2021 Lessons, 2022 Goals

Another year has passed us by. Do you feel older? Wiser? Maybe not, but all of our ferments are aging with us, too.

I suppose the primary lesson I learned in 2021 is that older doesn’t necessarily mean better always. My experimental hot sauce batches, even with some big variations (adding smoked chilies, adding mushrooms) tasted very similar to each other and last year’s standard batch, all fermented for 3+ months. Granted, I’m using a similar blend of chilies, but this year I want to do an experiment to compare lengths of fermentation to taste.

Another realization I’m dealing with is that I’m way better at starting things than I am at finishing them. This is not new, and I already knew this about myself. Last year I started several things that never made it onto the site, mostly because I never finished them. For instance: I had plans to make an all-tomato ketchup with the tomato vinegar and homemade tomato paste. When the vinegar took longer than I planned, I decided to put my homemade tomato paste into a vacuum bag with some shiokoji and let it ferment a bit on its own. Well, it’s still in that bag 4 months later, and the consistency has become much looser, too loose to add vinegar to and expect anything resembling ketchup. Maybe I’ll just call it shioketchup and use it as-is.

This aversion to finishing also extends to using my ferments. I’m seriously a video game potion hoarder in real life, I’ve got loads of misos, vinegars, and pickles sitting around and only use them sparingly because they still feel “special”. The brutal reality is that my average meal isn’t likely to include much or any of my homemade ferments. This is something I’d like to improve on this year—and maybe develop some more recipes to post on the site. I grew up on a diet of scrambled eggs, spaghetti and meatballs, and frozen perogies, so I’ve still got a lot to learn still about cooking and using what’s in the fridge/larder.

I feel like I did develop a more intuitive sense for using and maintaining my sourdough starter last year. I started the year off with a post about the “Sourdough Conspiracy” that does mostly hold up, though I’m not sure even I trust my own insistence that an unfed starter will work just fine (I have had plenty of loaves fail due to too much front-loaded acidity, even just from over-fermented starter). I don’t post too much about sourdough anymore because, frankly, I got into a groove with it and basically make the same bread every time. I should maybe add an additional goal here about writing a sourdough bread guide for the site.

At the end of the year I finally got into the habit of doing a Crock of Time livestream once a month on YouTube. Just two, because I started in November with the kimchi livestream and then did an eggnog stream in December comparing the freshly made stuff to year-old aged eggnog. I’m glad to finally be getting some video content out there, even if it’s not quite what I had envisioned back in December of 2020 when I posted my first edited video about making pour-over coffee. Video is hard, especially when you don’t feel like you have the right environment for filming and clean shots are difficult and time-consuming. And it isn’t that I didn’t try—I have gigabytes of video filmed about various things, but after all the effort of filming the editing took the wind out of my sails. After an entire year of no video content, I’m sneaking in one more goal for the year to put some videos out.

The thing I am most excited about from last year is the growth of our own little Discord server. I even banned a bot this week, and if the server is worth spamming then we’ve reached a milestone as a community in my opinion! I started the server after the first Kojicon in February 2021, after experiencing the supportive and energetic Kojicon Slack. Kojicon 2022 is right around the corner and tickets went on sale yesterday! See you in the Slack (and Discord!), and happy new year folks.