Homemade beef hot dogs

We used to be able to find the Pillar’s hot dogs at our local Loblaw’s grocery store. But about two years ago they stopped ordering it in. And I don’t think Pillar’s makes it anymore. We haven’t dared to try any of the others yet, seeing as we still haven’t found a suitable hot dog bun recipe. But I had some time. And some nitrate salts. And so I tried making them myself. I don’t have a sausage stuffer (yet?) so I just made them into small patties by hand and cooked them on the stovetop.

So I added ground beef, spices, water and curing salt to the food processor and mixed. Slow, fast, pulse.

I thought this was good enough emulsification. But it wasn’t. I probably needed to run it about double the time I did in order to get the texture like the store-bought stuff.

The taste was pretty spot on, except for being a bit salty. Next time I’ll add only the curing salt and not add any extra. The texture; however, was nearly like a meatball and fell apart easier than I wanted.

Red Bean Natto

Natto is typically made using soy beans, but seeing as we can’t have that, I’ve tried making it using red beans. I feel that chickpeas (garbanzo beans) might come closer to the texture and feel of soy beans in this application but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try it with red beans.

The recipe calls for steaming the beans first. Pressure steaming greatly speeds up the process so that’s what I did. About 45 minutes at high pressure in my stovetop pressure cooker.

After that, I let it cool to below 40 degC and then added the powdered Natto bacteria culture. After it was thoroughly mixed in, I put the mixture into a shallow Pyrex baking dish, flattened out the beans in the dish and covered it with plastic wrap (touching the beans). The mix goes into the oven, and our Samsung oven is set to the “proof” setting (typically used for proofing wheat-based breads before baking).

This is the mixture after 12 hours overnight.

The above result is after 36 hours. 24 hours was not enough to get the stickyness so I left it in for another overnight period.

The stuff is pretty stinky. I am used to the soy Natto smell but this is quite different. If you know what red bean smells like on its own, you can actually get an idea of what the natto bacteria itself smells like.

On its own, the taste is quite neutral (I.e. not having much of a taste in and of itself) besides a slight bitterness. The texture is essentially like a slimy bean, with a slight grittyness mixed with the slimyness. The red bean texture isn’t as pleasing as a soy texture. Maybe chickpeas is the way to go?

Overall, Growing the natto culture on the red beans was a success, but I think red beans isn’t quite the right bean for Natto.

Molds and fungi starters

I got some starters shipped from GEM Cultures in the US. Making the Koji rice looks to be quite an involved process. The natto seems relatively straightforward – I think that’s what I’ll start with first, to get my feet wet.

(I actually received these packets several weeks ago. I thought I published this post but just found it now in my Drafts. I’ll be posting the natto photos soon…)

Fish balls recipe

Fish balls can be a great easy addition to many meals, kind of like meatballs. Easy to add them to soups, noodle soups, as a side dish, and especially for hot pots. As usual we don’t trust the ones available in the store, so I looked into making them ourselves.

  • 2-3 cups coarse chopped fish. I used tilapia.
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 Tbsp flour mix
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • Water
  1. Put the chopped fish into the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add oil. Add water 1 Tbsp at a time and keep pulsing it until it’s very very mushy and sticky slimy.
  2. Add the flour, salt and sugar while the food processor is on. Low or high speed doesn’t matter. You just need to incorporate the additions. Add more water slowly to make a slimy mixture. (I’m really selling it now, aren’t I?)
  3. Once it’s to the point of looking like the third photo below, it’s about ready. Dump the mixture out into a mixing bowl, so that it’s more easily handled by hand.
  4. Get a pot of water simmering.
  5. Pick up a handful of the mixture and squeeze a ball out with your fist, through your thumb and finger. Scoop it out with a spoon and drop it gently into the simmering water. The ball will sink at first, and then float. When it has been floating for about 30s-1min it’ll be cooked through and ready to scoop out.
  6. Scoop out onto a plate to let cool
  7. Freeze for later, or drop into whatever dish you want. If you want to deep fry them, go right ahead, but wait until they’re cooked down and the surface of the balls are dry before doing so.

Jin Doi Recipe

Typically sesame covered, these ‘mochi’ balls are deep fried and can be empty inside or filled with red bean paste or even a sweet peanut-sugar mix.

  • 400 g glutinous (sweet) rice flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar (dark brown sugar makes the resulting balls darker, lighter makes it lighter coloured)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup (approx) cold tap water
  • 4-5 Tbsp Red bean paste (optional)

Makes about 20 medium sized (3″ diameter balls)

  1. Mix all dry ingredients together well
  2. Add about 3/4 of the water to the dry mix, stirring to combine. Slowly add in more water to make a dough. The dough should be dry enough to not stick (too much) to your hands too much but also wet enough to stick together and form around a ball of red bean paste.
  3. Split the dough into about 20 balls, about 2-3 Tbsp in size each. Roll each ball smooth and even.
  4. Optional – make a divot in each ball and wrap around a 1/2 tsp of red bean paste.
  5. Fill a pot of oil with at least 2″ (preferably 3″ or a bit more) of oil for deep frying. Heat the oil to 320F.
  6. Deep fry a the balls. When you put the balls in, hold it with chopsticks or tings for about 30s to let the bottom fry a bit and get hard so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Don’t crowd the pot. 3-4 frying at a time is plenty. You’ll need room for the next step.
  7. The balls will take about 8-10 mins to fry up. After the 2-3 minute mark the balls will be lightly browned on the outside. Using the back of a spoon, ladle or or other similar device (I used a hot pot strainer), carefully squeeze the balls flat. They will puff back up in a minute. Once they puff back up, squeeze it flat again. Do this several times and the balls will puff up to about an inch larger in diameter than they started.
  8. When the balls are golden brown, take them out and let rest on a rack to drain. Paper towels are okay too. The balls will stay crispy for about a day.
  9. They can be left out on the counter for a day or two. After that, they should be placed in the fridge. They can also be sliced and fried up on a pan to warm up before eating.

New foods for 2018

Already one two months into 2018 and I haven’t yet made anything radically new. It’s tough in the winter when we hunker down in the warmth of the house and try to stay out of the super cold winds. You might think we have more time inside but there’s always something else to do or to take care of.

I feel that we need to have more variety in Asian style condiments and ingredients. I think both of our tastes lean towards the many soy-based sauces and seasonings and so I want to find ways of making those at home, knowing for sure that they’re allergy friendly.

So on the top of my list is making homemade miso. I know it’ll likely take a year or so to ferment, but I’m willing to give it a try. Maybe making more than one batch with different bean, to see how they taste and to spread out the risk. First step is to find koji though. I might have to ask a friend or family member in Toronto or Vancouver to find me some first and send it over. Along with that is “soy” sauce. More research is needed on what is required to make both of those.

Next is gochujang. It’ll go alongside our homemade kimchi and hopefully kickstart more Korea’s style food cooking at home. I see that it typically includes soybean powder, but I’ll have to see if I can find a replacement for that. Apparently it can be used fairly soon after it’s made, but will be better with a few months of fermentation.

Once we run out of onion and garlic powder I’ll be making that again.

Apple chips are a great snack and easy to pack. Same with beef jerky.

I want to also make Chinese dried salted fish. My mom used to put small piece in with the rice when it was cooking which lightly flavoured the rice.

Smoked cured ham. We didn’t get to bring out the grill much last year. Hopefully more this year. And I’ll have to make more bacon too.

Yellow pepper paprika

I found some long yellow peppers on the discount rack* at the nearby grocery store and figured it might be interesting to see what they tasted like dried. They were long yellow peppers, relatively sweet to the taste.

I cut them in half, took out the seeds, then laid them on a few sheets of our dehydrator trays. It took about 12 hours of drying at the 135F setting to fully dry.

After that, I broke them up into smaller pieces to fit into our mortar and I crushed them just enough to easily store in a mason jar. I plan to crush these into finer dust or crumbs before use. The smell is sweet and much stronger than store-bought red paprika. I haven’t tasted it yet.

Gochujang – days 2-5+6

Technical issues prevented me from posting every day, so here’s days 2-5, including the final mix.

Day 1 – stir the brown rice and water mixture with chopsticks. There are faint smells of fermentation, a light sour note and a bit musty. But it’s probably not even near the point where the “good” bacteria have taken over (if that happens). I’ll feed it tomorrow.

Day 1 – Brown rice ferment

Day 2 – Stir with chopsticks. Discard 300g of the mixture and add 150g each of more rice flour and water. Mix well.

Day 2 – Brown rice ferment

Day 3 – mix, discard, feed as before.

Day 3 – Brown rice ferment

Day 4 – mix, discard, feed as before.

Day 4 – Brown rice ferment

Actually, before discarding the Day 4 ferment, I saved 200g and used it per the Ideas in Food recipe:

  • 200 g sourdough starter
  • 200 g Korean red chile flakes
  • 200 g water
  • 100 g light brown sugar
  • 35 g salt (I used kosher salt)

Mixed all together and put into a mason jar. It tastes quite good here, with a mix of salty and sweet. The fermented brown rice didn’t seem to be present here. Perhaps I should have waited another day or two?

Gochujang mixed and packed

Today is Day 6 – and it looks and smells quite the same as in the photo above. I stuck a chopstick in there to remove some of the air bubbles in the packed jar and mix it up a bit more. I’m hoping there will be some gas release and a bit more sourness to the mixture over the next few days.

Gochujang – my attempt at an allergy friendly version

Today starts my venture into making gochujang, that spicy, tangy fermented paste used in many Korean foods. I’ve been thinking about trying to make it for several weeks now, and have been reading up on whatever I can find on it around the web. Based on a search, it typically includes the following ingredients:

  • Korean red chili powder/flakes
  • Fermented soy bean powder
  • Milled malt barley powder
  • Sweet rice powder
  • Salt
  • Sugar (in various possible forms)
  • Water

The problem is that it has soy, and barley may be contaminated with traces of wheat. What if I could find replacements for the soy and barley? Maybe if I figured out the constituent parts of the soy and barley in terms of protein and carbohydrate percentages I could mix something similar.

I started some preliminary calculations for other easily available beans, then I found a simple version of gochujang made by the people at Ideas in Food using the following recipe:

  • 200g gluten free sourdough starter
  • 200g Korean red chili flakes
  • 200g water
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 35g salt

Now, what’s in their sourdough starter? Sorghum flour and water in equal parts by weight. However, they mention here that they have modified the flour to be a mix of equal parts sorghum and flax meal.

My access to suitable allergy-friendly sorghum is limited, much less in the prices and quantity required for a making a sourdough starter, so I needed find another base flour. I found it in brown rice.

Doing a search on brown rice starters, it typically includes brown rice, water, and a little bit of a bacterial additive such as regular old bread yeast or kefir. I think I’ll try to start mine without the additives. Let’s see if just brown rice and water works. I mixed together the following:

  • 300g brown rice flour
  • 300g water, room temp, filtered through a Brita

The brown rice flour was milled using a Vitamix grinder jar for ~30s to a medium fine grind (the Vitamix isn’t able to do a really fine grind on brown rice for me even if I tamp it and leave it running for over a minute). The filtering through a Brita may also not be needed. It’s just what I had on hand for tap water that was at room temperature.

As for the flax meal, I might try another version of that, in order to give the starter a bit more texture. Flax is much more expensive than brown rice though. So for now I’ll leave it out.

My plan is to see what happens tomorrow and either discard half and feed it after 24 hours, or leave it for another 12-24 hours before the discard/feeding. After about a week, I’ll add the rest of the ingredients to make the gochujang.