Tempeh treats.

Today I want to share my tempeh making experience, I have a new batch growing ready for my friend that is coming to install my instant gas hot water system, my way to repay friends that help me is to cook up a storm for them and this friend is vegan so I’m making tempeh for him there is nothing like homemade tempeh, you won’t eat that store bought tempeh that I personally think smells like old socks again!!!

Not sure what I’m going to create with it yet something simple so as not to over whelm the mushroomy sweet taste of the tempeh, I will more than likely stir fry it with some rehydrated slippery Jacks (Suillus luteus) I dried from last season and fresh greens. I will also just fry some and serve with a hot dipping sauce, as in the picture I used here.

Fried Tempeh, with a fermented chilly hot dipping sauce, pickled ginger and fried chickweed greens

I love soy beans but it can be hard to get locally grown organic beans here in Tassie so I’m keen on finding alternate beans that I can make tempeh with and so far I have tried a rice and seaweed tempeh, that was nice and a home grown broad bean tempeh that needed twigging a bit the bean pieces needed to be smaller but it was a nice tempeh and broad beans grow well here in Tassie, I dry heaps each year I use them in everything I use flour in or I ferment them and make fermented broad bean pikelets another story.

Broad bean Tempeh

I have been cooking and working with food for many years and never ever dreamt of making my own tempeh I thought it was going to be some specialized technically hard thing to create so never even bothered to look it up even though I make my own soy milk and tofu. I just thought because it used culture it would be beyond me but it is very, very easy….

On a recent trip to Indonesia where tempeh makes up a good part of their diet and they grow it there it was in every little corner store wrapped in banana leaves just sitting out with the veggies, It motivated me to really look into the process when I got home.

Plus my mother had bought me Sandor Kratz book Wild Fermentation on request which has now become my bible and it is no exaggeration to say this book changed my life! Sandor’s book has many other amazing recipes and directions and he made tempeh making sound so easy, so that was it I decide I was going to give it a crack, so I bought the cultures and I haven’t looked back.

I will explain the process and my experience with making tempeh and hopefully it will motivate you to give it a go you wont be sorry. So once you have everything you need which is beans, vinegar, culture a heat pad or heating source a frame to grow tempeh in and a good digital thermometer you are set. Ok I soak the beans overnight and early in the morning I de hull them by draining them and putting them into a clean tea towel and massaging and rubbing the hull’s off, this also splits the beans and if they are cooked rite they should only split in two not mash up, they are over cooked if this happens.

Tempeh making equipment

I then put them in a big pot full of water and scoop off the floating hulls with a deep frying spoon, the ones with wire scoop that they have in Asian grocer’s, now there is a trick to this technique, it is all about rhythm! or it’s all in the wrist as some say, you need to vigorously stir the beans to get a whirl pool happening and as the beans are swirling around and as they are starting to sink you come along behind in a circular motion and collect all the floating hulls and if you keep stirring in a rhythm and at a pace where you are stirring up the settling hull at every stroke and catching them in the scoop with the next stroke but not hard enough to bring the beans up…… play with it, it can be very relaxing as most rhythmic thing are.

So get as many hull’s out as possible because the next stage is cooking them in a pressure cooker, you can cook them in other ways but it takes 5 minutes in the pressure cooker and probable 4 or 5 hours just boiling and steaming, be careful because any hull’s that are left can get caught in the little steam release valve and I can tell ya it’s not pretty when this happens…….. It is quite dangerous so try to get all the hull’s out, after scooping as much as possible rinse them a few times and as you pour off the water each time more hull’s will float off.

Remember if you have to cook more than one lot make sure you clean out the hole in the lid before each batch ok…. and stand there and listen to the little toggle on top if it stops moving and making a noise it could be blocked so turn of the plate off asap and move away from the cooker hopefully it will settle down but DON’T try to open it, you will get burnt!!!

And if the pressure relief plug does break and it streams out DON’T go near it, it’s better to just clean up the mess after than get burnt all over ok, they go off like a bomb, but they are so efficient so you just need to be careful!

Each pressure cooker is different to, I only have to cook my split de hulled beans for 5 minutes in one of mine and 10 minutes in another… so you need to experiment with your cooker you want the beans to be just el denta, so still firm the culturing process cooks the bean fully. So once your beans are cooked and cooled put them in a big pot and stir in culture and vinegar, cultures should come with directions.

My growing tempeh

Most literature says to use plastic bags to grow in but I don’t like the idea of soft plastic and heat so I made a metal frame and I put cheese cloth in it and pack my beans into this to grow. Now for the harder bit in the process, I use an animal heat pad from when I was a wild life carer so I was lucky enough to have all the equipment I needed, please make sure you get a good quality heat pad with a good canvas or hard cover, not those soft ones they are selling as foot heat pads for people my friend had one of those and it could have burnt don’t the house, the wirers melted through the plastic cover over the night, just a bit scary!

I wrap my heat pad in a towel put it in a box and place my tempeh frame packed with the beans on top of this I put my thermometer sensor in beside the beans and cover it all up and sit temperature monitor on top so I can see it. It has to sit at between 30 and 32 degrees for 24 hours, I sit mine where I can see it at all times so I can just keep checking the temp, some way through the process the tempeh will start to create its own heat so you need to keep adjusting it so it doesn’t over heat.

The reason I make tempeh in the morning is it gives me time to get the temperature rite so I’m not going to bed worried I don’t have it rite! In 24 hour or so, Wallah you will have the most amazing tempeh you have ever eaten, please don’t give up if you fail a few times once you get it down pat you will be rite, I make a batch every month.

You will learn how many covers you need to get your stable temperature, I keep what I use for tempeh together so I pretty much get the temperature rite straight up with a bit of twigging depending on temperature in the room. I suggest you get a digital thermometer that has the little sensor and separate monitor so you can just tuck the sensor in with the tempeh and you don’t have to disturb it every time you want to check temp, it is much more relaxing just being able to glance at the monitor!

Well it is as easy as that really I can’t believe I’ve been a vegan cook and a vegan (not now) all these years and just learnt how to make tempeh!!!!

My Tempeh

My Tempeh

But as I always say, better later then never rite! I really hope this motivates you to give it a go! 🙂


8 comments on “Tempeh treats.

  1. Sensational! Can you please (if possible) post some photos and a description of the frame you made for your tempeh? And is the cheese cloth breathable enough that it doesn’t need extra air-holes or anything?

  2. Jess there is a picture of the frame in this piece, in the third picture! it is just metal wire made into a box the size you like your tempeh….. I just made walls and a base and sewed it all together with softer wire thats it. I will make my next one with smaller gauge mesh than this one but. And it is just normal cheese cloth no extra holes. 🙂

  3. Oops I totally blanked that that was the frame when I looked at that! It looks quite deep – do you make two blocks in that or just one big block? I’m going to try to make something like that myself!

  4. Like I said I would make it with smaller wire and make frame thinner but longer so the air can get in all the way….. I don’t fill this one of mine all the way up! I would go 10cm wide by 30cm long by 15cm heigh but don’t fill all the way up so its like 10cm cube log! Good luck with yours 🙂

  5. your story of making tempeh is really inspiring.
    i love to eat tempeh and I got a small packet of tempeh starter from an Indonesian friend. i tried the first batch of 500 gm of dried soya beans and 1 tsp of starter. although it generates heat and steam inside the plastic bag, the mold did not grow and turned brownish after 48 hours, get slimy and amonia smell. i had no choice but to throw it. i was not sure what was the reason of failure, as i did not put vinegar or i did touch by hand, or the starter has been old or destroyed by heat leaving outside during my travels carrying it around. etc etc. or the temperature i put , room temperature of about 30- 32 degreee was not enough? i now tried the second batch, 500 gm soya beans with 1 and half tsp starter ( same starter) and leave a bucket of water to get humidity. and a table lamp next to the bucket.
    there are several recipes, ratios and techniques on websites and as a beginner, i got confused of how much starter i should use. so just take it as trial and error period.

    it is generating heat and steaming inside after 30 hours but still no white mold yet. i am not sure, it will grow or not. what would you suggest? if the starter is not good, it should not generate heat at all. it does but no white mold.

    i know i need to invest in making proper incubator to control the temperature, i just want to try as the first few attempts with the room temperature while the place where i live now is 40 degrees ( C) plus outside and the room without AC is about 30 degrees plus.
    since you are well experienced in making tempeh, i am seeking for your advice.


  6. Hay mate sorry you are having so much trouble with your tempeh making, I don’t have any experience with doing it with out an incubator but as long as the temp sits at 28 to 32 degrees for the whole fermentation process it should be fine, but remember it has to be constant with little or no fluctuation and after the first half of the fermentation it will create its own heat and you need to make sure it doesn’t over heat, from your description it sound like the culture is fine but that it may have over heated when it over heats a different bacteria takes over and makes it go like your description it isn’t dangerous and is used to produce different foods but is an acquired taste.
    The vinegar is to lower the PH to promote the bacteria that makes tempeh tempeh, I have read you don’t need to do this but the recipe I started with from Sandor Katz book Wild Fermentation used vinegar and I have followed that ever since I also have The Book Of Tempeh by William Shurtleff & Akiko Aoyagi I suggest you get these books.
    The other thing I can’t recommend highly enough to purchase is a digital thermometer with a sensor so you can see the temperature for the whole process this is very important!.
    Well I wish I could be more help I hope this next batch works there is nothing like home made tempeh 🙂

  7. Love the idea of using cheesecloth! Could you please post a recipe of the broad bean pickelets? Those sound really interesting! Also, how do you use the broad bean flour in recipes? Do you just grind the broad beans and mix plain flour with broad bean flour? What ratios do you use? Will it work in cakes, or only in things like baking bread, and how does it taste?

  8. I don’t really use recipes mate, I just double peeled them mashed them up added a bit of salt and water stirred then a couple time a day for how ever long it takes to fermented them to your taste then I added a bit of spelt flour what ever herbs n spices you like then cooked in frying pan in olive oil.
    As a flour sub I used them fresh mashed or dried rehydrated and mashed or just dried and ground up and put in things n like I said I don’t use recipes I go by feel.
    It would be fine in cake like fruit n veg cakes not sponges ect, experiment that is the joy in all this to experiment for yourself n create new things.
    They taste beany/nutty. 🙂

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