The Death of my Soya Sauce

The death of my soya sauce provides a wonderful opportunity to both grieve and celebrate experimenting with food.  Yes, you read that correctly, my soya sauce is dead.  There will be no beautifully aged, complex tasting, umami-full soya sauce in my pantry, or in the pantry of any of my family members and friends.  However, I learned a bit more…

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Homemade Soy Sauce: Part 1

As I started to write this post, I kept wanting to write: “Fermentation is not commonly used in the West.” After I wrote it though I kept coming up with examples of fermented products – beer, wine, cheese, ‘kraut, pickles, vinegar… etc. etc. We clearly ferment a lot of things. I suppose that in the East the methods and subjects are different so in some ways it feels like a different process, but fermentation is common to many cultures.

While I haven’t been able to clearly divide how different culture ferment, one thing I can say is that making soya sauce is funky involving kneading and mold and fermentation and sunlight.  This ancient process takes a long time, possibly up to six months, but the end result is stunning (according to the blogosphere). Here is step 1 to delicious homemade soy sauce.

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Fermented Hot Sauce: 2-1

My first batch of fermented hot sauce was so successful that I have two orders for more! Never one to rest on my laurels I’ve decided to experiment with the second batch.

I’m starting off with thai chili peppers again. I’ve been reading up on hot sauces and for fermentation you want to use super hot peppers. The high levels of capcaisin (the molecule that makes you burn) help keep bad bacteria at bay. I again added garlic and I’m trying the fermentation process with whole peppers this time instead of ground peppers.

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Rendering Suet aka Makin’ Lard

Suffice to say that I have a greater understanding of the scent of a medieval household after my first experience rendering suet.

I’ve been reading The Great Mortality by John Kelly, a riveting account of the black plague and how it wound its way through Europe in the 14th century. Needless to say a key ingredient in its spread was the incredible filth of households in this period. People bathed rarely and garbage (think dead animals, toilet offerings, rotten food) was strewn about the streets. They also used lard or tallow in making candles. According to Kelly, lard wasn’t a preferred source of fuel because of the smell.

So let me get this straight. People who were surrounded by rotting flesh and human excrement complained about the smell of burning lard. How could this be?

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Fermented Hot Sauce: Part 2

My fermented hot sauce was bubbling and brewing away in the corner for several days. It developed a little bit of white mold, which I promptly scraped off. I did notice mentions of mold in various blog posts so I didn’t worry overly much, it seems to relate to the fermentation process.

Once I felt that it was fermented enough (use your intuition) I slipped on a glove and picked through the mixture removing all of the green stems. I then dumped the mixture into a saucepan with about half a cup of white wine vinegar and let it boil for several minutes.

I put in a teaspoon of salt and then poured the whole saucepan into my blender and whizzed it up until I liked the consistency. The sauce then took another journey into the saucepan for another round of boiling while I sterilized a few little jars. I tasted it again as it boiled and decided to add a teaspoon of white sugar. This just seemed appropriate.

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