June 14th, 2007
The tempeh story:
Once upon a time there was a girl who thought tempeh came from a magical place and underwent a laborious process in which fairies danced and chanting was necessary for the tempeh to be produced and brought to market.
This girl revered her tempeh for its nutritional content, tastiness and versatility. She wanted to showcase it as her entree protein at culinary school to show the meat hungry savages that there IS another way to eat and honor one’s body. A teacher who once brought her to tears with his criticism encouraged this girl to make it from scratch, thus showing her alt-charcuterie skills. And so begins the journey that is tempeh. May the fairies continue to bless the soybeans as they undergo fermentation.
- Soak 1 lb. whole soybeans overnight OR bring beans and enough water to cover to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes and then soak for 2 hours. Drain beans of soaking water.
- Hand de-hull the beans by rubbing them vigorously between your hands OR pulse beans in a food processor until the majority of the beans have been split. I recommend hand de-hulling if you have a wraparound porch with a nice view or good company.
- Transfer beans to a large pot and cover with enough cold water to cover the beans by 2 inches.
- Bring the beans to a boil. Do not go to the store or fall asleep. The hulls will come to the surface with much force. Skim off as much of the hulls as you want to. The more hulls, the more fiber (but the texture will change a bit).
- Boil the beans for 40 minutes. While this is happening, prepare your incubation buddy. A zip-lock bag will work just fine (a gallon bag is good for 1 lb of beans). Poke holes (I used my digital thermometer point but anything pointy will work) about 1/2″ apart all over the bag. The bacteria needs air to breathe!
- Drain the water from the cooked beans and spread them out onto a pan covered with a CLEAN towel. Cover with another towel and dry the beans well until they are “body temperature and skin dry.” (about 10 minutes)
- Transfer beans to a bowl and sprinkle the bacteria starter (I used 1 tsp starter from GEM per pound of dry beans).
- Spoon the bean-bacteria mixture into the zip-lock bag and pack it nicely so that the beans can easily become bound. (I like to make the tempeh about 1/2″ thick).
- Place directly on the rack of a gas oven, in the middle. Prop the oven open with an apron or towel. The ideal temperature is 85-88 deg F. Check the temperature as often as you can. It is important that the first 12 hours the tempeh has an ambient temp of 85 deg. After that, the bacteria starts producing its’ own heat and can be moved if necessary.
- My tempeh was done after 22 hours, but the oven temp was hotter than ideal. Incubate 22-28 hours, until done.
“Done” tempeh is: firmly bound beans with white mycelium and smells mushroomy and fresh. Black/gray spots are okay. It should not smell like ammonia. Slice it, a thin slice should hold together rather well. If it is not ready, keep incubating it up to 36 hours total. If it crumbles or smells like garbage, throw it out and start again. My large batch wasn’t cohesive at the corner closest to the pilot light, so I cut that portion out and incubated it longer.
11. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate to kill the bacteria. Do not stack the tempeh until it has reached 41 degrees, or it will continue to ferment at contact points.
It will last 5 days in the fridge (though I’ve eaten it after a week) and apparently forever in the freezer.
Uses: sliced and fried, marinated and fried/baked for snacks, sandwiches; cubed for stir-fries, grated and simmered in marinara sauces and basically anywhere you want to add it. Most people recommend steaming the tempeh for 20 minutes before cooking it to de-activate the bacteria, but I don’t really do that step. My instructor at school took a bite of the tempeh while it was fermenting and he survived…I think you just need to be prepared for your stomach to potentially act up if it’s not used to bacteria. I’m a bit lazy and just make sure I cook it. My favorite way to achieve juicy, flavorful tempeh is to marinate it overnight in a mixture of water, soy sauce, maple syrup, garlic and ginger, then bake it for 60 minutes at 350 deg F. I cool it and use it for whatever (bread and fry, slice for tlt’s, etc.) Store any unused portions in the marinade for up to a week.