Fermented & Pickled Condiments in the Korean Style

This is a standard plate served at meals in our house, in Korea they do the same.  Called banchan, they are set in the middle of the table to be shared.  At the center of the table is the secondary main course, such as galbi or bulgogi, and a shared pot of jjigae.  Bowls of cooked rice and guk (soup) are set individually.  Banchan are served in small portions, meant to be finished at each meal and are replenished during the meal if not enough.
This method of eating allows each person to customize their dish to with flavor, heat, and spice.
Who can guess the condiments in the photo?
I start you off with B.R. – gochujang – hot fermented chili paste
B.L. – fresh Japanese wasabi paste
Good luck!
Fermented & pickled condiments in the Korean Style


Tsukemono Pickled & Fermented Condiments Part 2

Here’s part two of our Blog on Tsukemono
type pickles from Japan.
These are great for eating plain or a side dish,
a condiment, or mixed with plain rice!
Listed below are recipes that have been modified from the traditional form for the USA consumer as some ingredients are hard to find.
fermented picklesWhat is Tsukemono?

Tsukemono (漬物?, literally “pickled things”) are Japanese style preserved vegetables (usually pickled in salt, brine, or a bed of nuka  rice bran).  Many are served with rice as an okazu (side dish), with drinks as an otsumami (snack), as an accompaniment to or garnish for meals, and as a course in the kaiseki portion of a Japanese tea ceremony.

Type Kanji Pickling Ingredient
Shiozuke 塩漬け salt
Suzuke 酢漬け vinegar
Amasuzuke 甘酢漬け sugar and vinegar
Misozuke 味噌漬け miso
Shoyuzuke 醤油漬け soy sauce
Kasuzuke 粕漬け sake kasu (sake lees)
Koji 塩麹 malted rice
Nukazuke 糠漬け rice bran
Karashizuke からし漬け hot mustard
Satozuke 砂糖漬け sugar

Today we’ll look at some new recipes that you can make at home.  Place in the refrigerator and they can last for weeks…

Shibadsuke –

Sliced cucumber and tree ear mushroom salted and pickled with red shiso.

To make yourself, use any hearty mushroom that will hold it’s shape.
– Start by cutting fresh cucumber in half, removing the seeds and skin, then cut into thin strips.
– Soak the mushrooms, if dried, in enough water to cover.  Once soft cut into thin strips.  We used shiitake mushrooms.
– Bring the required amount(dependent on batch size) of rice wine vinegar to a boil, remove from heat, and add the shiso leaf and mushrooms.  Allow to simmer until colour turns red and taste develops.  If you don’t have shiso leaf try a Japanese shop or grow your own.  You may be able to find the leaf already pickled, too.
– Remove from heat and add the cucumber slices.  Mix together.
Add sea salt to taste.  Allow mixture to set covered with vinegar at room temperature for 3 to 5 days.  Then pack into jars and keep in refrigerator.  Will keep for a month or more if kept cold and under brine.  Hint: Add a little extra vinegar if liquid is not enough.

Here’s a photo of our results…

Sesame & Kombu –

Sesame & Kombu

Strip of kombu vegetable is cooked with sugar and soy sauce with bonito dashi.  This is one of our favorites hands down.  The saltiness of the sea combined with sweet sugar and rich soy sauce!
This Japanese quick pickle is easy to make…
– Start by washing the kombu and soaking until soft.
– With the kombu soaking, make a dashi broth by bringing the amount of water needed to a boil.  Once water boils, remove from heat and add bonito flakes (a type of dried fish, shaved very thin).  For good flavor you’ll want about a 1/2oz per 4 cups water.  Once flakes the are steeped, strain liquid to remove the flakes.  We like to eat the fish flakes, so they don’t have to be removed.
– Cut the kombu into thin strips
– Place the cut kombu into the broth and add sugar and soy sauce to taste.

– Allow to simmer until liquid concentrates then add the sesame seeds at the end.  Adjust sugar and soy as needed, to taste.

Allow mixture to set covered with vinegar at room temperature for 3 to 5 days.  Then pack into jars and keep in refrigerator.  Will keep for a month or more if kept cold and under brine.

Here’s a photo of our results…

Sesame & Kombu

Ginger & Kombu –
ginger kombu pickle

Strip of kombu is cooked with sugar and soy sauce with bonito dashi.
Hint of ginger taste.

The same as making the sesame and kombu recipe but with the use of ginger root verse sesame seeds.

– Start by washing the kombu and soaking until soft.
– With the kombu soaking, make a dashi broth by bringing the amount of water needed to a boil.  Once water boils, remove from heat and add bonito flakes(a type of dried fish, shaved very thin).  For good flavor you’ll want about a 1/2oz per 4 cups water.  Once flakes the are steeped, strain liquid to remove the flakes.  We like to eat the fish flakes, so they don’t have to be removed.
– Cut the kombu into thin strips
– Place the cut kombu into the broth and add sugar, sliced or grated ginger and soy sauce to taste.  Note: ginger root is strong to taste so not much is needed.

– Allow to simmer until liquid concentrates.  Adjust sugar and soy as needed, to taste.

Allow mixture to set covered with vinegar at room temperature for 3 to 5 days.  Then pack into jars and keep in refrigerator.  Will keep for a month or more if kept cold and under brine.

Fuki Sansho –

Fuki Sansho

Fuki is a kind of edible wild plant in mountain side in Japan.
Picked in Yamagata or Akita prefecture, north part of Japan.
Simmered in sweet sugar and soy sauce.
A hint of  Japanese pepper tree seed.
This one we have not tried, but it could work with many plants.
The method is the same to simmer the plant in sugar and soy sauce.
The recipe is finished with a hint of strong pepper, like schezwan pepper.
Experiment with this one and see how it goes!

More recipes for Japanese cultured foods
See more at our main site – organic-cultures.com


Tsukemono Pickled Garlic – Three Great Recipes for Japanese Garlic

Pickled Garlic – Three Great Recipes for Japanese Garlic Tsukemono

In our quest to provide you with culturing recipes to use with your ferments, we have three great uses for garlic in the Tsukemono Japanese style. All the recipes are easy to make and provides the healing properties of garlic. Try a small batch of each to see which ones you like best! Recipes from the book: Tsukemono – Japanese Pickling Recipes by Ikuko Hisamatsu

Garlic in Miso – Ninniku Miso-zuke

This reminds me of the ‘stamina’ soups we would get at little Japanese shops in Tokyo and Atsugi (厚木市, Atsugi-shi is a city located in central Kanagawa Prefecture)
Known to be the ‘stamina builder’, which is used as an appetizer, condiment, or pickle. Just a little goes a long way. The strong garlic smell will reduce in time of about a month or more. The miso will preserve the garlic for long-term storage.

garlic in miso

What is Needed:
– 9 oz of fresh garlic
– 9 oz of aged miso (We suggest using a dark miso, however, any miso will work)  Make sure to use an unpasteurized miso.
– 3 to 4 tbsp mirin (or a sweetener if you cannot find mirin)

1. Start by separating the cloves of garlic, trim off the roots and outer skin. Make sure to remove the thin membrane under the outer skin.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the garlic. Briefly blanch  the cloves, remove from pot, and drain.
3. Pat the garlic dry, being careful not the break or damage the cloves.
4. Combine the miso paste and mirin.
5. Place a layer of miso in the bottom of the packing jar. Add cloves and cover with more miso. Keep adding layers of miso and garlic. Top off the packing jar with a layer of miso. Make sure no garlic is exposed.  You can also add a layer of salt at this time, which will help keep mold from forming.
6. Seal the packing jar or container and allow to sit in a cool place for a month or more. Store the container in the refrigerator during the summer months or in hotter locations.

garlic miso eggplant
Japanese eggplant with garlic miso paste

Once ready for use, the cloves can be either eaten by themselves or added to other dishes.  Use a light miso for a sweeter batch and a dark or brown miso for stronger taste.  Try making a little of both and see which is liked best.  Makes a great garnish for barbecued meat dishes.  Also, nice to thinly slice and add to stir-fries or to season plane rice. Enjoy

Garlic Honey – Ninniku Hachimitsu-zuke

This is a great cultured ferment for the winter season!  Easy to make and loaded with cold and flu fighting properties.  We recommend using RAW honey for the best taste and beneficial remedies.  The honey is ready in as little as 2 to 3 days. Wait around a month or more to eat the garlic cloves.  The garlic will start to break down if left to sit to long, best to make smaller batches to use within a month or two.
The honey gives a nice sweet garlic flavor for many dishes.  Or if your a garlic fan you can eat the cloves, like candy.
The garlic infused honey, when thinned down with water, makes a great hot or cold drink to enjoy or as a cold remedy!  One can find many benefits to using this recipe for health and well being.

garlic in raw honey
Garlic steeped in raw honey

What is Needed:
– 10 oz (300g) Fresh garlic
– 7 to 9 oz (200-250g) Raw Honey

1. Start by separating the cloves of garlic, trim off the roots and outer skin. Make sure to remove the thin membrane under the outer skin.
2. Wash and pat the garlic dry, being careful not the break or damage the cloves.
3. Prepare a small packing jar by boiling in water to sterilize also called a water bath.
4. Pack the garlic cloves into the sterilized container. Pour over the honey. Allow the honey to set for a minute and top off, making sure to cover all the cloves.
5. Cover with lid and allow to sit in a cool dark place.  Fermentation times very, after a couple of days one should see bubbles forming in the honey mixture.  After a week, place in cold storage for better long term preservation. Enjoy!

Garlic in Soy Sauce – Ninniku Shoyu-zuke

This recipe works well to rid the garlic of the strong odor.  This recipe comes from Korea, but incorporates well into many dishes. Fresh garlic is the best.  Use a local source if possible(Support your local farmer).   Select well-proportioned bulbs as they are served in halves.  Takes about two months before ready for use or when the odor diminishes.

garlic in soysauce
Garlic steeped in Shuyo

What is Needed:
– 10 whole garlic bulbs
– 2 cups rice vinegar
– 1 ¼ c shoyu or favorite soy sauce
– 2 tbsp sugar or mirin to taste

1. Choose round uniform bulbs that will form pretty plum blossoms when cut horizontally in half.
2. Peel the outer skin leaving only a single layer of skin to hold the garlic bulbs together. Trim away the stem for better packing.
3. Prepare a small packing jar by boiling in water to sterilize also called a water bath.
4. Pack the jar or container with the garlic bulbs. Add the rice vinegar and allow to stand, covered, in a dark space for two weeks.
5. After the two-week period, pour off 2/3rds of the vinegar (keep for other uses such as salad dressing).

garlic in shuyo
Both the rice vinegar soaking and shoyu steeping

6. Mix the soy sauce and sugar until sugar dissolves. Warming the soy sauce will help combine the sugar.
7. Pour the mixture into the garlic/vinegar mixture and cover with lid.  Date and label jar to know when the ferment is ready.
8. Just before serving, cut horizontally in half. Enjoy!

Enjoy these new uses for garlic throughout the winter time for stronger
immunity and health.
Happy Culturing…Live, Grow, Share Cultured Foods!

Our New Facebook Groups & Free Give Away

  In trying to find ways for us fermenters to assist and learn from one another,  we have started a new FB group that can answer your questions from us or like-minded fermenters, like yourself.

kvass drink
We have many new culture strains from yogurts, Japanese koji spores, and even rare kombucha strains, plus more.
Come join our new group and have a chance to win a free culture starter of your choice from our web store!
Head over to our store and enter today!

Our  Culture Sites and FB pages:
www.organic-cultures.com – An information site with culturing know how, instructions, and great recipes
store.organic-cultures.com – Our complete line of starter cultures
www.organic-kombucha.com – All about Kombucha tea beverage


Come over to Wild Fermentation and TCF and get some culture !

Happy Culturing…Live, Grow, and Share Cultured Foods


Three Wild-crafted Fermented & Pickled Foods

~ Dandelion Leek Miso ~

dandelion leeks
Ran across this and thought I would share…
This recipe idea is great for areas with wild leeks and other wild crafted plants

What is Needed…

– Tub of unpasteurized Red miso or Mugi miso, organic or make your own, which can take 6 months to a year in most cases.
Hint: You can do a mix a sweet miso & hearty miso, too!  The amount of miso used will determine the amount of the other ingredients.
– Fresh Spring Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum, some know them as Ramps).  The leeks can have a strong taste if harvested at the right time, so adjust accordingly.  About a 1/8th of the volume of miso, you want the flavor, but, not to overpower the miso.
– Dandelion Greens.  Young leaves are best as they are not as bitter as older leaf.  Harvest before flowering.  Same amount/ratio as the leeks.  Some stores sell the greens, too
– Fresh or Dried Stinging Nettles (Uritica dioica).  Here in Michigan you should be able to harvest at the same time as the leeks.  I have a spot that has both growing together!
– Optional Sea Veggies.  Like kombu or wakamé seaweed.


Since wild ingredients can very in taste and flavour during the season, I suggest mixing up a small tester batch and adjust ingredients as needed and to your liking.

Since the miso is already made, click here on how to make your own misos , we will start with the other ingredients.

Once you have collected or purchased all the items needed you ready to go!
– Start by cleaning the Leeks: Removing the leaves and roots, leaving the clean bulbs
– Dandelion greens: Remove the centre steam keeping the green part of the leaf,
– Nettle leaf:  Cut off any steams.   Hint: you can remove the ‘stinging’ aspect by blanching or steaming the leaf for a few seconds
– Soak the sea vegetables if dried.

Now cut all ingredients into small pieces and mix together.
Add greens and sea veggies to the miso paste.
Taste and adjust.  Add salt if needed, however, the miso will have a lot of salt already.
The miso blend will ferment the other items and flavour will improve over time.  Suggest allowing the miso mix to set in the refrigerator for 3 to 6 months, if you can wait that long.

~ Fermented Garlic Scapes ~

garlic scape
Here is another quick recipe for use of all the garlic scapes, if you grow garlic you will know what I mean!
Use fermented garlic scapes in any recipe to add a delicious mild garlic flavour!  Fermented garlic scapes enhance your recipes without overpowering other more delicate flavours.

What is Needed…

– Fresh organic garlic scapes, cleaned and diced into small pieces or use a food processor.  Do not overwork and turn scapes into a paste.  Leave it a bit chunky.
– Organic sunflower oil, cold pressed.  1 to 2 tbsp per 8oz of diced scapes.
– Lactic starter or use wild yeast fermentation
– Salt to taste


Mix the diced garlic scapes with the oil and salt.
Add the lactic starter (This can come from other ferments liquids, like kraut or just use wild yeast fermentation.)
– Once fermentation is to your liking, about 5 to 10 days or more.   If you like the taste, finish with 1 to 2 teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar or to taste.

Once the fermentation process is finished, pack into jars and store in the refrigerator.  Hint: Smaller jars will keep the FGS fresher.
Use as a spread or garnish for your favorite snacks, with fresh bread, or even on pizza.

~ Pickled Wild Leek Relish ~

wild leek relish
One of my favorite ways to use and preserve leeks for use all season long!  The relish condiment works as a topping, great with fresh bread, or added during plating a dish.
Quick and easy, and so good!

What is Needed…

As the leeks are very strong in taste and flavor, you will use more white onions vs. leeks.  If you were to use only wild leeks, it will be much too strong.  I found this out on the first try with only leeks and vinegar…to much!

– White onions, organic, peeled and diced into very small pieces or use a food processor (do not overwork)
– Smaller amount of fresh leek bulbs, wild crafted, depending on flavour.
– A red bell pepper, organic
– White vinegar or rice wine vinegar, organic
– Salt to taste


– Peel and dice white onions into very small pieces.
– Clean and peel wild leeks.  Remove tops and roots, leaving nice
clean white bulbs
– Depending on the size; use about a ¼ of the red bell pepper,
diced  finely.
The bell pepper is more to give a bit of colour over flavor.
– Mix the three together in a ratio of 80% white onion, 15% wild
leeks, & 4% bell pepper.

Taste the mixture and adjust the amount of leeks to onions until you have a flavor you like.  Add salt and vinegar (About 1% of mixture) to taste.  As with any pickled foods, the product should have a vinegar bite, but not to much to over power the other flavors.  The acid content should read at pH 4.5 or a little lower.  The correct range test strip can be purchased here.  Allow to set at room temperature for a few days, taste again and adjust ingredients to your liking.
Once complete pack into jars, cap, and place in refrigerator.

Enjoy! and Happy Fermenting… Live, Grow, Share Cultured Foods




Japanese Koji-Kin Rice Recipes

Now that you have made a fresh batch or purchased your koji rice, the next step is what to do with it. Many people use koji-kin to make saké, amasaké, or miso. However, what other ways are there to turn koji rice into something extraordinary? Here are a few recipes to get you started…

Basic Amazaké Ferment

Used in Japan as a sweetener, beverage, or a simple alcoholic drink.  Amazake is one of the best known cultured and fermented items from Japan.   There are several recipes for amazake that have been used for hundreds of years. By a popular recipe, kōji is added to cooled whole grain rice causing enzymes to break down the carbohydrates into simpler unrefined sugars.  As the mixture incubates, sweetness develops naturally.
By another popular recipe, sake kasu is simply mixed with water, but usually sugar is added.  In this recipe, amazake becomes low-alcohol beverage if given time.

Amazake can be used as a dessert, snack, natural sweetening agent, baby food, added in salad dressing or smoothies. The traditional drink (prepared by combining amazake and water, heated to a simmer, and often topped with a pinch of finely grated ginger) was popular with street vendors, and it is still served at inns, tea houses, and at festivals.  Many Shinto shrines in Japan provide or sell it during the New Year!

amazake drink
Ready to Drink Amazake

What is needed…

3- cups cooked brown rice
1- cup light koji rice

Yield: 4 cups of fermented rice to use as a sweetener or 3 quarts Amazaké drink

Incubation Temperature: 120-140 F (50-60C)

Start by cooking the brown rice and allowing it to cool to at least 140 F (60C).  Once cooled, stir in the koji rice and mix well.  Place mixture into a glass or stainless steel container that will allow an inch of “headroom” to allow for expansion during the fermentation process.  Cover container and incubate, stirring every couple of hours to prevent heat build up.  The finished product can take as little as 6 hours with quality, fresh (not dried) koji-kin at optimum temperatures, after 6 hours start tasting the ferment to see if the cycle is complete.

When finished the ferment should thicken like porridge with a mild sweet taste.  The sweetness will increase up to a point after which it will change and start to become sour.  Once the taste is to your liking, place into a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 to 5 min., stirring frequently.  Boiling will stop the fermentation process keeping the amazaké sweet.  For a smother amazaké consistency purée the mixture in a blender until smooth.  Refrigerate any ferment not used right away.  If not, the amazaké will become very sour.

Amazaké Sweetener: Use ¼-cup ferment for each tbsp of sweetener called for in your favorite recipes and reducing the cooking liquid by 3 Tbsp.  Baked goods will be rich and moist with a more subtle sweetness.

Amazaké Drink: For HOT amazaké, heat one part ferment and two parts very hot water.  Add a dash of shoyu and a grating of fresh ginger root.  Serve blended mix in heated mugs.  For a cold drink, blend 1 part amazaké ferment and 2 part fruit, fruit juices, soymilk water and/or flavoring of your choice.

Doburoku: For simple “grog”, leave the amazaké ferment in the incubator for several days, stirring and tasting occasionally, until it develops a heady, alcoholic aroma.  Blend as above, traditionally served in Japan as a thick and creamy drink or dilute to taste.

Mellow Pickled Cabbage

In Japan, pickled vegetables come with many meals, as a condiment or side dish.  In Japan it is called ‘Kyabetsu no asazuke’.  Unlike normal pickles this recipe is a fermented pickled delight.  Like German style sauerkraut, pickled veggies are uncomplicated to make into a fermented snack or condiment!
Japanese pickled cabbage
What is needed…

1 – pound organic cabbage of your choice or a mix of green and reds. Use American style or Napa/Chinese styles
2 – Tbsp non-iodized salt (Kosher or sea salt)
¼-cup koji rice
¼-cup warm water
½ tsp honey or other sweetener
A Japanese tsukemono pickle press

Start by removing the center core and shred the cabbage coarsely.  Mix well with the salt and pack into a glass bowl.   Put a small enough plate to fit inside the bowl and weight it down with water filled glass jar or non-metal container.
Refrigerate for 3 days.

After 3 days, draw off the liquid from the cabbage but do not rinse. 
Save the liquid brine for other uses.  Dissolve the honey/sweetener in the warm water and add the koji rice.   Set aside until the koji has dissolved the liquid and softened.

Next, mix the soaked koji and cabbage, mixing well.  Pack contents into a straight-sided container,  Add a plate and weight to keep everything under the liquid. Submerging the cabbage keeps the mixture from contamination with unwanted bacteria. Allow 4 to 5 days for the flavor to develop then refrigerate.  Use within a week or two.

For those who do not wish to mess with jar and weights, a Japanese pickle fermenter is a great investment.  Visit our shop to purchase the Japanese tsukemono pickle press.  See photos for recommended styles.
japanese pickle press
pickle press japan pickle press fermenter


Koji Rice Pickled Sea & Root Vegetable Condiment

  Here is another great recipe for using your fresh made koji-kin rice.  It is a mix of seaweed and root vegetables
with a lot of umami flavor and health.
Fermented veggies

What is needed…

– ¼ cup of fresh light koji-kin rice
– ½ oz dry kombu, wakamé, or sea palm. Should yield about ½ cup     after soaking
– 1 to 1 ½ cups daikon, baby burdock root, or carrot.  We enjoy a combination of all three.  Try using any type of herbal roots, too.
– ¼ cup naturally fermented soy sauce, shoyu, or tamari
– ¼ cup mild vinegar, plain or flavored
– ¼ cup mirin or saké.  Mirin imparts a sweet component to the mix and saké a dry alternative, extremely recommended!

kombu seaweed

Start by soaking the Kombu and/or other sea vegetable for 10 to 20 min. in just enough water to cover, soak until softened.   Reserve ¼ cup of the soaking water and cut the sea vegetables into slivers or short ribbons.   Next, scrub the root vegetables to remove any soil and cut them into thin slivers.   Place the root vegetables, sea vegetables, and reserved soaking liquid into a saucepan and bring to a low boil.   Add soy sauce and vinegar and return to a low boil.   Cover and remove from heat.   This step kills of any unwanted bacteria or wild yeast.

When the mixture has cooled to 110F (45C) (warm, but not too hot to touch) transfer to a glass bowl and stir in the koji-kin, mirin, and saké.  Let the mixture mature for 4 hours at a cool to moderate room temperature, covered, stirring occasionally from time to time.

The pickled vegetables are ready to consume now or pack into quart mason jars and refrigerate the unused portion, which will continue to mellow and enhance the flavors even more over time. But first enjoy a bowl with your favorite grains!

To purchase koji spores or fresh made koji-kin please visit our web store: 
Buy Japanese Koji Spores

As Always…Happy Culturing


Kimchi Traditional Korean Style Recipe

I was asked for a kimchi recipe…Korean kraut!
kimchi korean
This is close to a traditional Kimchi…there are many types of kimchi, but when people in Korea say kimchi, they mean this style.
Recipe? I never really follow one. But here goes…
– 2 large heads of Nappa cabbage. Quarter and soak in a heavy salt brine for an hour or more to pull off some liquid, rinse salt, then chop to desired size
– daikon or normal radish julienned
– carrots julienned
– any sea vegetables or other veggies you like
– sesame seeds, black is nice for contrast
– Garlic, ginger, and scallions or green onion
– tbsp or more rice flour, depending on the batch size
– Sugar 1/8 c, or to your liking, optional
– Korean chili flakes (eBay or Amazon) to taste, also gives the nice red colour
– fish sauce to taste, recommend a good Thai FS (has salt, too, so adjust)
– dried anchovies or fermented shrimp paste as needed, not to many though
– soy sauce or salt to make the brine
The F.S. and anchovies brings the deep umami flavor!
Heat the flour with some water and make a thin paste.  Cook until it thickens, but not burnt.  Raw flour will give an off taste. This is used to thicken the liquid and make it stick to the cabbage.
In a large bowl, mix flour paste with the chili, F.S., anchovies, and soy sauce.  Then add veggies and sesame seeds, mix.
Add the cabbage last, mix.
Keep mixture under the brine like you would kraut.  If not enough liquid at first, no worries, it will form as the weights press down. Should only take an hour or so for this to happen.  You can add some extra salt brine if needed, but make sure
to mix it all up again.
japanese pickle press

I use a 3L Japanese Pickle Press…for no fuss, no weights, no problems.  We have them at our web store if needed.
After liquid covers, taste and add more salt and/or chili as needed.
Allow to ferment for 3 to 5 days, or more.
Then pack into jars and place in fridge.

To Error is Human…

Making cultured foods and beverages are not hard if one follows some basic rules, common sense, and of course safety factors. Our ancestors have been doing this all around the world for a 1000 years or more. Wild fermentation can produce some great ferments, however, the results can very from batch to batch depending on the types of wild yeast and bacteria
within the food stock.
fermented chili peppersHaving a traditional starter culture ensures the same results each time. An example is making beer with wild yeast vs. using a brewers yeast. The outcome could be close in taste and flavor to each other or very different, with the wild yeast sometimes making the beer unpalatable. Having a tried and true recipe helps to make sure the results are the same every time, too. Checking acidic levels and having the correct microorganisms, like lactobacillales, ensure cultured food safety.
Especially in wild fermentation.

Now For the Errors…

Being busy here in the lab sometimes it is easy to forget a step in a recipe or process (Why to double check and taste things). A resent example that I have done was when making a batch of ginger beer/brew. I have made this recipe so many times I don’t even refer to it anymore. Well being in a rush one day had all the steps completed…water heated, sugar dissolved, lemon added for a small batch of brew. Waiting for temperature to decrease to room temperature and then on to bottling. Batch was then bottled
and set out for 3 days for the ginger culture to
produce a fizzy beverage.

ginger beer starter
Old time ginger brew beer in clay bottle

After the waiting period is was time to try it out. A nice chilled ginger brew on a long hot day…yeah! The bottle is opened and to my surprise, no fizz. Then tasting it I knew what had went wrong…no ginger starter culture was added before bottling. No flavor and no fizz, just lemon sugar water. At that point nothing to do but uncap them all, dump it, and start over.

The lesson here is to taste and follow a recipe to get the results one wants. Don’t try to get to crazy with flavors and adding to many things at a time. A great example is people adding to much fruit or juice when bottling kombucha tea or water kefir and then wondering why the bottles explode all over. Another example is trying to make a crazy kimchi blend and it turning out ‘wrong’ or not having a good flavor. Hard to tell what went wrong with to many factors vs adding one or two things to the mix and waiting for the outcome. I hope this short post will help everyone to become a better fermenter and produce
great tasting fermented and cultured foods.
There are many tried and true recipes on our sister site here.
Happy Culturing!

Kombucha Fermentation and It’s Antimicrobial Activities

Below you will find studies on kombucha cultures of yeast and bacteria and how it produces antimicrobial compounds for
protection from foreign invaders.  Besides acetic acid, which is produced during the fermentation process,
kombucha is thought to have other factors and compounds
that may aid in these protective factors.

Kombucha Fermentation and Its Antimicrobial Activity

Journal Agric Food Chem. 2000 Jun;48(6):2589-94
Sreeramulu G, Zhu Y, Knol W.
Department of Applied Microbiology and Gene Technology, TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute, Zeist, The Netherlands.

kombucha lab testingKombucha was prepared in a tea broth (0.5% w/v) supplemented with sucrose (10% w/v) by using a commercially
available starter culture. The pH decreased steadily from 5 to 2.5 during the fermentation while the weight of the “tea fungus” and the OD of the tea broth increased through 4 days of the fermentation and remained fairly constant thereafter. The counts of acetic acid-producing bacteria and yeasts in the broth increased up to 4 days of fermentation and decreased afterward. The antimicrobial activity of Kombucha was investigated against iaa number of pathogenic microorganisms. Staphylococcus aureus, Shigella sonnei, Escherichia coli, Aeromonas hydrophila, Yersinia enterolitica,  Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Enterobacter cloacae, Staphylococcus epidermis, Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella enteritidis,  Salmonella typhimurium, Bacillus cereus, Helicobacterpylori, and Listeria monocytogenes were found to be sensitive to Kombucha. According to the literature on Kombucha, acetic acid is considered to be responsible for the inhibitory
effect toward a number of microbes tested,
and this is also valid in the present study.

However, in this study, Kombucha proved to exert antimicrobial activities against E. coli, Sh. sonnei, Sal. typhimurium, Sal. enteritidis, and Cm. jejuni, even at neutral pH and
after thermal denaturation.

This finding suggests the presence of antimicrobial compounds other than acetic acid and large proteins in Kombucha.

kombucha in lab

The Yeast Spectrum of the ‘Tea Fungus’

Mycoses. 1995 Jul-Aug;38(7-8):289-95
Kombucha’.Mayser P, Fromme S, Leitzmann C, Grunder K.
Department of Dermatology and Andrology, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany.

kombucha yeat spectrumThe tea fungus ‘Kombucha’ is a symbiosis of Acetobacter, including Acetobacter xylinum as a characteristic species, and various yeasts. A characteristic yeast
species or genus has not yet been identified. Kombucha is mainly cultivated in sugared black tea to produce a slightly acidulous effervescent beverage that is said to have several curative effects. In addition to sugar, the beverage contains small amounts of alcohol and various acids, including acetic acid, gluconic acid and lactic acid, as well as some antibiotic substances.

To characterize the yeast spectrum with special consideration given to facultatively pathogenic yeasts, two commercially available specimens of tea fungus and 32 from private households in Germany were analysed by micromorphological and biochemical methods. Yeasts of the genera Brettanomyces, Zygosaccharomyces and Saccharomyces were identified in 56%, 29% and 26% respectively. The species Saccharomycodes ludwigii and Candida kefyr were only demonstrated in
isolated cases. Furthermore, the tests revealed pellicle-forming yeasts such as Candida krusei or Issatchenkia orientalis/ occidentalis as well as species of the apiculatus yeasts (Kloeckera, Hanseniaspora). Thus, the genus Brettanomyces may be a typical group of yeasts that are especially adapted to the environment of the tea fungus. However, to investigate further the beneficial effects of tea fungus, a spectrum of the other typical genera must be defined. Only three specimens showed definite contaminations. In one case, no yeasts could be isolated because of massive contamination with Penicillium spp. In the remaining two samples (from one household),
Candida albicans was demonstrated.

The low rate of contamination might be explained by protective mechanisms, such as formation of organic acids and antibiotic substances.
Thus, subjects with a healthy metabolism do not need to be advised against cultivating Kombucha.
However, those suffering from immuno-suppression should preferably consume controlled commercial
Kombucha beverages.

Happy Culturing!

Yogurt Types – Mesophilic Yogurt Starter Cultures

yogurt starter
In the culturing world, one of the biggest varieties of culture starters are of the yogurt type.  The type of yogurt starters we carry are mesophilic, which means they can culture and ferment at room temperature and are able to be used as a starter, repeatedly!

Each yogurt starter makes a delicious homemade yogurt that is ideal for the home food culturist.  No need of boiling and cooling milk before use or incubating your yogurt starter in a warm oven or home yogurt maker for hours before it will set. These yogurt starters are mesophilic yogurts or room temperature culture starters. In about 12-24 hours, these yogurt starters will have set and made tempting homemade yogurt, which after chilling, is ready to be flavored, eaten plain, or made into fresh pro-biotic cheese. No need for the extra expense and bother of a home yogurt maker or heating mats to produce a finished product.

Tanekin Kefir Yogurt – NEW!

Tanekin kefir-yogurt starter contains live active bacteria and cultures at room temperature on the counter: no yogurt maker required!  One packet of our yogurt starter can be used to make unlimited amounts of homemade yogurt as it can be serial cultured, reserving a small amount of yogurt from the current batch to inoculate the next batch of homemade yogurt.  With care, this yogurt culture can be used to make homemade style yogurt indefinitely.

  Our Tanekin yogurt starter makes a wonderful cultured beverage.  Originating from Japan, it has a number of uses including making an excellent base for salad dressings, healthy breakfast, or at anytime of the day.  This yogurt culture can also be added to milk and consumed as a dairy beverage.  Doing so adds beneficial cultures to the milk and many people feel it helps replace beneficial bacteria lost during the pasteurization process.

LångFil Yogurt Starter – NEW!

  LångFil is a style of Filmjölk with a characteristic long and almost elastic texture due to Lactococcus lactis var. longi, a strain of bacteria that converts the carbohydrates in milk into long chains of polysaccharides, which cause the long consistency.  Traditional comes unflavored only.  More common in northern Sweden. Sometimes eaten with ground ginger.  Has been in the Swedish language since 1896.  Långfil is a dying product, gradually disappearing from stores’ shelves.

  Its mild flavor makes an excellent base for dressings and smoothies.  – Cultures at 70-78°F, no yogurt maker required!  – Reusable culture with care a little from each batch
can be used to make the next batch

Matsoni or Caspian Sea Yogurt

matsoni yogurt culture
Matsoni yogurt (pronounced Madzoonee) is also known in Japan as Caspian Sea Yogurt. A slightly tart yogurt, Matsoni is excellent sweetened with a bit of honey or served with fruit.  Matsoni yogurt has a thick viscous consistency, what is known as ‘ropy’.

This yogurt is easy to make and requires no heating for culturing.  Just add the culture starter to fresh milk and allow it to sit for 12 to 24 hours.  After this time, you will have healthy yogurt ready to eat.   With proper care, the Matsoni/Caspian yogurt culture can be used to make homemade yogurt indefinitely.  Just save some of the last batch as a starter for the next batch.

Buttermilk like Grandma Use to Make

butter milk pancakes
This buttermilk, organic grown culture, allows you to make fresh homemade buttermilk without all the additives in commercial products.  Homemade buttermilk can be used for baking, drinking or can be added to cream to make crème fraiche (European-style sour cream) or cultured butter.  The taste of this real buttermilk culture cannot compare to the thick, super tart commercial
brands that are found in the stores.

This culture starter is easy to maintain just add some of the starter to fresh milk and allow to set for 12 to 24 hours.  Once ‘setup’ the culture is ready to consume or used in your favorite recipes.  Make buttermilk pancakes or biscuits that will be the best you ever tasted by far!  Recipe here

Buttermilk culture contains the following lactic acid bacteria: Streptococcus Lactis.   With proper care, the Buttermilk culture can be used to make homemade cultures milk indefinitely.  Just save some of the last batch as a starter for the next batch.

Piima Yogurt Starter

  Our Piima yogurt starter makes a thin cultured beverage.  Originating from Scandinavia, it has a number of uses including making an excellent base for salad dressing, cultured butter or for making Piima cream (a sour cream type condiment).  This yogurt culture can also be added to milk and consumed as a dairy beverage.  Doing so adds beneficial cultures to the milk and many people feel it helps replace beneficial bacteria lost during the pasteurization process.

  Mild flavor, makes an excellent base for dressings and smoothies – Very thick beverage-like consistency – Cultures at 70-78°F, no yogurt maker required! – Reusable culture with care a little from each batch can be used to make the next batch

Viili – A Traditional Cultured Milk

viili starter
The flavor is mild, not tart, and it forms a creamy, thick honey-like texture.  This culture starter is also ‘ropy’, but not as much as the Matsoni.  Each culture becomes the starter for the next, so make sure to save some for your next batch.  Use soymilk, plain or flavored, and dairy viili culture for a virtually dairy-free soy drink.  We recommend making your soy viili in a different container than your dairy viili to keep a pure culture.  You can also make viili cream cheese, plain or with fresh herbs.

  Over 215 years old, this viili culture is and still going strong!
Start a yogurt tradition yourself.

Customer Comments: “After talking with a brewer at Organic-Cultures, am very happy with the viili product. Growing up in Finland, this yogurt culture is the same as my grandmother would make each day…very happy!”  Dave, NY, NY

Very active culture on arrival.  Very mild tasting, excellent “ropey” texture, just what I was searching for!  – Jane R., San Diego, CA

Fil Mjölk Dairy/Soy Starter Culture

At breakfast buffets in Sweden, it is served from a large bowl with a ladle and is found for sale in every store that sells dairy products.  Each culture becomes the starter for the next, then the next, etc.  Any pasteurized milk from nonfat to
half-and-half may be used.

Dairy Fil Mjölk starter and soymilk makes a rich cultured soy drink.  Directions for the Fresh Fil Mjölk Starter explain the easy, moderate room temperature culture method, how to keep a starter going, some simple soft cheese recipes,
and a soymilk variation.

Also known as Crème Fraiche or European Clotted Cream if made with half-and-half;  a close relative and good
substitute for Piima.

Amasi Heirloom Yogurt Starter – NEW

amasi culture starter
Our Amasi yogurt starter makes a thin cultured beverage.  Originating from Africa, it has a number of uses including making an excellent base for basting meats, addition to dishes, or drank like a beverage.  This yogurt culture can also be added to milk and consumed as a dairy beverage.  Doing so adds beneficial cultures to the milk and many people feel it helps replace beneficial bacteria lost during the pasteurization process.

  As a mesophilic yogurt culture, this yogurt starter cultures at room temperature.  To make a batch of homemade yogurt, the yogurt culture is simply added to milk, stirred, and then allowed to culture on the counter before being placed in the refrigerator.

This yogurt culture can be serial cultured: a small amount of homemade yogurt from the current batch is reserved to inoculate the next batch of homemade yogurt.  With proper care, the piima yogurt culture can be used to make homemade yogurt indefinitely.  Just save some of the last batch as a
starter for the next batch.

Our yogurt starters are maintained on organic cow’s milk, packaged and shipped fresh to you.  We send enough starter to get you making you own culture, plus some for a backup.

Feel free to order any yogurt starter from our secure online store.  All starters are 10% for a limited time, order today –