Ever onward with The Great Bokashi Experiment. To see the previous posts in this series, click below:
The Great Bokashi Experiment, Part I
The Great Bokashi Experiment, Part II: Building a Bucket
OK. The aroma of ripe sour dough starter has permeated my house, which means that it’s bokashi bran drying time! Bokashi bran is essential to a bokashi system (as the name might suggest), and it also happens to be one of the more money-intensive parts of the process. Since one of the goals of The Great Bokashi Experiment is to manage a bokashi system on as small a budget as possible, we’ll talk today about making our own bokashi bran.
A quick perusal of the interweb will yield bokashi bran prices ranging from &12.69 for 400 grams $19.77 for 600 grams (on the Home Depot site (?!?)) to larger orders of 10 kg costing a little less than $100.
A 10 kg supply of bokashi bran would probably last your average family around a year and half, so we’re not talking a huge expenditure when you break it down month by month. But bokashi bran is a pretty simple-to-produce fermented product, and anyone who has paid four times as much for sauerkraut (which is essentially salted cabbage that has been allowed to sit around for a few weeks) as they have for cabbage knows that having a little foresight and patience can save you some moolah in the long run.
Here’s what you’ll need to make a 10 pound (please forgive me for switching back and forth between English and metric measurements, it comes with being an American) batch of bokashi bran:
10 pounds (4.5 kg) wheat bran
10 cups (2.4 liters) water (if your water is chlorinated, allow it to sit uncovered for 24 hours, so the chlorine can evaporate)
4 Tablespoons (59 ml) blackstrap molasses
4 Tablespoons (59 ml) Effective Microorganisms (EM)
And here’s what you need to do:
1. Thoroughly mix the molasses into the water.
2. Thoroughly mix the EM into the water/molasses.
3. Thoroughly mix the water/molasses/EM into the wheat bran. You don’t want to have any dry clumps at the end of this process, so you really need to get in there with your hands and stir things up. The resulting mixture should be just moist enough to barely hold together when you squeeze some of it tightly in your hand.
4. Pack the bokashi bran into an air-tight container. I put it into a plastic trash bag, squeeze the air out, tie it, and then stick it in a plastic bin. I think the idea here is to allow as little bran as possible to be in contact with the air.
5. Allow the bran to sit for a month or so in a warm place. I put mine in an upstairs room in the summer time, where the temp probably ranges from 65F to 85F. I also neglected to check it for more than two months, and it seemed fine.
Those two white spots are mold colonies. Or eyes.
6. The bran is mature when it has a “fermented” smell. To me, the odor is kind of like bran muffin plus vinegar. White fuzzy mold in the bran is OK. Black mold probably means something went wrong, in which case, the bran can be composted in a non-bokashi system.
7. If you’ll be be able to use all the bran within several months, you can simply store it as is in an airtight container. If you would like to store it for longer periods of time, you can dry it.
8. Drying: I just spread the bran in a thin layer in as many porous vessels (e.g., baskets) as I could find. (The towels you see in the photo are to prevent the bran from falling through the basket weave.) We have old hot-water radiators in our house, and the baskets that I rested on top of them were dry within two or three days. Baskets that I put in other places are taking a bit longer. Once the bran is dry, it should be stored in an airtight container for up to a year.
Note: Drying ten pounds of bran has definitely been the most annoying part of this process, with baskets perched precariously on virtually every horizontal surface in my house. Also, this has been the most odoriferous phase of the experience, with an aroma similar to what you might encounter if you stuck your face in a bag of salt & vinegar chips permeating our first floor. I don’t mind the smell, but it might be a deal-breaker for some folks. I think a more sensible tactic might to more frequently make smaller batches of bokashi bran that can be used within several months, so the need for drying is eliminated.
Here are some links to more bokashi bran how-to’s: