Looking for a new fermentation project? Tempeh is made by fermenting soybeans with a starter culture. Originating in Indonesia, traditional tempeh is a soybean cake that has a rich smoky flavour and aroma with a firm, nutty texture. It is a great source of protein and vitamin B-12.
So how is it done?
I enjoy tempeh and I’ve been meaning to try making my own. When I noticed that a pack of starter culture had reached it’s “sell-by” date, I took it as a sign. I found the process quite easy and the resulting tempeh was delicious! I made a few mistakes on my first batch that I’d like to share here.
Get yourself some dried soybeans. I found some at Goodway’s Specialty Food in New Westminster. They have a lot of great stuff including some hard-to-find herbs and spices if you want to get creative in your next batch of beer!
Soak 2 cups of soybeans overnight in a large bowl of water.
Dehull the beans SKIP THIS STEP. It’s not worth it! I spent way too long massaging these beans with my fingers to get the hull off, all the while thinking, “Well I’m never doing this again”.
Boil the beans. Don’t worry about removing the hulls. As you boil the beans, many of the hulls separate anyway. As they float to the surface, you can skim them out with a slotted spoon. Don’t stress out too much about removing all the hulls. It’s an optional step. The beans will boil for about 45 minutes.
Dry the beans. Your instructions might tell you to dry them in a towel or with a hairdryer. NONSENSE! After draining the beans, just return them to the pot and stir them over medium heat until the water has burned off. Don’t do what I did and leave the beans out all day in the sun during a heat wave. They don’t need to be THAT dry.
Step 5: Tempeh Starter Culture
Add a couple tablespoons of white vinegar to the soy beans. This will get the pH down to the level you want. Add tempeh starter culture and stir well.
Culture the beans at about 30C. The first time I tried this, I used a 9 x 9 glass baking dish covered with plastic wrap. The plastic wrap was punctured with a toothpick throughout, spaced one inch apart from each other. Although this technique is valid, I don’t recommend it.
Instead, place the beans in a Ziplock freezer bag. Once again, puncture throughout with a toothpick. Holes should be about one inch apart from each other. Do this on both sides of the bag.
The trickiest part of the making tempeh is maintaining 30C for 24 to 48 hours while it ferments. If you don’t have an appliance that can help out with this (Dehydrator/heating pad, etc.) one method is to put it in the oven with just the light on. The heat from the oven light might be all you need to raise the temperature a few degrees above ambient room temp. Or just wait for the next summer heat wave!
This was mine after 36 hours. You want a nice, white mycelium growth (some black spots are normal) and it will hold itself together in a firm mass.
You can store tempeh in the fridge for 10 days or it can be stored longer in the freezer. I cut my tempeh cake into quarters and froze 3 of them.
Tempeh needs to be cooked before eating it. The most common method is to cut it into strips and fry them. Add some spices or soy sauce if desired!