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Syzygies last won the day on October 15

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About Syzygies

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  • Birthday 11/29/1955


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  1. Glad to see all this hot sauce fermenting! To be clear, I never claimed that Kahm yeast is dangerous. No one should be afraid of Kahm yeast, nor should they discard a batch where it appears. I claimed that I can taste the difference, and I prefer ferments where there is no visible Kahm yeast. This could be a coincidence: No Kahm yeast could be a side effect of the technique that lead to my best ferments, not a determining cause. Still, I've tossed too many ferments of cabbage and such, recognizing I can do better buying at the farmers market, to shake this association.
  2. I've been making fermented Louisiana-style hot sauce regularly since 2005. I have some controversial views: Botulism is unlikely but possible. Most cases are people who don't know what they're doing, but think they do. For example, there are many cases in Alaska after fermenting in seal skins was replaced by fermenting in plastic Home Depot pails. C. botulinum cannot grow below a pH of 4.6, which can be achieved with mere tablespoons of vinegar in a large batch. This inhibits anxiety but not the fermentation process. I own a pH meter and typically bring my pH down to 4.2. Needless to say, this is heresy on fermentation forums. I have nearly always managed to avoid mold through scrupulous technique, and I don't like the taste as well when there is mold. I'd bet half my retirement savings that when there's visible mold on top, a sample from the bottom will be completely infested when viewed under a microscope. Scrupulous technique here means a sterile carboy with the chiles just submerged in brine, and a beer-making airlock as a one-way valve to ensure the gas in the carboy ends up mostly CO2. I have an argon tank for preserving wine, and I've considered using it to flush my carboy at the start, for the initial stretch before CO2 from fermentation flushes the carboy. I've been meaning to try a new technique I read somewhere, also guaranteed to remove unwanted oxygen and well-suited to arbitrarily small batch sizes: Vacuum pack the chiles with salt and a bit of fermentation starter, such as live kimchi liquid. Use a very large bag, as it will fill with CO2 from the fermentation. These suggestions go hand-in-hand: The hacks who chased me away from fermentation forums are going to be fine, as long as they know and use exactly the techniques their ancestors used in eastern Europe. Any idea that achieves an unheard-of modern efficiency at ridding the oxygen implicated in mold is an idea that C. botulinum may thank us profusely for having. So test the pH.
  3. FOGO Super Premium Lump Charcoal (35lbs) Two birds with one stone here, breaking advice from both Dennis and Fogo. Dennis describes the issue. A primary use of our KK these days is high temperature baking (bread, pizza, Focaccia di Recco). Dennis let me buy a gas burner; he figures I know what I'm doing. The solution is to use a very large charcoal such as the above Fogo. Yes, all surfaces light, but the surface-area-to-volume ratio makes for a nice window to bake at pizza temperatures before the fuel exhausts itself. With more typical charcoal the fire burns too hot and fast, as Dennis explains. He's right; ask me how I know!
  4. So my eight year old VacMaster VP115 can still be coaxed to do an excellent job. The "gas shocks" no longer hold up the lid without help, and the ribbon switch gets confused after the jolt of releasing the vacuum, and starts a new cycle. Anyone who can remove and keep track of twenty screws can repair this thing by swapping parts, assuming one can get the parts. That is no longer the case. I'll probably take it apart again and bend the ribbon switch so it's further from critical, but the "gas shocks" are apparently custom. I could live with this, or give it to a friend until I retire and give him its replacement. From the above discussion, I'm most tempted by the JVR: JVR Vac100 – Chamber Vacuum Sealer I figure my amortized cost of the VP115 was $86 per year, which I more than saved because 4 mil chamber vacuum sealer bags cost less than FoodSaver bags or substitutes. There are two credible reasons to prefer an external clamp machine: They take less space, and using a continuous roll one can seal lengthy foods such as fish that don't fit in a chamber. In grad school a friend explained how the second time he ingested psilocybin he had to fight a profound gag reaction. My dog struggled similarly when we took her to the vet. In transition to a chamber machine, I felt a revulsion beyond my conscious control to finding textured FoodSaver bags in the chest freezer. Discard or repack. The difference with a chamber machine isn't intellectual, it's visceral.
  5. I have indeed made vinegar for decades. I've found red wine vinegar to be easy, and white wine or dessert wine to be inexplicably challenging. I've nevertheless found interesting uses for dessert wine vinegar, such as making batches of tamarind paste for Indian cooking. One can't easily place what I did, but it makes a difference. All facts about vinegar-making are in dispute, so read critically and experiment. One wants a good mother, or it's enough to drop in an ember from the KK. One needs to neutralize sulfites in wine by adding 1/2 tsp hydrogen peroxide per bottle (that H2O2 bottle in the cupboard is probably flat), or it doesn't matter. I used to use a beer-making glass carboy, with the opening covered with cheeesecloth. I have since fallen in love with French cooperage barrels targeting vinegar; I have four 3L barrels, two on each coast. One can draw vinegar as needed, rather than making a production of pouring off bottles for use. It is mandatory to get stainless steel spigots; the charm of the wooden spigots is quickly lost when they fail, leaking everywhere. Does enough oxygen get in? Probably, but people who say so may be actively adding leftover wine all the time. It can't hurt to lift the lid whenever you think of it. Allary oak vinegar barrels Vinegar Shed (UK source)
  6. @braindoc brass is also nice. While you're allowing yourself temptations... Matfer Duck and Lobster Press
  7. Here's my pan getting tinned there in 2018: IMG_3397.mov
  8. Ok, here's some serious trivia for the really old timers here: I gave away my copper cookware to "Kim" of "David and Kim", whom I met at a 2003 Kamado cookoff in Sacramento. My french cooking teacher had many copper pots. I mainly winced at the hours spent polishing, but hey, he was in the trade and cooking is part theater. He died a year ago but his web site lives on; yes that's Anthony Edwards the actor in the classes photo. He sold all his copper to help fund his retirement; I visited him regularly in rural PA for good food and conversations: La Cuisine Sans Peur In my experience copper does conduct better but the properties of the cooking surface dominate. My favorite pans are actually carbon steel with the heft of cast iron: Spring USA Blackline pans though this is a burgeoning category since I bought three, and other brands have a more practical shape now. After falling in love with Dominique Crenn through her memoir, I noticed that her restaurant is brimming with Mauviel stainless steel pans. A practical choice, easier to care for than copper but functionally rather similar in use. I now have a few Mauviel pans which I love. My favorite is a 6.3" curved splayed saute pan with lid (for making sauces or any equivalent activity such as the tempering step in Indian cooking) that doesn't show anymore on the US web site: M'COOK Curved Splayed Sautepan 7.9 In
  9. Oh, but you could. Miso, Tempeh, Natto & Other Tasty Ferments: A Step-by-Step Guide to Fermenting Grains and Beans by Kirsten K. Shockey I bought this for natto; I have the correct soybeans and a Musui Kamado I will use as a fermentation chamber. And the miso section looks interesting. I travel too much for many of the Japanese ferments. They require regular attention.
  10. Breeo is definitely a credible option. My favorite, never-look-back grilling option is a Solo Stove Ranger, on a Harbor Freight cart modified to hold a Breeo adjustable grill. I think I prefer Solo Stove to Breeo for the pit itself, but I'm not sure why. Solo Stove Ranger Breeo Outpost Grill Harbor Freight Service Cart There's a long thread on the Solo Stove; various of us have one (or more): Solo Stove (KK forum). This is the bastard child of a Weber and an air fryer. Once you get used to the geometry, there's no going back; it just makes sense if you can get past habit. Chicken thighs on double skewers, burgers on a perforated plate, ... My most frequent use is actually grilling vegetables for salsa for tacos. I can light it in a couple of minutes while juggling various other kitchen tasks, and time pretty well when I can come back to grill. I'll put in a layer of wood chunks, then a layer of lump charcoal, then pour in a bit of isopropyl alcohol. Light one of those long matches, play with it to get several inches going as if you're just toying with the fire pit, it should know what's coming. Throw in the match, WHOMP, enjoy the neighborhood dogs barking. Go back in to prepare the rest of the meal. (Harbor Freight is a US chain, a bit of an inside joke as one either deliberately shops there, or deliberately doesn't, depending on the application. It's for a very specific quality level, when no other quality level will do!)
  11. I've started to appreciate why Dennis is reluctant to recommend the gas burner assembly. There is a workable solution for high temperature cooks such as pizza or roast chicken: Use charcoal that comes in bigger chunks. FOGO SUPER PREMIUM LUMP CHARCOAL (35LBS) The gas burner assembly lights charcoal from the bottom. What tends to happen is that all surfaces light at once, the fire gets way too hot, then the fuel is spent too soon. In principle one can control any situation like this through airflow alone. In practice, this is hard to do. Large pieces of lump charcoal improve the surface area to volume ratio. The fire doesn't get as hot, and it lasts longer. The fire shown easily stabilized near 500 F for long enough to thoroughly heat an indirect pizza stone, then cook several pizzas, with no rush to chase a fire about to collapse. I'd use a bit more charcoal next time, to stabilize instead near 600 F. In any case, I'm now happy with the gas burner assembly for purposes such as this, after thinking I might not use it much. Despite this charcoal being marketed for low and slow cooking, one might want to try it for hot cooks even without the gas burner assembly. One gets a nice fire, better airflow, longer lasting, all around easier to manage than smaller pieces of lump.
  12. My other favorite part of this upgraded stone holder is better yield. The corn is inexpensive; I'm perfectly capable of accepting waste rather than fussing over scraping ever last bit of masa out of the original stone assembly. Nevertheless, masa is religious food. Just as the synthesis of ammonia and thus nitrogen fertilizer a century ago is the reason half of the 8 billion people on this planet are even alive, the invention of masa extended life expectancies in this hemisphere by a decade. People used to die when their teeth wore out. I'm spiritual but not particularly organized-religious. It just doesn't seem right to waste food in this particular instance. The new assembly comes apart completely, as shown, It is simply not frustrating to achieve a high yield, minimal waste.
  13. Ok, it pains me to say this, but I can't tell the difference, using the Melangers after-market stone assembly in my original Premier wet grinder compared to the upgrade model chocolate refiner. The stone assembly makes the difference; it's pure genius in any grinder in this series. To be clear, these two grinders are virtually identical, both made in India by Premier. The chocolate refiner is said to have a better drive train, perhaps the same motor. Call Melangers if you want them to explain the details: Premier Small Wonder Table Top Wet Grinder 1.5 Liter ,110 volts by SS Premier ($220) PREMIER CHOCOLATE REFINER - 8LBS ($300) Melangers has designed an upgraded stone holder, that mixes thicker mixtures like chocolate, nut butters, or masa more effectively. They sell it combined with the chocolate refiner, or separately: PREMIER CHOCOLATE REFINER 8 LBS WITH STAINLESS STEEL STONE HOLDER ($400) NEW STAINLESS STEEL STONE HOLDER - SMALL ($125) I was concerned that the base model wouldn't have enough torque to drive this mechanism, but I can't tell the difference. Perhaps I could wear out the base model motor sooner, but that seems unlikely. The chocolate refiner is better for nonstop use, but that's not our application. I'd urge anyone who now owns this Premier wet grinder to upgrade to this stone holder. (I'm happy to bounce one to @tekobo if that simplifies shipping to the UK). While one could grind a masa that needs no masa harina to dry it back out, the real goal here is to do a better job of grinding the nixtamal, with far less intervention. One should choose how much water to add to reduce tending to a couple of visits over 40 minutes (which is now more than needed), then add a couple of spoonfuls of masa harina to stiffen the mixture while the grinder is still running. Pull out a sample, dust it with a bit of masa harina, and roll it into a ball to see if the mixture looks right. Were I starting out from scratch, I'd just buy the upgraded model from Melangers. It's net a $60 difference, and the drive train might make a difference over time. More significantly, food is part theatre. Many people who can afford high end restaurants can't actually appreciate the food to the degree the chefs can, so these places learn how to signal one is getting an exceptional experience. Betty Crocker couldn't sell cake mix till it let consumers add an egg. "Chocolate refiner" is the egg here; you've gone beyond the standard advice to use a wet grinder, because your guests really are that special.
  14. It's a misconception that you have to order enough for a small town to get a break on shipping. Try various quantities for yourself, estimate shipping, and make a compromise. Then allow a short grace period for others to join if they like. I've joined in shares, and enjoyed meeting people that way. I've also ordered for myself with no regrets. The pain of spending is forgotten quickly, but the joy of having lasts. I hoard charcoal, and it's nice to have enough to just use what's appropriate for each application, without even thinking.
  15. I've read about this. Not all chamber machines are capable of handling retort bags, I thought. In particular, mine. On a different note, I learned recently that one can ferment chiles for hot sauce in a vacuum chamber bag. I am definitely trying this in the Fall; my hot sauce is in demand, but carboys are a pain. I happen to have some bags that are too big for my machine; they'll clearly handle a ferment without blowing up.
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