Experimenting with Bokashi

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Not long ago I was trolling the web for some easy, indoor compost ideas since we can’t really leave a stinking pile of food scraps on our apartment balcony. The plan was to make a little, sealed bin that I could stick under the sink and let it do its thing. Somehow, I came across a forum discussing bokashi. It’s basically a super-fast Japanese method for turning food scraps into usable garden amendments. The neat thing is that you can throw meat and dairy in there too, and they’ll break down without stinking or attracting vermin. The idea so intrigued me that I contacted a bunch of people who owned bokashi blogs, did hours of research, and ended up writing an article.

More importantly, though, it motivated me to give it a shot. The traditional method calls for innoculating bran or some other substrate with a fancy mixture of yeast, fungus, and bacteria. Layer it with food scraps, and in two weeks you’ll end up with some pickled food scraps that don’t seem to have changed much. This stuff gets buried in the garden, and two weeks after THAT, it’s completely broken down and you have light, fluffy, delightful compost.

I had two major components: an airtight bucket and tons of food scraps. Boy, do we waste a lot of food.

Being impatient, however, I had no desire to order the secret ingredient then wait for it to ship all the way from…wherever. From all my research, I knew that the process is basically a matter of the food scraps fermenting in an airtight environment. So, I decided to take the minimalist approach. I added about a cup of sugar to the mess, mixed it up good, and let it sit for a day. After thinking about it, I also dumped in a cup of milk that The Boy had left sitting out all night (for lactobacillus) and a packet of dry yeast. Sounds yummy, right?

I sealed that bad boy up and let it rest for two weeks. Upon opening the bucket, I was treated to the sour, fermenty smell that all the forums said was a sign of success. I put a three inch layer of dirt in the bottom of several five gallon buckets, topped that with about four handfuls of the stinky stuff, and poured some more dirt on top.

Today (three weeks later), I decided to poke around in my poor-man’s planters to see if the bokashi had, indeed, broken down. I got out my little trowel and…. success! Nothing but soft, dark dirt. I am very pleased.

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Corn Chowder, Indian Style!

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I was a waitress throughout high school and college, and one restaurant I worked at had a to-die-for corn chowder. Of all the soups we served, Angie’s Indian Corn Chowder was the only one that didn’t come straight out of a bag. We usually ran out halfway through the night and had to substitute something inferior.

Angie was a fiesty little prep cook who guarded her secrets well. We were buddies, but she wouldn’t share her recipe, even when I told her we were moving out of state. My husband and I have been trying to replicate it for six years; we met while we were both working at that little diner, and we ate a lot of soup together.

The original formula was for chicken taco soup, which I found online somewhere and didn’t care for. I tweaked the spices, switched up the beans, and used ground beef instead of the chicken.  Finally, I modified it to be slow-cooker friendly, because I am far too lazy to cook soup from scratch after a long day!

Without further delay, I give you… Indian Corn Chowder!

You’ll need:

  • One pound lean ground beef
  • One onion, chopped
  • Two cloves garlic, minced
  • One 14 oz can chili beans
  • One 14 oz can black beans with cumin
  • Two 14 oz cans of corn, drained
  • One 14-15 oz can tomato sauce
  • Two cans diced tomatoes with chiles
  • One package spicy taco seasoning (use regular if you don’t like things too hot)
  • Salt, pepper, and additional cumin to taste
  1. Brown beef in a medium skillet. Drain off fat.
  2. Add onions and garlic to beef, and continue cooking until vegetables are soft and translucent.
  3. Combine beef mixture, beans, corn, tomato sauce, tomatoes, and taco seasoning in slow cooker.
  4. Cook on “low” for seven hours, or crank it up to “high” for four.
  5. Taste before serving and add additional salt, pepper, and cumin to taste.

Serves 6-8 generously!

I don’t have the nutritional information for this, but I suppose I could try to figure it out if anyone’s interested. I imagine it’s ridiculously high in salt since most of the foods come in a can. If you’re on a low sodium diet, rinse the  beans before adding them to the pot, use frozen corn instead of canned, and use a low-sodium taco seasoning, if you can find one.

This is a phenomenally tasty dish all by itself. I like to serve it with corn muffins and globs of sour cream, but you could also try crumbling some corn tortilla chips on top.  Yum!