Dig these dank ferments from Co-op Sauce | Food & Drink Feature | Chicago Reader

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Dig these dank ferments from Co-op Sauce

Mike Bancroft's vinegar and shoyu show he's more than just a hot sauce boss.


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  • Mike Sula

At any given time I probably have about a half dozen or so Co-op Hot Sauces in my kitchen. Since 2004 Mike Bancroft, founder of the youth arts education center Co-op Image (and Sauce and Bread Kitchen), has pushed an endless and inventive variety of hot ferments to support his cause. Whenever I run across them I can't stop myself from stashing one in the old shopping basket.

Bancroft is a prodigious collaborator too, something I hinted at in the headnote to the Lime Chili Munchy Jax recipe he gave us for this week's Cannabis Issue. Besides that he's always generous with his knowledge and has always guided me on various home projects (currently my own raspberry vinegar and Fresno chili sauce).

But this summer I got obsessed with a few other bottles he's pushing, all taking advantage of food byproducts that would otherwise go to waste,  namely the live vinegar he made with jugs of surplus Seedling Fruit apple cider that had fermented and exploded in storage, and that he converted and aged for five years in Koval rye barrels. It's so tasty and alive you can swig the stuff raw.

Next, he's produced a light, low-sodium shoyu he'd made from Pipeworks Brewing spent grain that he cultured and aged for eight months before aging for another six in Koval rye/gin barrels. Two great tastes come together in the malt-chili shoyu he spikes with malt vinegar and chilis.

All three of these are available at Sauce and Bread if you're looking for last-minute holiday gifts, or if you just want to carry an umami bomb around in your back pocket.    v

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