A few years ago, I bought Preserved by Nick Sandler and Johnny Acton. It’s a great book and contains details and recipes for a wide variety of preservation techniques – salting, air-drying, pickling, fermenting, smoking – the lot. One of the recipes is for fermented black beans – as used in many Chinese dishes. The recipe itself is extremely simple, but the thing that always put me off was the fermentation time: one to two years. I didn’t want to have to wait that long in order to sample the fruits of my labours!
A couple of weeks ago, I picked the book up again and leafed through it. I quickly spotted the black bean recipe and it struck me that if I’d actually been bothered to make that when I first bought the book, they’d be ready by now. So why hadn’t I made them! It’s not like they are high maintenance – you just leave them on a shelf at the back of the pantry for a couple of years. So, I decided that was a wasted opportunity, and I wasn’t going to do that again. This time, I was going to make them.
The black beans in question are actually black soy beans. They were surprisingly tricky to track down, but I eventually found a company in Scotland selling them online.
Once I had my beans, the rest was easy – I more or less followed the recipe in the book, although I thought the amount of garlic and ginger sounded rather skimpy, so I increased those.
1kg black soy beans
1 bulb garlic
zest of 2 oranges
Soak the beans overnight, then parboil for 30 minutes. Drain and leave to cool.
Peel the ginger and garlic and roughly chop (or whiz through a food processor for a few seconds).
Once the beans are cool, add the ginger, garlic, orange zest and salt, and mix thoroughly. Pack the mixture tightly into sterilised jars and seal.
Store in a cupboard, pantry or cellar, for 1-2 years before use.
So, my beans are all made, packed into jars and sat on a shelf in the pantry. Now, I wait.