Friday, August 17, 2012

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.

  • 420 grams of dried soy beans
  • 3 cups of whole wheat flour from the Flour Peddler - check out this website, really cool guy who mills his flour by bike
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour

1) The first step is soaking the soy beans overnight.  They swell considerably so cover them with about three times as much water as there are beans in the pot.  There are ways of quick soaking beans but I don't recommend doing that in this situation.  When a process is meant to be slow, perhaps it is better to luxuriate in the slowness rather than attempt to speed it up?

2) The next morning the soaking water will be all bubbly and slightly thick.  Pour this water off and pour in fresh water, again using about three times as much water as there are beans.  Put the pot on high and watch it.  I am serious about the watching because once it reaches a boil, the soy beans will quickly foam over the pot and all over your stove top.  No one wants that.  Once the water is at a strong boil, turn it down to just under the maximum heat (or to however low it needs to be so that it doesn't continually boil over).  As the beans cook, skim the foam off the top.

The cooking time is about two hours or so.  You will be able to easily smoosh a bean between your fingers when it is finished cooking.

Note: My 454 grams of dried beans turned into almost 800 grams once puffy and cooked.  This is approximately seven cups of soy beans.  Yes I have seven cups of soy beans.  It was only at this point that I started to calculate how much soya sauce I was making - approximately 10 litres, and it won't even be ready in time for Christmas!

3) I used the approximate ratio of 4:3 for beans to flour.  The easiest way to mix everything is to dump your freshly cooked beans onto a clean surface and mash, mash, mash them up.  Once mashed, put the flour on top and knead the whole mess together until you have what is known as a "soy log."

4) Using the picture on the left for reference, cut your soy logs into thin slices, approximately 3/4 of an inch.  There might be larger chunks of soy bean visible.  This is fine.

It was at this point that my recipe failed me.  The next set of instructions called for wrapping each piece of log tightly in wet paper towel and then saran wrap to promote the growth of mold.  I did this and was unimpressed with the results.  I recommend laying your pieces out in semi-upright positions (propped up on the back of a mini-muffin tin perhaps) so that the maximum surface area is available for mold growth.  Seal everything up so they stay moist and mold friendly and leave it alone.  You are going for ultra mold growth right now.

5) After I was finished with my whole wheat soy log, I moved on to an all-purpose flour soy log.  I used the all-purpose simply because I didn't want to waste my soy beans and was out of whole wheat flour.  Same process - mush, knead, form, slice, wrap.

I am intrigued to study the mold growth on the different flour types.  Will my beautiful whole, wheat locally grown flour grow fantastic mold or will the commercially processed, old and stale white flour?

Any bets being made by gamblers in the whole foods community?

Please look for future posts to discover where this fermented mold sauce came from!


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