14 April, 2016

Ferment Therapy : WHEY TO GO

I've been ill since Easter and with that handicap have been less active in the garden over the time since. 
That means I have to amuse myself less strenuously so I've been baking sourdough bread and fermenting.
Yesiree I am on a fermentation kick...between lay downs.
Give me any excuse to ferment something...and I'll get down and dirty with my microbes.
I much prefer my 'pickles' to sit atop or mix 'em up with whatever else is on the plate so I'm keenly erring on the side of  julienne cuts.
I have adapted this carrot recipe -- obscenely simple as it is -- to make up a carrot/turnip/beetroot ferment and have this fermented chilli sauce on the go...as we speak.
That's my carrot mix ferment on the left of the image. But I thought I'd share my 'rig'.
I apologise -- but there is no way around getting a good quality Mandolin/V-slicer if you want to julienne. In my kitchen it is an essential. So long as you don't cut off a finger, the device will change your life for the better.
But all the pickling rigmarole stumped me for some time --especially if you wanted to experiment on the cheap.
As an Op shop groupie I found some workarounds. 
The yogurt making flasks (EasiYo) I had collected -- and never used to make yogurt -- work extremely well as fermenting vessels. 
Just fill 'em with your veg and liquid, slap on the lid and you're away...so long as you weigh down the flask's contents.
There's the rub: how?

You see that little Chinese rice bowl at the bottom right of the picture? They are cheap as chips and available all over either in Op shoppery or Chinese grocers.Well, these wee vessels  fit snugly inside the flask and make perfect weights to keep your fermenting veges submerged. Add water to the fermenting liquid to the bowl and let the microbes get to work.

If you want to ferment with flare and je ne sais quoi I'm thinking the trick to fermenting with the beasties at your service  is to use whey... as in 'Little Miss Muffet'.
When you make your own yogurt you always get whey. It's the puss like, almost clear, liquid on which the curds float. For the aficionados, to make 'Greek' yogurt you strain the whey off.
You can add whey to bread making and because it is a medium rich in lactobacillus -- it makes for a great inoculant for fermenting vegetables.
I make yogurt in a rice cooker. It works. It is sometimes hard to get the milk to heat to 80C but you can still get great, albeit milkier yogurt, at 70C.
At 70C you'll also get more whey.
So if you want some whey....there you go. 
We go through 4 litres of yogurt every 10 days or so. I just get the big 4L milk  containers and that's the volume of my rice cooker. Pour the milk into the cooker and turn it on.
My cooker is getting a bit cantankerous so it doesn't always take the milk up to 80C but I find if I double rise the milk to 70C I'm still getting great yogurt (and less whey if I only warm the milk once). 
The bottom of the cooker may crust up a tad but there is no burnt taste transference and it's all easy clean.
And yes: you need an oven thermometer to monitor the temperature of your milk. 
Add your inoculant -- fresh yogurt dobs or a few spoonfuls from a past batch -- when your milk cools back down to around 38C. But 40C is kosher. Then keep the milk warm for 6-12 hours by wrapping it up. 
This is why the yogurt flasks are sold but since I come from 'Greek yogurt' Melbourne (γιαούρτι), even there,  old jumpers or towels will keep your yogurt warm enough to ferment.So wrap up the vesselI(s) snugly. Cheap supermarket chill bags will also do the trick. 
Here's a good yogurt making DIY.
Making your own yogurt will save your heaps of dough and you get to eat and drink the stuff morning noon and night. I have it with porridge in the morning. As lassi or ayran throughout the day...and as a sauce or dressing with my evening meal.My wife makes smoothies with the stuff while I indulge in a mix of yogurt and mineral water -- that's  susurluk ayranı with a head of froth. As for curries: yogurt instead of coconut milk.Marinades are go. 
But yogurt and wine is yuk!
Just on the straining thereof in the pursuit of whey..I find straining yogurt a messy business and I don't bother. Unless you want buckets of the stuff, it is easier to simply spoon off your  whey needs with a spoon or ladle, as soon as it separates from the curds. Also, unless you have a use for the whey (eg:ferment inoculant, sourdough starter, or added to baking as you would butter milk) , why bother?
You can use whey to make ricotta cheese too. Then again, if you really want to make some whey, you can  create flavoured yogurt cheese balls,Labneh Makbus , from the surplus.
If you want to make a lot of whey -- for some reason -- I suggest you use the contents of one of the probiotic capsules you can get from the chemist. Because of the lactobacillus mix, for some reason the separation off will give you a large amount of whey at the price of less tastier yogurt. You can also mix a little of the capsule microbes with a dab of yogurt to adjust your yogurt texture and flavour. 
Unlike other ferments, with yogurt making it is definitely worth your while to cultivate your own bug breeds over time and keep making the next batch with inoculant from the previous one. You can also spoon a little  of other proprietary brands  if you want in order to really mongrelise your ferment.
If you do strain or have whey or yogurt leftover from whatever -- sort of 'wheyed' down with whey -- whey makes a great inoculant for brewed teas for the garden. The whey microbiology is very conducive to making a probiotic for the soil. Just make up a cellulose mash and add some whey so that it can steep.
That's where my 'extra' whey or yogurt goes: into my aloe vera ferments
But then the US Greek Yogurt market is facing a HUGE whey problem:
The scale of the problem—or opportunity, depending on who you ask—is daunting. The $2 billion Greek yogurt market has become one of the biggest success stories in food over the past few years and total yogurt production in New York nearly tripled between 2007 and 2013. New plants continue to open all over the country. The Northeast alone, led by New York, produced more than 150 million gallons of acid whey last year, according to one estimate.
And as the nation’s hunger grows for strained yogurt, which produces more byproduct than traditional varieties, the issue of its acid runoff becomes more pressing. Greek yogurt companies, food scientists, and state government officials are scrambling not just to figure out uses for whey, but how to make a profit off of it.
Makes one guilty about the indulgence, right? Going Greek has a downside.
I own a food dehydrator but hardly use it. While my garden isn't engineered to produce surplus,I will on occasion dry some tomatoes.I bought the machine primarily to make jerky but that fad faded.
Just saying: I think fermenting is probably a better way to go. I may freeze everyday stuff -- like ginger and turmeric roots, and cheap capsicums or celery -- to tide over my  ingredient preferences, but a fermented veg is something that can enrich one's culinary lifestyle.
The Koreans with their kimchi know all about  that.
The penny dropped for me when pursuing Turkish cuisine -- they are pickling obsessed. With their yogurt habits too they chase that sour edge to a meal....
Sandor Ellix Katz's latest book -- The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World   is well worth reading. It will locate you firmly in the fermenting universe. His earlier work has the recipes --if you are not up to Googling -- but taking the logic on board is really about giving you confidence to ferment anything -- without fear of offing the fam.
It is also a great way to personalize your meal when the others at table may not be so adventurous.
Katz's primary motivation is that he argues that ferments have great healing properties and I'm tending to agree with him. We get offered all these super foods and magic bullets  but the scientific rationale for their consumption can often be dodgy and undeveloped. 
But if you get into nourishing traditions mode  there is a historical logic to the ferment enterprise so long as you pick and choose your allegiances. I mean  many of the things we may think are 'wrong' with the foods we eat -- whether legumes, grains, vegetables, dairy, etc --  can often be  overcome by fermenting them.
This is especially true with yogurt which will enable folk  of whom are lactose intolerant to consume dairy products.
Around 90% of Mongolians, for example, are lactose intolerant and unable to drink milk in any great quantity. Yoghurt, with its invigorating lactic acid tartness, provides them with a digestible dairy product, with the further advantage that it keeps far longer than milk.[REF]
Aside from preserving the food -- that's the point.
Then there is the gut zoo issue -- the microbiome -- and the role acid intake at a meal can play in sobering glycemic load.
Pretty much win win win if you ask me.
But here's the rub: modern food processing kills the bugs. Your supermarket pickles are sure to be sterile. Even the kimchi at the Asian grocers is likely to be pasteurised before it arrived on the shelf. You won't be able to get living sauerkraut for love nor money.The only things alive out there in retail land-- touch wood -- are some cheeses and yogurt. Everything else living is disallowed either on health or industrial processing grounds.
Your vinegar pickle may be tasty but if it is not always fermented together. While we may defer to the five star end of fermentable health the traditional ferments (some huge list!) out there are many and various.
All you have to do is choose...