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School help again! Pickles or something else with bacteria or fungus

I'm hoping you can rescue us again. My daughter (needed Northern French recipes last time) is now working on a biology project where they need to make a food which uses a bacteria or fungus to produce something else. Namely mushrooms wouldn't do but pickled mushrooms (not using vinegar) would work. So, other than sourdough bread which too many others are doing, can you think of something not too difficult for a 15 year old which uses bacteria or fungus. We've thought of pickles or something else pickled using a brine or an Indian dosa but haven't found a good recipe for that.

Since these can take a long time to develop the teacher hasn't given them a turn in deadline but she needs to know by Monday what she is going to do and what the bacteria or fungus used is.

Ideas and recipes (please?) would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you thank you

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  1. Easiest one I can think of is yogurt. You just need some starter and milk. Any decent yogurt labelled "with active cultures" should work.

    3 Replies
    1. re: cheryl_h

      Along that same dairy line she could make goat cheese. Rennet is cheap and easily mail ordered. Goat milk is surprisingly easy to find too. Check out your local grocery or farmers market.

      1. re: HaagenDazs

        Rennet is an enzyme, so the initial curdling alone doesn't qualify as either bacterial or fungal. However, if left to age due to bacterial action, then that would be OK.

      2. re: cheryl_h

        Hmmm....probably wasn't clear enough. She's not looking for something easy just something different than what others are going to be doing.

      3. It is possible to make your own root beer at home. If you Google up root beer recipes there are a bunch out there and there are some kits too. The real stuff is made with yeast which in turn provides the carbonation. There are some kits available too. That could be really fun and a surprize to the others.

        1. How about Kombucha? I bought a culture on ebay and it worked for one batch and then the second one got moldy or something--all stringy and weird.

          But that first batch was great. I was checking on growth every day. It felt just like a school science project.

          1. Kimchi can be made from just about any vegetable and has loads of good bacteria. Mmmm... kimchi pizza.

            1 Reply
            1. re: HaagenDazs

              Is that better than "Mmmmm, FLOOR kimchi"? I agree about kimchee, though. It's one of the finest tastes in the universe.

            2. Any baked product involving yeast (a unicellular fungus) would qualify, but that may be too obvious. As cheryl h suggests, yogurt is probably the easiest, but cheese would be much more dramatic and home cheese-making supplies are readily available (it may not end up being very good cheese, but I doubt that's the point of the exercise).

              Simple pickling with vinegar wouldn't really qualify - the vinegar is made by bacteria, of course, but I don't think there's any further bacterial activity going on when it's used to pickle cucumbers (for example). However, sauerkraut would certainly qualify, as would several other types of natural "pickling."

              I suppose if she really wanted to get some attention she could brew up a batch of beer, or even wine, but I'm not sure that's the kind of attention she'd want.

              3 Replies
              1. re: FlyFish

                Nope...not allowed any alcohol. They always take the fun out of everything. We were thinking of maybe pickling the old fashioned way with a brine. My dad used to make pickles every year that way and they were pretty good.

                  1. re: Candy

                    Very low alcohol, but not zero - you can't have fermentation and consequent carbonation without getting some alcohol production.

              2. dosa would be a good idea--i'm surprised there are no good recipes on the web for that. along the same lines is injera, the ethiopian bread made out of fermented teff, a millet-like grain.

                don't know about non-vinegared pickles, but how about natural ginger ale or ginger beer? doesn't a bacteria or yeast cause it to bubble? If you do a web search, there are other bubbly syrups. Saveur had a recipe for a blackberry one recently.

                1 Reply
                1. re: missmasala

                  The problem I'm having with the Dosa recipes is that the ingredients are indian names and I'm not sure how readily available that will be in Ohio. She really wants to make something different so Dosa would definitely do the trick if we could figure out what to use to make it. The principle I believe is blend ferment and then make similar to a crepe only using clarified butter. Right?

                2. I used to be a science teacher. We did a project like this.

                  Yogurt is really cool b/c when you make it you have to control the temp to allow for growth of the bacteria, without killing it. She could also do a bit on the "natural intestinal flora" and how eating yogurt can help to restore those microorgs when a course of antibiotics kills them off. Although it is interesting, she might not want to mention that douching with yogurt is sometimes effective for women with recurrent yeast infections.



                  1. This website has a ton of kits for different fermented foods. Not everything utilizes bacteria or fungus, but a good source for some supplies. http://www.leeners.com/ If you really want to be different, you can try making Harkarl (Icelandic putrefied shark).

                    1. You could make natto (fermented soy beans):


                      Other ideas include:



                      Cuitlacoche/huitlacoche (corn fungus used in Mexican food):



                      1. Don't know how much time she has, but vinegar made from wine or beer would be pretty cool.

                        Sauerkraut would be good also.

                        1. Sauerkraut. Or traditional, brine-cured kosher dill pickles. Neither one, done properly, uses vinegar but depends completely on the action of bacteria to sour. I can post a recipe for the pickles, but just google "sauerkraut" if she prefers that one.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Nyleve

                            yes, I've made brine-cured pickles and it's incredible how sour they get with *NO* vinegar used.

                          2. There's actually an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown makes sauerkraut and talks all about the bacteria that are at work. The title of the episode is some pun on "kraut," unsurprisingly.