Friday, June 13, 2008

Eat to Beat the Heat Part 2: Ferment and Sin No More

To beat the heat this time around, I decided to cut down the cooking time on some millet by giving it a preliminary soak. For those unfamiliar with this delicious and nutritious grain, you may know it as the little yellow balls in your birdseed.

As far as human consumption goes, it's an oldie and a goody, dating back to ancient China where it was prized for its ability to swell to five times its size once rehydrated. Having a warm bowl of it first thing in the morning makes you remember what "cereal" once meant.

But the heat had another plan for my millet. Thanks in part to the sultry temperature, the millet spontaneously fermented. When I checked to see if it had soaked through, I found it gently bubbling and issuing a pleasant, slightly sour smell. Once upon a time I would have thrown it out, but instead I reached for my copy of Wild Fermentation and quickly learned that a fermented millet porridge known as ogi (or ugi) is popular in various parts of Africa. Say no more.

Fermentation acts as a god given preservative, stretching the life of your food precisely when it needs help staying "fresh." It was hot, the heat sped up the fermentation process, and therefore the millet remained edible - and perhaps more healthful - for a longer period of time. Thanks, wild yeast colonies of Maynard, Massachusetts.

How was it? Great. Imagine the sauerkraut version of grain.

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