熟成昆布 mature kelp

The other day, in the article "Kombu is aged like wine", I mentioned that I thought that "kombu is not worth much if you only pay attention to its place of origin, grade, and age", but I did not tell you the difference between aged kombu and new kombu, or the superiority of kombu depending on its use.
So this time, I would like to introduce those points in a little more detail.

A super simple explanation of aging is

It is an enzyme in the food itself that breaks down the food itself.

In a sense, it may be the opposite of rotting, but aging food to make it taste good is quite different from letting it go bad!

Maturing requires "control of conditions, temperature, humidity, and time" appropriate for the ingredients.

For example, when perishable foods such as meat and fish are treated as much as possible for bacteria that cause spoilage (condition), and then kept in ice or air-dry storage (temperature and humidity), and the potential of the ingredients is determined (time), the enzymes in the ingredients break down the proteins into amino acids, making the meat softer and more delicious, with a mellow aroma. The taste and mellow aroma increase dramatically.

If the aim is to make kelp tasty with the same effect as ripening, it is necessary to control the conditions, temperature, humidity, and time that are appropriate for the kelp.

I have long studied the quality of kelp from the "taste point of view," and I am convinced that the most effective way to achieve this, especially with "aged kelp," is to do so during the production process, preferably at the production site.

Kelp products that have been aged

At a minimum, "Mature Kelp" is a kelp product from a region (producer) that has been commercialized by performing the following operations

(1) Collect kelp and dry it under the sun or by machine.
(2) The dried kelp is then moistened naturally or artificially to create an "anjou" (state).
(3) The anjoing period takes at least 1 to 5 days (time) depending on the temperature (temperature and humidity).
(4) After anjoing, the kelp is sun-dipped (condition) moderately.
(5) After sun exposure, anjou (humidity and time) is required to equalize the moisture content of the kelp.

This process completes the first year of ripening kelp.

The kelp products made in this process are allowed to mature for several years, and the degree of maturity depends on the control of temperature and humidity.
Simply put, if the temperature and humidity are low, a long period of time is needed for maturation, and if they are high, a short period of time is needed.

(1) As with fresh food, raw kelp has a lot of bacteria and moisture, so it is important to book-dry it so that the core is dry
(2) Summer temperatures and moderate humidity promote enzyme activity.
(3) Enzymatic decomposition is promoted during the anjou period.
(4) Anjou, which is a process of evenly distributing the moisture content over a moderate period of time, has the effect of suppressing the growth of bacteria and molds and releasing aroma.
(5) During the ripening period, condensation (free water from bound water) can cause the formation of mold, so rapid changes in temperature are not recommended.

Major differences between matured kelp and new kelp

Like the fresh food in the example, it is mellow, delicious and tender!

However, we cannot expect a dramatic change in taste like fresh food, but we can say with certainty that the smell of the sea is removed and the aroma improves, and the fibers become softer, which makes it easier to extract the broth that makes the food so delicious.

Especially the softness, you can tell if it has been 'aged' or not just by looking at it (rehydrated)!

Left is Hidaka kelp from last year and right is Hidaka kelp from 5 years ago.

Aged Kelp" becomes so soft that it can be easily separated even after simmering for a short time.

The softer the fish is, the more mature it is, so try soaking it in water first to see how firm it is.

If it is real "matured kelp", it is so soft that you can eat it just by putting it back in water!

If it is hard, it has not matured.
If it is a little hard, it is still young.

注意attention (heed)
The fact that different types of kelp have different fiber firmness to begin with is not the same thing as maturing.

I recommend "the finest and ultimate aged kelp".

Whether it is for soup stock or for eating, all regions have a good year when it is in season and flourishing.
Main drying under the sun
Damp it moderately by exposing it to a moist evening breeze.
Anjou for a few days, and then sun-dry.
Unjoint again.
Mature in a cool dark place for 1 to 3 years.
The part near the root is the "highest quality and ultimate matured kelp".

(1) Good-quality kelp is usually produced in years when conditions are favorable for its growth.)
2)Good quality kelp, like vegetables and fruits, can be classified into "early, first, seasonal, and last".
(3) Drying is not only for foodstuffs, but also for clothes, and the conditions for good drying are high temperature, low humidity, and a light breeze (machine drying is high temperature, high humidity, and strong wind).
(4) Enzyme action is inhibited in this dry state, so it is important to moisten the food to promote enzyme action while inhibiting the growth of bacteria and mold (artificial moistening, such as pouring water over the food, will cause the umami flavor to flow).
(5) If the product is managed to suppress the growth of bacteria and mold over the long term (not to change the bound water in the kelp to free water), the part near the root (the white part in green onion) is allowed to mature (not much changes over 3 years and the flavor is inferior).
(6) The dryness of kelp products is suitable for long-term aging when it is folded and just barely unbreakable.
(7) Products that are so hard that they crack with the slightest shock are extremely slow in maturing.

Aged kelp is not suitable for all uses. 

The more it ages, the less fiber it has to withstand slow cooking methods such as stewing and tsukudani (food boiled down in soy sauce).

The bottom line is that the fibers are too soft, and if not cooked with this in mind, they can separate or dissolve (ramen shops claim that after simmering for a day and night, they dissolve and ruin the broth).

The problem is that if most of the products produced in a region were matured kelp, it would be easier for consumers to handle, but due to differences in weather, drying methods, and producers' ideas, matured and unmatured kelp are now distributed together, even if only as a result.
This may be the reason why people say, "Even the same kelp produces different soup stock," "Even the same kelp is hard," or "Unlike the old days, today's kelp is not as tasty.

I'm not convinced that expensive kelp is hit or miss (consumer's voice).

I think we need production methods and segregation that not only looks good, but also tastes good and is suitable for the intended use.

I have the knowledge and experience to guide understanding producers in the production and sorting of kelp products suitable for the new environment, and to certify the products.

As a kelp specialist, I am going back to my roots and learning all about kelp again!
6th industrialization of kelp products, product ideas, and other quality concerns and management.
It resonated with my consciousness, resonated, similar objectives!
Please allow me to invest the information, knowledge and time I have in producers and sellers who think so!
Inquiries from consumers are also welcome!

Feel free to contact me at any of the following!

I do not speak English, so please leave messages in Japanese.

◆Gmail arachinpapa@gmail.com
◆FBメッセンジャー https://www.facebook.com/arachin.papa/



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