It’s interesting to me that all cultures seem to have types of fermented and pickled foods – sauerkraut, kimchi, bread and butter pickles, pickled beets, pickled eggs, kefir, kombucha, etc., etc., etc. I grew up eating cucumbers and white onions that had been marinated in white vinegar and sugar. Later I switched too jalapeños and carrots that have been pickled in cider vinegar.
While I was shopping for imported misos a few weeks ago I came across Koji. Just what is koji? Koji is a fungus that’s used for making sake, soy sauce, miso, amazaki and countless other things. It’s grown on rice. Japanese koji reminds me of yogurt, it’s a live culture.
You can purchase Koji rice from an international market. I found the Cold Mountain brand – it’s easy to reactivate and use for a variety of things. I started with shio koji, which is a savory fermentation medium and seasoning that is said to increase the umami in foods.
To make shio koji you soak the koji rice in water with some salt, let it sit on the counter for almost two weeks, and stir it daily. When it’s ready to use it will look like a lose tapioca pudding.
To make shio koji pickles slice cucumbers, preferably the English, Japanese, hot house variety. Place the slices in a zip top bag and spoon some shio koji over them. Knead the bag until the shio koji is evenly distributed. Refrigerate the bag for up to 24 hours, after that they cucumbers become too soft for my taste. When you are ready to serve the pickles you can drain the shio koji or not. I find it a little overwhelming so I choose to rinse them.
Try adding grated ginger during the fermentation, or red pepper flake. And try pickling other vegetables too! One tub of Cold Mountain Koji is more than enough to do a few batches of shio koji or something else interesting. You can even make your own miso!
Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!