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August Seasonal Recipes
(follow links to technique, insert latest favorite seasonal ingredient)

The Yoruba people of West Africa believed so strongly that they were the original humans and thus the birthplace of all cultures, that when the first missionaries arrived to spread Christianity, the Yoruba people had to explain to these visitors that they didn't need to spread anything there, that Christianity was a branch descended from their beliefs. As the birthplace of all humans they believed that any visitor that arrived, no matter who, came because they needed to pay respect to their ancestors. The Yoruba didn't take their role lightly. They believed since all life descended from Ife, it is their duty as the Priests of the Deities of all the world to preserve life from spoiling through their ceremonies and traditions.

It's the cruel character of human history that eventually led that branching arm to reach back around and participate in suffocating, or at least attempt to suffocate out the Yoruba culture. As hoards of the Yoruba population became enslaved and brought to Brazil, the ruling Portuguese colonists pressed their Roman Catholicism on them. However the Yoruba people adapted by merging their traditions with the ones that most closely resembled them in the Catholic belief system, earning them a bit of tolerance that helped to maintain essential traditions of their original ways. This meshed belief system became known as Candomble.

Such adaptability also found its way into a little bean fritter fried in palm oil the Yoruba people called akara. There are sources who describe akara as having ceremonial significance in the West Indies, such as to be served when someone who has lived out their life into old age passes away, akara is made and served to every member of the household. When brought to Brazil with the enslaved, the name evolved to acaraje through the arrival of Yoruba street vendors (meaning: come and eat akara). Akara is the special food of Iansa a warrior Goddess who is said to represent the wind and things that don't last, whose husband is Xango, abundant hope. For many preparing and selling acaraje was not only a form of worship but also a tangible hope as a means of raising money to purchase the freedom of enslaved family members.

While unfortunately some information can't be passed down through general research- such as how we'll ever know why the spirits of older souls enjoy eating fried bean fritters soon after they've departed the body, we can however have reason to give thanks that the spirit of acaraje has persevered through time. The story of acaraje's journey through the evil and treacherous mountains of human history is a testament to an incredible strength of spirit and culture and the powerful link of people, place, and food. Acaraje survives today, as the Yoruba people on their homeland continue their daily ceremony, and the many direct descendants now spread across the globe continue the simple act of frying bean patties, perhaps, enacting the most powerful preservation, as they have done from the very beginning of it all, keeping the world from spoiling.

Happy Fermenting!
C

Acaraje

Acaraje is a pureed bean patty. The beans are soaked, then mashed with seasonings or other vegetables like onion and garlic, then fried in oil. The fermentation comes from the soaking. Not all Acaraje recipes call for some fermentation but that was how it was passed to me way back when, and I think it really adds a lot. For me, the longer the soak the better as the beans increase in digestibility and nutrient availability. I love to soak a giant bucket of beans to scoop from as I go. With a quick blitz in a food processor it makes a delicious meal in no time.
Brazilian street vendors will make a boat shaped patty to split in half and fill with pastes such as vatapa made from shrimp.

1. Cover any amount, any type of beans with water to soak. Add salt to make a brine. 1/2 TBS per quart is solid. Splash a "starter" in if you'd like (kombucha, whey, kraut brine). Leave out to ferment at room temperature for 2-3 days, or longer if you'd like, keeping in mind that eventually they'll likely sprout. If the smell gets too weird you can always strain and refresh the brine.

2. When you're ready to make acaraje, strain the beans and rinse to remove the undigestible starches. Add a garlic clove, a hunk of onion, salt and pepper to taste, and any other spices that get you excited. Puree until smooth in a blender or food processor or your mashing paws. Add some brine if it's too dry. You're aiming for a doughish consistency.

3. Form beans into a paddy or ball and either pan fry or deep fry until golden brown over med-high heat. If your puree is not holding shape because its too wet, add a little rice or garbanzo flour.

4. Serve right away with your favorite dips, sauces, and condiments and/ or on a bed of your favorite local greens.
 

Share with us how you are fermenting with the seasons at whatsthatsmell@fermentpittsburgh.com
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