Inuit Fermentation: Animal-based & Archaic

Probably the most memorable trip I’ve ever taken was a business/art junket to Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. While there I had the great privilege of hanging out with Inuit people who shared their food traditions, songs and stories. So I’m especially excited about the last North Carolina State Fermentology seminar this Thursday, June 10th at 12PM ET:

Inuit Fermentation:
Animal-based & Archaic

As part of the Arctic Indigenous diet, Inuit fermented foods are all animal-sourced, even the ones made from plants. From the stomach content of the caribou to the seabirds in sealskins, this short seminar introduces Inuit fermented foods illustrating how these rare foods present us with an opportunity to appreciate the diversity of dishes and flavors that might come from an entirely animal-sourced diet. Aviaja Hauptmann, who is an Inuk microbiologist, will discuss the role that Inuit fermentation has played and has the potential to play in the future.

Sign up here to attend live but if you can’t make it, the video will be uploaded to the North Carolina State Applied Ecology YouTube channel here.

A Simple and Life Changing Bagel Recipe

Based on Jeffrey Hamelman’s recipe in Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes

453 grams (16 ounces) bread flour
263 grams (9 ounces) water
9 grams (.3 ounces) salt
2 grams (.07 ounces or approximately 3/4 teaspoon) active dry yeast

Malt syrup or molasses for boiling

Optional: sesame, poppy, flake salt or other seeds for topping.

Yield: 6 bagels

1. Throw all the ingredients except the malt syrup or molasses into a stand mixer and mix on the first speed for three minutes. Turn up to second speed and mix for an additional 6 minutes. If you don’t have a mixer you can knead. Dough will be very stiff.

2. Bulk fermentation: 1 1/2 hour in a covered bowl at room temperature.

3. Divide the dough into 113 gram pieces and shape into bagels. Here’s how you do that:

4. Place shaped bagels into a covered container and put in the refrigerator overnight.

5. The next day, take the bagels out of the fridge and check to see if they are ready to boil and bake. Put one in a bowl of water. If it floats you’re ready to boil your bagels. If it doesn’t float leave the bagels out at room temperature until they pass the float test.

6. Preheat your oven to 500ºF (260ºC). Put a big pot of water on the stove to boil. Add enough malt syrup or molasses to make a dark tea colored water (around a 1/4 cup). Once the water is boiling place two or three bagels in the pot and boil for 45 seconds. Flip halfway through boiling. If you’re adding seeds let the boiled bagels cool on a rack for a few minutes and dredge them through a plate with your sesame, poppy or other seeds.

6. Placed the boiled bagels on a baking sheet and bake for around 15 minutes at 500ºF (260ºC). Shoot for a light golden brown.

If you have a large mixer you can double this recipe to make a dozen bagels.

Deep Bagel Thoughts
Why did it take me so long to getting around to making bagels? It turns out bagel baking is much easier than the sourdough loaves I sometimes attempt. These homemade bagels are soooooooo much better than store bought or even bagels from specialized bagel bakeries. Why? First off, the boiling step gives you that perfect chewy bagel not found in supermarket bagels. But as Hamelman notes, hand shaping also gives you a better texture than commercially made (extruded) bagels. It may sound like hyperbole but I mean it when I say that this recipe has the best ROI of any baking project I’ve ever attempted.

Trust me, these homemade bagels will open your third eye.

Don’t Worry About the Boule: Bake Bread in a Loaf Pan

In the frivolous, pre-pandemic before-times I slacked off on my bread baking. At the beginning of quar, I prepper-panicked, hastily re-started my starter and fired up the Mockmill 100 grain mill.

Baking with a sourdough starter puts you on a collision course with the unpredictability at the heart of the “natural” i.e. non-internet world. For me the unintended randomness of my loaves came down to the discovery that I was using too course a grind with the mill. Thereafter, my loaves improved.

Even after that simple fix, I still get can get distracted by chores and forget to shape the dough in a timely manner, thus leading to what looks more like a pancake than an Instagram worthy boule. But if you’re not making bread for the ‘gram, you don’t have to do a boule or batard unless that really floats your boat. There’s nothing wrong with baking in a loaf pan. Sometimes it’s kinda nice to have a square loaf for sandwiches anyways.

The pan I have is a Pullman pan made by USA Pan. It’s square and has a lid. The lid is especially handy in that you can do the first 20 minutes of the bake with the lid on, thus sealing in the moisture which helps with loaf spring. You don’t need the fancy Pullman type with the lid but if you’re going to buy a pan I’d suggest getting a Pullman. I use a bit of olive oil to keep the loaf from sticking. If you don’t have a Pullman pan, you can cover any loaf pan with a piece of aluminum foil for the first part of the bake.

You have my permission. Bake in a loaf pan.

Lastly, I’ve been fielding some emails about what kind of mill to get. The Mockmill 100 has served me well. I’ll do a full review sometime in our quarantine part II future. If you’re curious about my bread recipe, I use Josey Baker’s 100% whole wheat recipe (with a higher hydration) that can be found in his book.

The New Homemade Kitchen

I have many fond memories of teaching bread baking classes for the late Joseph Shuldiner’s cheekily named Institute of Domestic Technology. Joseph had a unique formula for the curriculum of the IDT. I’d summarize as “stuff that you’d never think of doing from scratch but once you find out how easy it is your life will be transformed.” In addition to the aforementioned bread baking, the IDT offered classes in mustard, cheese making, jam making, coffee roasting, cocktail crating and much more.

Joseph gathered the recipes and collected wisdom of these classes into his posthumously published book The New Homemade Kitchen: 250 Recipes and Ideas for Reinventing the Art of Preserving, Canning, Fermenting, Dehydrating, and More just released this month by Chronicle. The section on cocktails is a good example of the IDT’s methods. Yes, you get a Martini recipe. But you’ll also be making your own vermouth and it will be easier than you think.

Then there’s the life changing chapter on coffee roasting. One of the perks of teaching at the IDT was getting to sit in on the other classes. This was how I learned to roast my own coffee in a Whirley-Pop roaster. Like a lot of IDT obsessions, roasting your own coffee simultaneously up-scales and bomb proofs your pantry. Green coffee can sit around for a long time and knowing how to roast it is a useful skill in our current crappening. In short, this book is very quarantine friendly both in the sense of having skills handy when supply chains are broken and having something more productive to do than binging Netflix.

In addition to coffee you’ll find chapters on pickles and preserves, baking, dairy, meat and fish, cocktails, fermentation and dehydration. You’ll also learn how to make your own mustard, ketchup, harissa, sriracha, preserved lemons, vanilla extract and much more.

Joseph was a gifted artist, designer, activist and photographer and the book reflects his ability to represent and explain, in clear language, information that can seem intimidating. I learned a lot about how to teach from working for Joseph. Many of the classes took place at the Altadena home of Gloria Putnam and Stephen Rudicel. They tended to be day long affairs with a lunch served to students and an after-party for the instructors. At the end of the day, over glasses of wine, we would review the classes we taught and figure out ways to make information clearer. Joseph was a team player with a thoughtful leadership style. I can still hear his laugh and miss him greatly. This book, for me, is a kind of time capsule of those happy days teaching at the IDT that felt more like attending a lively party than work. And I have this book to remember Joseph’s joyous spirit and knowledge.

Fermentology: Mini Seminars About Cultured Food

Many thanks to Carol Bornstein of the Natural History Museum for this tip on a series of short fermentation talks coming soon. The 20 minute talks will cover sourdough, cheese, beer, history, biology and even something called “zombie medicine.”

Join us for a series of short talks (20 minutes on average, some shorter, some a little longer) for anyone hungry to engage in food, culture, history and science–but in the context of what you have at home.

This project is sponsored by the Department of Applied Ecology at NC State University, the NC State University Libraries and the Center for Evolutionary Hologenomics at the University of Copenhagen.

All talks are Thursday at 4 pm EST, unless otherwise specified. All talks are virtual and will be recorded and available afterwards on the Applied Ecology Youtube page.

Registration here!  Follow us on twitter or facebook for updates.

A closing note: I’m fortunate to be able to stay at home, with plenty of food, and watch fermentation seminars. Many are not so lucky. I have a friend and neighbor who runs several farmers’ markets through a non-profit called SEE-LA. They are soliciting donations to support families sheltering in place in South LA. Your donation will help both those families and the farmers impacted by this crisis. The donation form is here. Please join me in chipping in!