When is mould an ed­i­ble in­gre­di­ent?

Moose Jaw - - News - Joyce Wal­ter

We’ve all had them: bits of left­overs pushed to the back of the re­frig­er­a­tor and dis­cov­ered days or weeks later in a cleans­ing of stor­age space.

When the lids of some of those con­tain­ers are lifted, it is some­times a chore to rec­og­nize the iden­tity of what those left­overs might have been orig­i­nally — es­pe­cially if they are cov­ered with green goopy mould, some­times re­ferred to as home-grown peni­cillin.

In des­per­a­tion, most of those food­stuffs are scraped into the garbage, or in some cases, dumped into a com­post­ing bin to be­come use­ful once again.

A story about chefs that cre­ate food items that most of us would never equate with stan­dard fare in­di­cates they have dis­cov­ered and are us­ing a tra­di­tional Ja­panese method that in­cludes mould to make cer­tain pastes and com­ple- men­tary in­gre­di­ents.

This mould, called koji, is a fun­gus used to fer­ment soy­beans in the de­vel­op­ment of soy sauce, bean paste and to pre­pare al­co­holic bev­er­ages such as sake. Koji mould is also used to make miso, a sea­son­ing that bud­ding chefs use in a va­ri­ety of dishes for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons.

The more of the story I read, the more com­pli­cated it be­came, just try­ing to fig­ure out how to prop­erly fer­ment koji to make miso and to un­der­stand the process of turn­ing mould into some­thing more than a cure for an in­fec­tion.

By the time I con­cluded my re­search I was of the opin­ion that what I didn’t know about fine din­ing would fill a large text­book, but then what I don’t know is prob­a­bly safer than won­der­ing if fer­mented in­gre­di­ents were be­ing used to pre­pare my hot veal cut­let sand­wich. Con­sumers today are very con­scious of the best-be­fore dates on the prod­ucts pur­chased at the gro­cery store — even know­ing that those dates are only a ref­er­ence for the qual­ity of the item and not nec­es­sar­ily a date by which to dis­card the bag of frozen peas or the box of ched­dar cheese per­o­gies.

If the con­tents pass the sniff test and look ed­i­ble, I’ve been known to pre­pare them for the not-so-in­ti­mate din­ners we share on the clut­tered ta­ble while watch­ing the birds and squir­rels fight for the seeds in the feeder on a tree out­side the win­dow. So far we haven’t had any ill ef­fects from my date-ig­nor­ing meal prepa­ra­tions.

But not once has a mould been in­volved. Any­thing look­ing green­ish in the fridge is out the door as soon as the con­tain­ers are placed on the counter and I cau­tiously re­move the lids to peer in­side. If it isn’t sup­posed to be green, then there is no re­prieve.

If we ever go to a larger cen­tre for fine din­ing in an es­tab­lish­ment where we don’t rec­og­nize one item on the menu, I might just be forced to ask how much mould has been used to cre­ate a par­tic­u­lar item. Yes in­deed, the coun­try bump­kin is in the house.

Joyce Wal­ter can be reached at ron­joy@sask­

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