Kishk (Aged Bulgur Wheat and Yogurt)

I love learning about and getting a taste of the diverse traditions and flavors of our world… this recipe for kishk, a simple ferment of bulgur wheat and yogurt enjoyed in soups, stews, and a variety of dishes across the Middle East, has intrigued me ever since I flipped through Sandor Katz’ wild fermentation last winter. (The Food Heritage Foundation has a fascinating description of how kishk is traditionally prepared, in huge batches on rooftops, if you are interested in learning more.) When I came across a bag of bulgur wheat at the discount store this spring, I was excited to finally test it out. I was forced to abandon the project after a couple days, however, when sugar ants invaded. After painstakingly picking out every ant segment from of a couple spoonfuls, I quickly realized how monumental an effort that would be, so I stuck the rest in the back of the freezer to deal with later. Finally found the time to return to the process this week. Almost worth every minute of squinting and sifting. Lesson learned: Make sure you surround your bowl with an insurmountable moat of water while it ferments. In just a few days, you’ll end up with a unique and versatile seasoning, reminiscent of parmesan cheese, with minimal effort.

The original recipe calls for kneading the mixture each day by hand, but I found it too sticky for this. Folding and pressing it with a spoon seemed to work fine.

1 cup uncooked bulgur wheat
2 1/2 cups yogurt
2 teaspoons salt

In a small bowl, mix together the bulgur and yogurt. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight. Fold and knead the mixture by hand or with a spoon, adding a spoonful or so of yogurt if it seems dry. Cover and leave to ferment. Repeat this process once a day for about nine days. On the final day, mix in the salt, then spread on a baking sheet and leave in a warm, dry place. (I stuck it in the oven with the pilot light for about a day.) As it dries, break it into smaller pieces and crumbs. When dried, grind it into a powder (it stayed coarse for me, like parmesan cheese, which is fine) and store in an air-tight jar. Use as you would flour to thicken soups or sauces, sprinkle in toppings as you would bread crumbs or parmesan, or explore the diverse ways kishk is used in traditional Middle Eastern dishes!

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