in time and energy.

The big bonus, it made the best Kome Koji so far.

Naan Bread from frozen

First time experiment with freezing extra dough balls before the final "rising" stage.

The Naan bread recipe in the Chicken Curry recipe a few days ago makes about sixteen little balls.  We don't need that much bread for a couple breast halves.  We set aside four balls to rise and cook immediately. The remainder we froze in zip lock sandwich bags four to a bag.  Since then we have had occasion to use these loaves and they are as good as the fresh.  Take them out of the freezer, as they warm up they will rise to about double.  Flatten out by hand and cook in the cast iron pan with a little olive oil and sea salt.  

Excellent fresh bread with very little effort.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Kimchi (what's left)

There was likely twice this amount. It is plenty hot but not enough to burn the lips or water the eyes.

For you eagle-eyes, that is thyme on the drying rack 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Marilyn's Chicken Curry

We have made this recipe many times over the past five or six years.  We don't make it often enough to use up those spice bottles of curry fast enough to assure fresh curry each time.  Same goes for many of spices we keep around.  We picked up some fresh curry from the Grain Train. They have a fine selection of bulk spices that seem to get constant turnover.  

We'll start purchasing in smaller quantities to insure freshness. Even though the curry is inside a zip-lock bag the smell of the curry calls from the spice cupboard.

We use a recipe that was printed out back in 2007 but you can find the Chicken Peanut Curry recipe at   We typically cook only two half breasts so we scale it down a bit.  We didn't have serrano peppers so we use pickled jalapenos.

We use a Naan bread recipe that Marilyn got from a cooking class but it is exactly the same as this one, found at The recipe calls for grilling the bread, we have used a grille pan and usually just use the large cast iron pan.

It is wonderful!

Friday, November 16, 2012


Doburoku Sake is ready.  A good excuse to be sampling alcoholic beverages before nine AM (small sips, not big gulps)!

If you read the link up there on Doburoku it says that it is nothing like the Sake we know from the Japanese Steak House.  The place where a bunch of strangers sit around a big cooking surface and watch the guy with the big knife toss shrimp tails into his hat.

I can say that it is indeed nothing like the hot stuff we might have tried at Benihana.  According to the Benihana link they rate Sake on a scale of sweetest -20 to driest +20.  They rate their hot Sake +3 so slightly dry.  For mine, I think I would venture a WAG at maybe -5 or slightly sweet.

It  is intended to be served cold and it comes out of the cold room at about 58 F.  It has a curiously sweet and tart flavor, maybe a little reminiscent of a tart apple. That tartness may be the citric acid that is added to the water at the start of the fermentation stage.  It is slightly milky in color and leaves a pleasant taste in your mouth.  Hard to guess the alcohol content but I would guess it is mid-teens or higher.  I have learned that the vinometer is not reliable when there is sugar left in the brew.  A beginning hydrometer reading would be of little use since the Koji mold continues to convert starch to sugar as the fermentation continues.

It has been fermenting for nine days at an average temp of about 60 F.  There is a little bit of bubbling still going on, a bubble here and a bubble there. Nothing like the batch that went in last night that is bubbling so much you can hear it before getting too close.  Last night when I put the new batch in storage I checked the older batch and could detect a change in the aroma, from sweet to something different, not sour but no longer sweet.  This is my first time and I don't want it to go sour so today is the day.

The sewing machine is out and I have a tee-shirt that I am going to sew into a straining bag to be used to strain out the nearly four pounds of yeast and mold eaten rice or the "lees".  They say the lees can be used to pickle vegetables and are often eaten as a side dish or desert.  We will see about that.  They will be full of probiotics for you you foodies out there.

Update: Straining bag complete with no challenges from the sewing machine, yeah.
More update: the lees or leftover rice may indeed make a very sour pickle.  After a little taste I don't think I will be eating it.  Maybe a good addition to some animal feed.  It's on the compost pile.  The filter bag worked as intended.  I got a little more than one gallon of Doburoku.

11/19 two quarts are gone, the rest is in a 2 quart mason.  It has cleared down to half and tiny bubbles can be seen rising from the milky bottom, looks cool.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Kimchi was the project of the day.  A second batch of sake went from Kome Koji stage to fermentation stage as well today.

Marilyn pulled a couple of recipes from the internet, we decided to fall back on the processing directions from Sandor Katz, Wild Fermentation recipe.

A decent sized head of Napa Cabbage, a nice bunch of Bok Choy, a very nice hunk of Daikon Radish, grated ginger, some fresh garlic, onion and scallions.  There was some competition for the scallions so we split them up.  Marilyn was making some chicken curry that needed scallions too (it was wonderful and deserving of a second story).

We ended up with nearly two pounds of cabbage, bok choy and radish so the recipe had to be modified upwards to meet the quantity.

The cabbage and  Bok Choy were cleaned and roughly chopped.  The radish was peeled and grated. The vegetables were then brined in a 1 TBS per cup solution until everything was soft, about three hours.

The scallions, onion, dried red peppers, grated ginger, garlic, Louisiana Pepper Sauce and  fish sauce were combined and allowed to sit out to bring out the moisture from the onions.

The brine was drained from the vegetables and the vegetables tested for taste, very nice.  The drained vegetables and spice onion/pepper/garlic mix was tossed together with a little of the brine and put into a primary fermentation bucket, the mixture weighted down with a Pyrex lid and mason jar full of water.  It will probably remain there for a couple of day and then into the fridge.

I can say that it will be snarfeled the entire time as the mixture is delicious.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Newest Kome Koji

The batch that started Monday soaked overnight before steaming.  It has not had consistent 86 degrees for a couple of reasons varying down around 80..  But today it looks like the best batch yet.  It smells great and for the first time it looks like the pictures.  The grains are not sticking together and they are mostly covered in white.  I'll soak the remaining 3 pounds of rice overnight and steam it up tomorrow.  

I think the difference is that I did not follow the two hour soaking instructions at VisionBrewing but rather the eighteen hour guideline in other online instructions.  

Should be fermenting by afternoon tomorrow.

Monday, November 12, 2012

More Sake

A new batch of rice is soaking and ready for starting another run.  First steam the rice, cool it down to 86F, inoculate with Koji-kin, incubate and wait for the sweet smell.

Then soak and steam the the remaining rice.  Let it cool and add it to a gallon of RO water boiled and cooled, add citric acid, then add the inoculated rice and the yeast, stir, cover and let it ferment in the cold room.

The stuff that is fermenting in the cold room now is smelling and tasting very nice.  It is supposed to be stirred each day.  It could be ready Wednesday or Thursday but it has been a bit colder than 66F in the closet and may require additional time. 

The destructions (sic) say 18% ABV levels are common using this technique.  Most beers are in the 4-5% range. 

This home brew style of Sake is called “Doburoku”.  The batch should yield about a gallon.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Batch (Sake)

A new batch has gone into primary fermentation.  This time it is a premium sushi grade medium grain rice.  The Kome Koji is fragrant and slightly beige, about 400 grams dry.  Added to a gallon of boiled RO water, three pounds of steamed rice, Champagne yeast and citric acid.  One of the bedrooms with the door closed gives a sixty degree fermentation environment.  The beginners recipe at vision brewing is the model.  I am confident that the previously encountered problems have been eliminated.  Hoping for success.  Hooch is a lot easier.

Update: it is bubbling nicely and smells good at 60 degrees in the closet in the spare room.  Better start making a straining bag.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Company Van

The van is for sale. Not likely the Oh-Bungler economy for the next four years will be producing new construction.  I posted on FB 11/7 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fermentation update w/tomato hooch

My road to Sake took a detour through a swamp.  Or it smelled like one.  First, that cheese smell I talked about is only bad.  That batch is on the compost pile.  The next batch that included  the Koji with the wonderful smell was somehow compromised. Two possibilities, not sure which, maybe both.  Also on the compost pile.

A new batch of Kome Koji is going using some high quality medium grain Sushi rice.  Wonderful smell, probably ready to add to some steamed rice.

In the mean time I did a little side project.  The rice wine hooch was very successful with little effort.  I keep thinking that simple worked back in the old days.  A bit of research reveals that tomatoes and molasses both contain nutrients that yeast needs to thrive.  Being a big fan of a good Bloody Mary mix, I thought about a tomato hooch.  It turns out that ketchup is often used as a primary fermenting component by those finding themselves confined in governmental institutions.

A big can of tomato sauce, a little can of tomato paste, a couple tablespoons of molasses and three cups of sugar.  Boiled up with a gallon of RO water and four finger sized dried hot red peppers.  It fermented wildly. I racked it after five or six days into a glass jug with air lock.  It cleared to a redish color reminiscent of Cider Vinegar.  Only about a quart is left.

Tomato hooch

This is all that is left.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Sandor Katz wrote about his love for Koji in his new book, The Art of Fermentation.  
"Before I started growing koji, I would have never believed it possible to fall in love with a mold.  But I have been seduced by fresh koji's sweet fragrance..."
My first experience was more like the description in Vision Brewing's instructions, "a strong smell, not unpleasant", it was like a cheese smell not bad but nothing like a sweet fragrance.

That changed today.  The smell of the developing Kome Koji is sweet and flowerful.  The kind of smell where you want to take another deep whiff.  After a while while watching the news, the memories of that smell was actually drawing me back for more.  It is at that point I recalled the the words "fall in love with a mold".  Indeed it is a fresh sweet fragrance.

Photos of mature Kome Koji and close-up from Vision Brewing:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hooch versus Snooch

Hooch and Sake are getting more page views than tech ever did.  Hits from Russia, Germany and the Ukraine!  Imagine if I could bring myself to start posting snooch!  Not appropriate for my purposes here.

Sake and other status

Sake is coming along.  Finding out that the assertion that short or medium grain rice is "recommended" should be highly regarded.  I have three things going right now at different stages.  I got some medium grain "sushi"  rice that I will try soon.  Only non-long-grain rice you can find here in BFE.

It turns out that the smaller grains have a higher starting sweetness. I think this is contributing to the rate at which the Koji-kin mold grows on the Kome Koji (malt rice). Since long grain is so cheap as is sugar, I might try a little experimentation with infusing long grain with a little sugar during the initial soak.

Anyway the third batch of developing long grain Kome Koji is slowly building up to a nice fragrance, I'll get another batch going using the medium grain Sushi rice in a day or so.  Meanwhile the first batch is bubbling away nicely.

Right, what has all of this to do with GCLLC?  BTFOM, but GCLLC is not viable in this economy and I have to do something while I am figuring out what to do.  Recorded DBA's for GC Farms and GC Artisan Gallery with the County this week.  Bringing out my mushroom books and documentation from my mushroom growing experience back in 1997.  My how time flies!

Looking at growing Hops!

In case anyone is interested the Beginner's Sake Recipe found at is what I am following, these instructions came in the Koji-Kin package.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hooch #3 and #4

Batch 3 used steamed rice (soaked and then cooked), batch 4 used dried rice as per the original recipe.

The amount of sugar gives a SG potential of 5, haven't tested on vinometer yet.  Batch 2 came out as 12% on the vinometer.

4 ended first and it came out a week ago, not bad, clear, chardonnay like color and taste, nice.

3 ran longer and is milky, it came out yesterday, it has a very nice flavor, slightly sweet with a little sparkle of effervescence.  I'd bet it would be carbonated if capped.  What is left is in a half gallon bail top mason.  I bet it will have a bit more sparkle in short order.

The original recipe is three cups sugar, 4 1/2 cups rice, handful of raisins, a gallon of water and yeast.  
Update: #3 vinometer reading 10%, #4 13%, can't explain that one yet!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rice Wine (hooch)

Racked the 9/17 and 9/18 batches of rice wine or perhaps "hooch" from primary fermentation to glass jars with air locks (H/T to Terry for the recycled jars).  End product is close to a "value" Chardonnay after a week or so.  Experience says that a little bit of aging in the fridge produces a bit of Sake flavor.  Hence the secondary fermentation in glass.  Using Champagne yeast this time, first two were bread yeast.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


New Linux hosting plan, no more "Front Page", root cleaned up and the other sites are up but needing a little attention.  PHP added for Joomla.

Monday, September 24, 2012


So what will we do?

Remote support, network and technology consulting are on the list. Maybe a technology procurement service.

Cloud Computing may be a good place to look for opportunity.

I'll probably add Joomla! to my site, I'm thinking it might be a better investment in time than HTML, despite a prior observation to the contrary.

As an aside perhaps a cash crop and a virtual art business (eBay or Etsy). 

We shall see.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Coming out of the weeds

Just to get a current item at the top of the list. 

The new site will continue to use Godaddy hosting.

I have toyed with using easy site services like Wix, Joomla, SquareSpace and Wordpress.  Godaddy's Site Builder looks good except you need separate hosting plans for each domain, I have four.

With services like Joomla and Wordpress I would need to spend time learning the products.  Instead I am thinking that time spent improving my HTML skills might be a better investment.

I tried BlueFish, NVU and settled on Kompozer for editing HTML.

In an attempt to get a decent look right out of the chute I am using a template from Andreas Viklund, a talented young  man from Sweden.  Never heard of him before I found his templates using a google search.

We will see how it goes.