Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Posts Tagged ‘tempeh

Tempeh incubator box V2

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The top of my V1 tempeh incubator box, made from a cardboard carton with a base 18″ x 12″ and 12″ high, lacked strength, and after a couple of batches of good tempeh, the reason became clear: the interior is humid enough to weaken the cardboard.

Back to the drawing board. I found an even better (and cheaper) approach: 1″ thick rigid foam insulation, which you can get in 24″ x 24″ squares. I got four squares ($24 total), which I’ll cut to size (a sharp thin knife works well).  Seven pieces needed:

2 pieces 18″ x 12″ — bottom and bottom half of lid
1 piece 20″ x 14″ — top half of lid (two lid pieces glued together)
2 pieces 20″ x 12″ — sides
2 pieces 12″ x 12″ — ends

The ends are aligned with the end of the bottom; the sides then go 1″ beyond the bottom at each end and thus are even with the outside of the end pieces. (Another possibility is to cut the end pieces 13″ wide instead of 12″ wide and use a rabbet joint where ends meet sides, but I’ll have to experiment with some scrap material to see whether I can easily do that. It would make the box stronger, so it’s worth a try.)

The edges of the top half of the lid align with the outside of the box. The bottom half of the lid is (in effect) a plug that fits snugly inside the box opening. The top thus seals the box effectively. For the cords I will probably cut a small hold in the middle of one end of the box. (I don’t want a hole in the top since that would let the heat easily escape.)

Assembly will be with glue. I have a metal yardstick to help with cutting. I don’t have a square, but I’ll take a piece of parchment paper sized for a half-sheet baking sheet (18″ x 13″). I’ll fold it in half, then fold it across the first fold, making sure the folded edges are aligned. Voilà! a right angle with enough strength and edge height to guide my pencil. I can use that to mark a line at right angle to the edges, then extend the marked line using the straight edge, which can also help guide the knife.

With pieces cut, gluing should be easy. Result will be a stronger box that provides better insulation and is tolerant of humidity — and much cheaper than the V1 box.

Of course, the V1 box was designed to fold flat and this box won’t. However, I found I didn’t really want to fold the box flat. I just store it in a dead space beneath a table. If collapsing the box when it’s not in use is important, it might work not to glue the box and just hold the sides in place with a stretchy cord around them. I’ll look at that possibility when I actually assemble it. (This post is what Stephen Covey calls “the first creation”: the plan. The “second creation” — the actual box — will be later this week. I’ll post an update.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 October 2020 at 4:47 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Plant-only diet, Technology

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A couple of daily notes: Tempeh and “Scaramouche”

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I finally isolated the tempeh problem. I had another failure, even though using my homemade tempeh incubation box (which kept temperature within a degree of 88ºF), so while the earlier batches may have failed due to temperature, something else was at work.

I finally twigged to a change I made about the time I moved in here. When I cook beans, I soak them in brine (1 teaspoon salt per 1 cup of dried beans), and after they’ve soaked I add fresh water and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) per 1 cup of dried beans. The result is that the beans cook faster (that is, they are tender and tasty in less time) and their skin doesn’t split.

BUT: tempeh mold craves an acid environment, the reason one adds 1 tablespoon vinegar to the cooked beans once they’ve been dried (heating in cooking pot, and I also use a hair dryer). I didn’t think the small amount of baking soda would overcome the vinegar, but then it occurred to me that the beans were being cooked in that alkaline water and probably ended by being pretty alkaline themselves — that is, toxic to the tempeh mold.

So I just cooked yesterday a new batch of soybeans sans salt and sans soda. They did take a lot longer to get done, but they were pure bean, without the alkalinity toxic to mold.

After I dried them, I added the vinegar and then the mold and put them into my new tempeh incubator: some were in a Ziploc produce bag (pre-perforated) and some were in an open storage dish but covered with a clean dishtowel.

I just checked on them. It’s been 21 hours, and I’m happy to say that the tempeh mold looks very healthy. I apparently was unwittingly poisoning it by the way I cooked the beans.

I’ll know more tomorrow and will post a photo (which I know you’re dying to see).

And, related on chronologically, I finished Rafael Sabatini’s Scaramouche and it seemed better than ever — sent me to the dictionary about as often, too, though someone who knows French would probably fare better.

It’s truly a great read and in an earlier post I described how to download a free copy for your ebook reader. (It’s long since been out of copyright.)

Written by LeisureGuy

15 October 2020 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Food, Plant-only diet

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Tempeh incubator box complete

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Origin of the incubator

In my previous apartment I routinely produced batches of excellent tempeh. In my new apartment I had a string of failures, and I finally decided that the cause was too high a temperature. As the post at the link notes, tempeh is best cultivated at 88ºF. The oven in the old apartment was large and with the door ajar maintained a temperature that produced good batches of tempeh. The new apartment’s oven is smaller and, with the light on, hotter — and I thought that heat might be the source of the problem. (Modern ovens often have a “proofing” setting for making bread, and that would work; my oven is not so modern.)

So I decided to make a tempeh incubation box. There were various suggested DIY videos on YouTube. Those offered some good ideas, and this post describes the route I went. I decided to start with a cardboard box, which (unlike a styrofoam cooler) can be folded flat and easily stored in the back of the closet when not in use.

Incubator construction – Version 1

Update after two batches in this version 1 box: Version 2 of the box. After some experience with this first box, I used what I had learned from experience (Poor Richard’s Almanack: “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other…”) to make a better box: cheaper, stronger, not affected by humidity, better insulation, easier to build. See this post for details. /update

The incubator box is now complete. I found an ideal box — 18″ x 12″ x 12″ — at Staples for $1.79, and above you see it wrapped in closed-cell insulating foam (just 1/8″ thick, but that should be ample). The sides and top are covered with foam, and you can see some double layers when I covered places where cardboard was still exposed after the initial application. The bottom is not insulated: heat rises, so not much will escape from the bottom. [But see version 2 of the box – LG]

A half-sheet rack fits easily into the box and allows good air circulation. The foam I used comes in a sheet 12″ wide and 48″ long, and I bought two of them: 96″ total, 12″ wide. The 12″ width is perfect for the box; the sides took two 30″ strips: a length 12″ + 18″ that’s 12″ wide covers one end and one side. So with 60″ all sides can be covered, and the top can be covered with an 18″ strip that’s 12″ wide. That leaves 18″ for narrow strips to cover exposed edges.

The first step was to cover the sides. I put the box flat and cut off one strip of foam at a 30″ length. That covered one side and one end. Then I flipped the box over and used another 30″ strip for the other side and end. (Thus two of the vertical corner edges required an additional strip of foam to cover the exposed cardboard.)

The top took an 18″ strip: I applied it intact and then used a knife to cut down the middle to free the two flaps. The total used was 78″ of the 96″ I had. I used the remaining 18″ to in relatively narrow strips of foam to cover exposed edges.

The box will be folded flat when not in use, so the flaps for top and bottom and not secured. The heavy book is to keep the top closed. I will in fact use my heavy terrycloth robe folded on the top — that will hold the lid closed while adding more insulation to where the heat tries most to leave.

Result: Excellent temperature control

The thermostat in the photo shows the inside temperature as the box is heating up — 73.7ºF at the time of the photo — and the “heating” indicator is on. if I push the “set” button I can see the target temperature (for tempeh: 88ºF). The box did warm up to target temperature and stabilized, staying within a degree of the target with no problems.

This from an earlier post is interesting:

If the inoculated beans reach a temperature above 92°F (33.3°C), conditions are no longer ideal for Rhizopus spores but are ripe for a different set of organisms such as those of the Bacillus group. Rhizopus can be severely damaged by heat of over 92°F ( 33.3°C).

As a point of interest: I used the new digital thermostat I bought for the incubator to measure my oven temperature with door closed and light on. It was 94ºF — well above 92ºF — so building my tempeh incubator was indeed a good call. But that alone did not solve the problem.

First batch in new incubator: Another failure

I was quite pleased with the box, and was expecting to be even more pleased when it worked. I cooked a couple of cups of soybeans, drained and dried them, and mixed in vinegar and tempeh starter culture. I then bagged some in a Ziploc produce bag and some in a bag I perforated myself and put those on the rack in the box. I used one of these racks. The rack’s legs hold the tempeh well above the heating mat. Because it’s a rack rather than a (solid) baking sheet, air flow within the box is unhindered. The free flow of air should help the temperature within the box to be even (with no hot spots or cold spots).

As you can see in photo at the right, Ziploc produce bags are pre-perforated (click photo to enlarge). Here are the two bags of the first batch. That phot was taken after one day — but after three days the culture had died and I had another failure.

At least this time I knew the problem wasn’t due to the temperature.

One more step to solve the problem

It occured to me, as I listed out exactly what I was doing, that I recently — just about the time I moved into this apartments — started cooking dried beans in water in which I dissolved 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) per cup of dried beans. That results in much quicker cooking and nice tender beans. But I realized that the beans then are, unfortunately, toxic to tempeh mold.

I knew that baking soda was alkaline, but I assumed that the vinegar I added (1 tablespoon per cup of dried beans) after the cooked beans were drained and dried would be enough to offset the alkalinity.

Since the baking soda was the sole remaining potential cause, I cooked a batch without any baking soda (and used my tempeh incubator). Cooking the beans in plain water did take onsiderably longer for the beans to become, but the culture was (at last) a great success.

Update: Lid reinforcement — and another update: Lid replacement.

After the first use, the two insulated lid flaps started to cave in a bit. I’ve figured out what I’m going to do to reinforce them, and I’ll post photos when I’ve done it.

First thought: Make the flaps better

Step one: Flap reinforcement. I’m going to buy a yardstick (36″ long, naturally) and cut it in half to get two 18″ lengths. I’ll glue one to the inside of each flap at the edge where the flaps meet in the center. This will prove some strength.

Step two: Flap stop. I’ll take two 1.5″ x 9″ cedar shims and cut them off 4″ from the thick end, discarding the narrow-end piece. I’ll glue one to each end, locating them at the inside center about 1/8″-1/4″ below the top edge. 

When the lid flaps are closed, the yardstick reinforcement for each lid will rest on the shim stop, preventing the lid from caving in. The box size of 18″ x 12″ x  12″ turns out to be extremely handy.

Second thought: Replace the flaps

The more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea of reinforcing the flaps. Basically, the flaps are the wrong sort of top closure for this, and they get in the way when I’m loading or unloading the incubator.

I awakened this morning with a better idea clearly in mind: cut the flaps off altogether and use a rigid sheet of foam insulation the size of the top opening as the lid

I found that Home Depot sells sheets of 1″ thick foam insulation that are 2′ wide and 8′ long. I’ll get them to cut one in half — two pieces 2′ x 4′ — so I can transport it home, and then I’ll use a knife and straightedge to cut two rectangular pieces: one just the right size to fit into the top opening (once the flaps are removed) and one slightly larger than the top opening. 

I’ll then glue the smaller piece to the larger piece, centering it. The will will be a 2″ thick lid that will fit into the box opening, with the top part of the lid resting on the sides of the box.

That should do it.

Update: Once I got the rigid foam and saw what it was like, I realized I could make a better incubator — tempeh box version 2 — from it. See post at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 October 2020 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Plant-only diet

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Tempeh temperature solution in sight

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Ideally, tempeh should be kept around 88ºF. I’ve had a string of failures because I could not maintain that temperature, and if the tempeh reaches 95ºF the mold will die. What I need is a tempeh incubation box. TYD suggested a proofing box, as used for breadmaking.

Modern ovens have a proofing setting (for letting bread dough rise), but my oven is not modern. However, I think I have a solution, and it begins with a UPS 10kg box: 16″ x 13″ x 10″ (photo at right). Note that the top has a full-width lid, a convenience. Also convenient is that the box can be folded flat when not in use and go into the back of the closet.

The cardboard might be enough insulation, but I decided to get some adhesive-back closed-cell neoprene foam (1/8″ thick) and use that to cover the top and sides of the box. The bottom is not that important: heat rises, and in any even the box will be sitting on carpet and thus insulated by that.

Then inside the box will go a seedling heat mat, and attached to it will be a digital thermostat controller, which will show me the temperature inside the box and also turn the heating mat off and on as needed.

I’ll place a rack (with 4″ legs) on the heating mat to hold the tempeh away from direct contact with the heat mat.

I’m eager to try this. When I look at some photos of my early batches of tempeh (search this blog on “tempeh” to see photos), I really miss that excellent tempeh I once made.

Update: Box built and used and improved

See this post for details.

Update 2: Version 2 of the box: cheaper, better, easier to build

See this post for details.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2020 at 10:59 am

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Tempeh working better now

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This is after 24 hours, and it’s much better than before. I see that the larger holes are not such a good idea — I went for the bigger holes when I thought the problem was not enough air available. For next batch, I’ll return to the small holes. (The problem was the temperature: my little oven with door closed and light on gets hot enough (91ºF) to kill the mold. I am using the oven with light open and door ajar, held open by a wooden spatula handle: closing the door on the handle leaves a slight gap that seems to be enough.

I would like to get (or make) a proofing box someday, but in the meantime I think I have a solution.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 September 2020 at 12:28 pm

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Tempeh problems and the likely cause

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I had a second failed batch here (in this apartment) despite being extra careful in the drying of the beans post cooking — and I think I know why. My oven here is quite small (really too small for even a half-sheet pan, so I use a quarter-sheet pan). If the oven door is closed with the light on, the oven is quite warm — too warm for the mold to flourish. See this post and this post.

So I’m going to start another batch, and this one I’ll put in the oven with light on and door ajar, and after 12 hours remove it to a table and cover with a towel. I’m going with plastic bag punched with 1/8″ holes again, and again on a rack to allow air circulation underneath. (i’m also at some point going to try Ziploc produce bags, which are pre-perforated.)

I know that it works because I made it in the old apartment with no trouble. I’m pretty sure I now know what the problem here is.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2020 at 9:55 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Plant-only diet, Recipes, Science

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Tempeh batch 9: Bigger and better

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I think I’ve got it down now: for this batch I took 4 cups of soybeans. I soaked, cooked, drained, dried, and cooled them, then add 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) white vinegar and one packet of starter (which the instructions say is good if you’re cooking 2 cups of beans, but I figure that once the mold is growing, it will grow: mold’s gonna do what mold’s gotta do. And I used the dishtowel cover and kept them in the oven. Photos below are at the 24-hour mark.

It was enough so that, to keep the tempeh from being too thick, I used an ancillary pan (9″x9″) in addition to the main dish (9″x13″):

That the big one, and this is the small one:

Written by LeisureGuy

3 December 2019 at 8:36 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Plant-only diet

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Tempeh batch 8 – 56 hours and I’m calling it done

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I might go for 72 hours next time, but I was just too eager to see how it turned out. It’s very nice in being well bonded together by the mold, and the taste is really excellent. Now I see why they use soybeans. I’ll probably do the next batch with soybeans again, but go for 72 hours and leave it in the oven longer. The dishtowel cover is a winner.

Bottom:

Top:

Tomorrow I’m making tempeh chili and will blog the recipe.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 November 2019 at 9:16 pm

Posted in Food, Plant-only diet, Recipes

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Tempeh batch 8 after 48 hours

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Interesting colors. The dark grew I understand the orange/yellow is, so far as I can tell, simply discolored soybeans. I’ll give it another 6 hours or so.

As I noted, the countertop didn’t seem to work so well this time, and perhaps it was that previously I let the beans go for around 32 hours before removing to the countertop. More experimentation is required. I do think using a clean dishtowel rather than a foil tent to cover the dish is a good idea: insulates and finesses the condensation problem

Written by LeisureGuy

23 November 2019 at 1:19 pm

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Tempeh batch 8 after 24 hours

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The batch now leaves the oven for the countertop, and I’ve ripped away the center part of the foil covering to avoid stifling the evaporation while still covering the ends to minimize those drying out. This idea is based on my experience with batch 5 (red kidney beans, edges dried out) and batch 7 (green lentils, center was soggy and not so rich in mold). I’m hoping this modified cover solves both problems.

The tempeh’s temperature is now only about 90ºF (room temperature being 74ºF), whereas the last batch reached 106ºF, but that was after 48 hours.

We’ll see, as I used to tell my children.

Here’s the main post on my tempeh-making endeavors.

UPDATE: The Wife took one look at the foil idea and said, “That’s not going to be warm enough,” and came up with a perfect solution: a clean dishtowel stretched over the dish. That will avoid the moisture problem, since the towel will absorb any evaporation from the tempeh (and then in turn evaporate that moisture into the (dryish wintertime) air of the room, and the towel will provide enough insulation to keep the tempeh perking along.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 November 2019 at 1:08 pm

Posted in Food, Plant-only diet, Recipes

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Tempeh batch 8: Soybeans (at last)

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Soybeans are the traditional tempeh base, and I’m finally getting around to trying that. This went into the incubator at 12:45pm today.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 November 2019 at 12:52 pm

Posted in Food, Plant-only diet

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Batch 7 tempeh after 48 hours

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This is the plain green-lentil tempeh. It has been sitting out on the counter the past 24 hours, just at room temperature, though the mold seems to generate quite a bit of heat. I took its temperature using a digital probe thermometer: 106ºF.

It also throws off a lot of moisture. Last night I cut a hole about the size of a quarter in the center of the foil with which it’s loosely tented and pulled the foil up so that exhaust hole was sort of at a peak. That seemed to work well.

I was going to let it go until this evening, but it seems to be in fine shape already.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2019 at 1:09 pm

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Tempeh batch 7 after 24 hours

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Seems to have a nice, even dusting of mold after 24 hours incubation. At this point, I am moving it from the oven-with-light-on to the countertop (room temperature, in other words), still with the tented and perforated aluminum foil loose cover. This is a green-lentil tempeh, made using 3 cups lentils (measured before cooking). Full tempeh write-up here.

Update: After the tempeh had been on the counter, loosely covered, for 1.5 hours, I lifted the foil and put my hand just above the tempeh. It is indeed generating quite a bit of warmth. I had no idea.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 November 2019 at 1:29 pm

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Batch 6 after 48 hours

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I have to take it out of the oven to roast some food for dinner, but that should be okay. The instructions that came with the starter culture in fact advises that after 24 hours the mold is generating enough of its own heat that it can be at room temperature. I think I’ll give it another 24 hours at room temperature and see what happens. As you can see, there are some places where more mold seems desirable.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 October 2019 at 1:09 pm

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Tempeh Batch 6 at 24 hours

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It’s interesting that the mold seems to favor beans over grain—and substantially so thus far. I was wishing I had cooked 1.5 cups beans and 1.5 cups kamut instead of 2 cups beans and 1 cup kamut, but now I’m not so sure. We’ll see how it fares. I certainly hope kamut is not an antifungal.

But it’s early hours. We’ll see what it looks like tomorrow.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 October 2019 at 2:06 pm

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Tempeh Batch 6: New batch, new technique

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New batch: before-cooking measure: 2 cups red kidney beans, 1 cup kamut. They are cooked separately since they take different amounts of time. Then I was sure to dry them (draining the beans and then return beans with cooked kamut to the pot and heating, stirring frequently, until moisture evaporated). After they cooled to 95ºF, I added 3 tablespoons white vinegar, carefully mixed, then sprinkled the tempeh starter on the batch, a little at a time, stirring between sprinkles.

Then into the 9″ x 12″ Pyrex dish (see photo), which I covered with aluminum foil and then used a paring knife to poke a lot of little slots in the foil to provide air for the mold. We’ll see how this works.

Batch went into the incubator at 1:00pm.

Next batch I’ll revisit using 2 cups raw peanuts as the legume and 1 cup kamut as the grain. I’ll simmer the peanuts in a lot of water for as long as it takes the kamut to cook (a little over 2 hours).

Written by LeisureGuy

28 October 2019 at 1:18 pm

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