I live in a little neighborhood tucked between other larger neighborhoods in East Austin. We have a cooperative garden and even a jalopy of a band that many of us can be coaxed into playing along with on weekend nights. On one such night, a band night, I offhandedly mentioned to a neighbor that fall has fertility acupuncture in store for me. Magical universe moment: said neighbor is a fertility acupuncturist and we’re bartering for baby-making juju pin pricks.
This is a sideways introduction to one of the foods my acupuncture queen has instructed me to eat. Congee. Con-gheeeeeeeee. Say it, it’s fun. This word informally translates to soupy, low-and-slow cooked rice porridge and this stuff is the food of life. From a brief glance at this heritage food, it is pretty powerful in a number of ways, including balancing your Qi (Cheeee, otherwise known as energy in Chinese medicine), supporting your spleen, helping you create blood, supporting digestion, and more. Super, count me in!
Because I ferment things, I whipped out Sandor’s book to investigate his thoughts on congee. He recommended soaking the rice overnight before cooking it in 1 part rice to 6 parts water to kick off predigestion (yay fermentation!) and to kick off the culturing, adding a splash of something acidic, like lemon juice or raw vinegar, or an existing culture like whey or kraut juice. After soaking, cook the mixure with the same liquid for as long as possible and at as low of a temperature as you can. I’ve included photos of the resultant base after cooking on the stovetop and cooking in the crockpot below.
I played with a routine in making this over the last week and found a good rhythm in starting a new batch soaking when I had 2 servings left of the previous batch. I also like the crockpot results the best in making a perfect slow-cooked porridge.
Lastly, this is a great thing to make to help keep your meals-at-home ball rolling. You can do this with other grains beyond rice to shake things up, too. By having on hand a grain base that works well for any meal, you set yourself up for success by just adding things to it to complete the meal. This is particularly helpful right now as I’m single-lady-living for the month while my wife is doing a photo project in the northeast.
yields about 3 cups
1. Combine in a glass bowl, cover and soak overnight or for up to 12 hours:
1/2 cup brown rice
4 cups filtered water
(optional) 1/4 cup lacto-fermented pickle brine (or 2 Tbs whey, buttermilk, lemon juice, raw live vinegar, or kraut juice)
I like the layer of flavor and saltiness I get from using the pickle brine, which is sufficient to give it a good base line seasoning for whatever final flavor and direction you go with it.
2. After soaking, pour mixture into a crock pot and put on the lowest setting for 8-12 hours or until the mixture is still liquidy, but the rice is soft and tender.
3. Dress it up with good fats (butter, eggs, coconut oil or milk, avocado, meats, nuts, whole milk or cream, etc.); herbs, seasonings and spices; dried fruit; good sweetener if going that route (maple, coconut palm sugar, honey, etc.), hell, put anything you want in there and stir it up.
Refrigerate what you don’t eat; it will keep for up to 3 days. Reconstitute your congee (which congeals in the refrigerator) with bone or vegetable stock, coconut milk or any type of milk, or even a little water and then flavor it up depending on the meal at hand.