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.

Nuts and grenades

Set aside at least a half hour an hour for this great read at The California Sunday Magazine, A Kingdom From Dust by Mark Arax.

This reminds me of someone…

No other farmer, not even Gallo, had cornered a market the way Resnick had cornered the growing, buying, processing, and selling of pistachios. He had his hands on 65 percent of the nation’s crop. One of the first things he did with his monopoly was kill the California Pistachio Commission, the industry’s marketing group, by yanking his funding. He and Lynda wanted to run their own ads for their own brand. The independent growers and processors, no surprise, regarded him as a bully eager to employ teams of lawyers and tens of millions of dollars to force his agenda. A member of the commission, on the eve of its demise, told me, “Stewart wants to be a benevolent dictator. But if he thinks you’re defying him, he’ll start with, ‘Nobody realizes the good I’ve done for agriculture.’ Then he moves on to, ‘Do you know who I am? Do you know what I am? I’m a billionaire.’ He’s got an awful temper he’s trying to control through Kabbalah. That little red string is supposed to remind him to count to ten. But his ego — there’s no controlling that.”

This makes me worry about the sustainability of the farms they run.

“What’s it been like here during the drought?”

“Drought, no drought, makes no difference. The aqueduct was built with tax money, yes? The aqueduct brings the water, yes? So everybody should have it, right? But this is water for Mr. Resnick. Not the people. When it doesn’t come, he finds a way to make it come.” He spits tobacco juice into the empty can of Rockstar. “The checks the workers bring in here from Mr. Resnick are the same checks they bring in for years. I cash them the same. Nothing changes. Big fish eat the small fish here. Anything else I can help you with?”

Nutrition fight in Chile

Andrew Jacobs, for the Mew York Times – In Sweeping War on Obesity, Chile Slays Tony the Tiger

Nutrition experts say the measures are the world’s most ambitious attempt to remake a country’s food culture, and could be a model for how to turn the tide on a global obesity epidemic that researchers say contributes to four million premature deaths a year.

The required changes to the food labelling and logos are quite profound.

Reflections on the past year (2017)

As usual, it was an interesting food year for us in our allergy friendly world. There were a few new changes and challenges that we’ve had to overcome. And more production of new (to us) foods at home in order to reduce our reliance on manufactured foods.

Back in February we got tested again (skin) and ended up adding a few more allergens to the list. It wasn’t an issue since we hadn’t yet tested those foods ourselves and they weren’t regularly in our diet. I did end up cooking and eating the frozen shrimp that was in our freezer all by myself, since that was one of the new allergens – shellfish.

We tried to make it out to the local farms this summer to pick berries and other fruit but the most we managed to do was go apple picking, which ended up in a bunch of apple sauce and apple chips. We also made strawberry and peach jam with fruit purchased at the farmer’s market.

In trying to figure out how to preserve our yearly garlic harvest I decided to make garlic powder. I minced them in the blender and then dehydrated the paste on a layer of parchment paper. After that, I put the dried sheets of garlic back into the blender. It’s the most potent garlic powder, both in flavour and smell, I’ve ever had and would recommend that anyone with a dehydrator try it out. The downside in making it was that the house was filled with garlic fumes for one night (so much so that it caused our eyes to water), and the house smelled like garlic for a week. Maybe better done outside next time.

After the garlic powder, I made onion powder. Also great and better tasting than store bought onion powder. Peel and slice the onions, lay on the tray, and dehydrate. Pulse in the blender after. One caveat is that the blender jar smells like garlic and onion still to this day. (it’s a Vitamix Tritan blender jar). But it doesn’t seem to have an impact on making other foods we blend smell or taste like garlic/onion.

Hot pot. We used to love doing hot pot dinners but lately have not sure to the sharing did aspect, potential contamination of the cooking water, and lack of sauces available. Not to mention that some of the foods we typically get are manufactured. We did try it finally and ended up going simple, with veggies, mushrooms, and sliced meats. I did make fish balls (which were pretty easy in a food processor) out of tilapia, tapioca starch and a few seasonings.

With our CSA meat share, we have trouble eating some of the larger roasts, but I’ve found that I can hand slice the meat and trim the fat off to make pretty good beef jerky in the dehydrator. The marinade I’ve come up with is a mix of sugar, homemade faux soy sauce, black pepper, garlic and onion powder. Pretty simple. I want to try pork jerky but I think that’s a bit more tricky. I’ll have to research that a bit more.

I didn’t get to use the grill outside much this year to do smoking or whatnot. We haven’t been eating much of our bacon that I made really early in the year. Oh well. I have my eyes on a piece of pork in the freezer that would be good to turn into a smoked and cured ham but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to work on that.

I have a few thoughts on what to make this year but that’ll be another post…

The sugar industry and paying scientists

Anahad O’Connor at the New York Times – How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat:

The documents show that a trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation, known today as the Sugar Association, paid three Harvard scientists the equivalent of about $50,000 in today’s dollars to publish a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease. The studies used in the review were handpicked by the sugar group, and the article, which was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, minimized the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat.

Even though the influence-peddling revealed in the documents dates back nearly 50 years, more recent reports show that the food industry has continued to influence nutrition science.

That last sentence is what gets me. This is going on right now, and has been going on for ages. It’s nothing new, and also it’s what happens in many other industries. Scientists are a little better regarding disclosures of funding now than 50 years ago, but industry is where a lot of research money comes from. An industry finds scientists who are either on their side of the issue or are sympathetic to their issue and funds their research.

What we need to do is to understand the biases and keep them in mind when making decisions on health policy.

Sugar is a drug?

German Lopez for Vox – The case for treating sugar like a dangerous drug, with an interview with Robert Lustig:

GL: Is that really grounds for considering it a controlled substance, though?

RL: There are four things that have to be met in order to consider a substance worthy of regulation. Number one: ubiquity — you can’t get rid of it, it’s everywhere. Number two: toxicity — it has to hurt you. Number three: abuse. Number four: externalities, which means it has a negative impact on society.

Sugar meets all four criteria, hands down. One, it’s ubiquitous — it’s everywhere, and it’s cheap. Two, as I mentioned, we have a dose threshold, and we are above it. Three, if it’s addictive, it’s abused. Four, how does your sugar consumption hurt me? Well, my employer has to pay $2,750 per employee for obesity management and medicine, whether I’m obese or not.

 

Additional thoughts on simple healthy eating

As mentioned in my previous post, in our household we’ve made many small changes over time to come to where we are in our healthy eating habits (as much as we are able to). But I’ve been increasingly conscious of the fact that our ability to get to this point rests on a number of factors which are not available to everyone, such as:

  • We have the resources, both money and time, to purchase and cook unprocessed foods
  • We can purchase a wide variety of unprocessed foods and due to allergy concerns, must stay away from lightly and heavily processed foods
  • We have the willingness and the ability to cook at home

It’s just something to keep in my mind, when I talk to people about our path to what we believe is a healthier eating lifestyle, and the possible perceptions or misconceptions about our privileges in the matter.

The NYT Restaurant Critic

Ian Parker for the New Yorker – Pete Wells Has His Knives Out:

In the days before publication, Wells said, he weighed “every possible” star rating but four. Recalling the process, he put his hands on his head, in mock woe. “It’s a complicated restaurant, and still does some things well,” he said. But “they’re charging so much money. It got to a level of math that I can’t do! It broke the computers in my head.” He decided on two stars: “That seemed as good as anything.” Any fewer, he thought at the time, “would be such a punk move.”

A great piece on the New York Times restaurant critic.