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This newsletter will be our last for 2001. With the dramatic events of the past months, I think we have all become pre-occupied and more introspective. To try to divert some of these pre-occupations, I thought I might focus this newsletter on some of those very good things we have close to home. Hence, there is a predominance of products specifically from the Sacramento Valley. In trying times, food and drink are always welcome gifts, especially if they are unique, delicious, and new. I hope you find them so.
From our past newsletters, Corti Brothers can suggest other items which would also make very welcome gifts. For example, our selection of Goan Cuisine products from Western Australia; As do Mar tuna, of unvarying high quality from the Azores; Sheller Almonds from the Sacramento Valley; Persian style Torshi and Litteh pickles made in Sacramento; all told, we have quite a number of very good things. Please just call and let us suggest some. We wish you all a serene holiday season.Darrell Corti
Shin Mai, newly harvested and milled short grain rice is eagerly awaited in Japan with as much enthusiasm as Beaujolais Nouveau is in France. It is a seasonal specialty that has a wonderful flavor and scent and is available for only a short time. With the 2001 harvest, Corti Brothers is offering "shin mai," new rice, freshly milled, produced from three famous Japanese cultivars grown, milled, and bagged in the northern Sacramento Valley. They are: KOSHIHIKARI, HITOMEBORE, and AKITAKOMACHI--three of the most famous Japanese varieties. All are considered premium rice in quality, and difficult to grow. Arbitrarily, until the end of December, our rice will be sold labeled as Shin Mai. After this time, only as New Crop.
Elizabeth Andoh in her cookbook An American Taste of Japan, writes: "The Japanese have always prized the freshly harvested rice crop that comes to market in the fall..." (p.219). Rice for most Americans, however, is just rice--white, soft, and flavorless. However, the various cultivars have different scents, flavors, and textural qualities. Having found a rice milling company that both grows and mills rice near Sacramento, one with a brand new mill and some of the most sophisticated milling equipment, I decided to offer a selection of the reknown Japanese rice cultivars grown in the Sacramento Valley so that our customers could decide for themselves if rice has differences.
The LaGrande family, owners of the Sun Valley Rice Co. and growers of the cultivars I've chosen, have been rice growers for five generations, and their new mill is state of the art. A special rice polisher called KAPIKA, used at the end of the milling process, avoids a lot of the deterioration problems inherent in a grain like rice. The KAPIKA mill uses the rice grains themselves to further remove bran from the the grain's outside surface, without using water. This creates a highly polished rice which increases water absorption and promotes the fresh milled character of the rice which is otherwise subject to flavor deterioration due to the oxidation of the residual bran left on the outside of the grain.
Northern California is at the forefront in production of short and medium grain rice in this country. The Rice Experiment Station at Biggs is responsible for having created 26,231 rice crosses just since 1969. Created in 1912, the same year as the introduction of short grain rice from Japan to California, the Station works towards improving the agronomical, gastronomical and merchandizable qualities of all rice types. The Sacramento Valley has achieved worldwide fame with its short and medium grain rice varieties.
Our Sacramento Valley grown, milled, and bagged rice from Japanese cultivars is premium quality rice. Although not clearly defined or understood by most people, it means that the grains are very glossy after cooking, sticky with a smooth texture, and remain soft after cooking. They also have important scent and flavor characteristics. The varieties chosen, Koshihikari, Hitomebore, and Akitakomachi, are cultivars that are like a lot of other good things: difficult to grow, subject to numerous pests, and low producing. But their eating quality is wonderful. Sometimes, the flavor of a food takes precedent over having a lot of it. This is why I have chosen these varieties to showcase our short grain rice production in the Sacramento Valley.
To cook our premium quality rice: Rinse the desired amount of rice in cold running water. Since the KAPIKA milling process is used, less washing is necessary than with other rice. However it is extremely difficult to cook less than 1 cup of rice and 1 1/2 cups is probably the the least one should attempt. With shin mai or new rice, probably until the end of December, it should be cooked with equal measure rice to water. As the rice gets older, after December, use 1 cup of rice plus 2 tablespoons water or 2 cups of rice and 2 1/3 cups water. Using an automatic rice cooker will alleviate cooking problems and really does make the best Japanese style rice. An appropriate serving of rice per person is « cup of uncooked rice. It expands about 75% in cooking.
With our premium quality short grain rice, we will included detailed cooking instructions from two Japanese cuisine experts. However, the small investment in an automatic rice cooker does solve a lot of rice cooking problems. It might be well worth it.On our rice bag there are three figures to show the derivation of the word rice in Chinese. From top to bottom: the engraving of a rice plant from a Chinese agricultural treatise dated 1329; next, a symbol of 9 dots, in a specific order, the earliest written symbol for rice known in Chinese taken from oracle bones; it means "plenty." Last, the Chinese or kanji character for rice. In Japanese this character is pronounced "KOME" and is easily recognizable from the two previous figures. Now you have just learned a character in an ideographic language. Food can also be educational.
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