First, Make a Wooden Barrel

The three biggest issues with making miso are where your koji is coming from, what container you are storing your miso in, and where you are going to store it until it is ready.

Miso is a nutritional powerhouse that provides hundreds of millions of people with what we all need to live on a daily basis: protein, fats, minerals, vitamins and carbohydrates for energy.

Miso tastes great, and is one of the most versatile things you can use to cook, ferment, or preserve food while elevating it’s taste and nutritional value.

Miso that is not pasteurized is the best source of a lot of enzymes your body needs to digest anything you eat. In fact, miso is such an ideal food because it has already undergone a process through which all these things have been broken down into easily digestible pieces.

Most misos are made with soybeans. The process of soaking the beans, cooking them, and then fermenting them reduces or completely eliminates the typical anti-nutrient properties of beans and grains. Soybeans, other beans, grains, grasses and what are called pseudo-grasses are incredibly tasty, safe and nutritious to eat. 

Beans and grains are like anything else you eat. Avoid chemically adulterated and heavily processed foods, and check that they have been properly handled and processed.

Organically grown soybeans and corn and other beans are readily available. We very highly recommend these people – and many others. So if you can’t access the real stuff let us know!

Remember that appropriate processing, germination, and fermentation are techniques that make these things accessible, safe, tasty and nutritious. Actually, more nutritious.

Miso is a microbe battlefield. Until the gang of bacteria called lactobacilli move in and make sure no specific bacteria or yeast threaten the peace it can be chaotic.

You don’t want a specific bacteria called B. subtilis, or other unwelcome microbes, growing in your miso. But if you clear the field of unwanted threats beforehand everything will be safe for the friendly bacteria and yeasts and other microbes that are so tasty.

The B. subtilis will still be there – it’s everywhere including in your stomach, cows and other animals that graze, and in dirt – but the other bacteria and yeasts will keep it under control.

Miso is flexible – to a point. You can make it, and develop a community of living microbes, nutrients, enzymes and vitamins with almost any type of bean or grain. You can even make miso with potatoes or acorns, using koji made from cornmeal.

The traditional soybean based misos, almost always made with rice or barley koji, as well as other combinations of beans or grains made into miso, are great. There are simmered misos, blended misos, and ones that include meat, fish or birds that are both tasty and versatile.

Misos made with vegetables fermented in the miso during the process are also very tasty. Then again a fast miso that will be ready in days or weeks can be just as tasty for certain purposes.

What do I make miso in?

This may seem like a silly question but all your bowls, jars, crocks, mixing bowls, mashing tools and work area have to be cleaned. Beforehand.

What do I store it in?

You can actually still store miso in a barrel but very few people do. They usually use glass jars or a ceramic crock. Sometimes I you food safe plastic containers. Certain misos can be refrigerated after a brief period of fermentation in plastic bags in the refrigerator.

Whatever you use, decide what it will be. And make sure you have the right weights to weight your miso down as well.

The three biggest issues with making miso are where your koji is coming from, what container you are storing your miso in, and where you are going to store it until it is ready.

Seriously. In the past the first thing you did when you were making miso was to have a barrel maker make barrels for the miso. It was a big community affair.

It was more complicated back then. Miso often meant you would have food for those times when it wasn’t so readily available – or at all – so it was made according to tradition.

In other words, you made miso the way that was known to work, with the ingredients and the tools you had on hand.

That has all changed. The industrialization of the miso making process has occurred. If you know the basics and the Science you can pretty much make miso out of anything. That doesn’t mean, however, that it will taste good.

So, many fewer people make miso in a community setting, or even at home anymore. It’s actually not all that hard. Our suggestion to you is to not consider making more than a half-gallon of miso at home the first time you attempt to make miso.

You can do that once a month if you like if you have the space and the time and the need for lots of miso and you know what you are doing but there is a substantial investment in time and resources to make miso in quantity.

It’s been our experience that most people lose interest, or other interests take precedence. And there are lots of really exceptional misos available for sale all over the world now.

So follow the recipes we provide or research what you want to do, or ask us about what you are planning if you want.

Or just jump in and make mistakes. You’ll see why we sugest to keep it small at first. But you will learn.

We’ll provide some standard guidelines we’ve used for decades to determine how to make unique and creative misos based on what you have on hand.

Miso is a survival food. When there wasn’t rice or soybeans, potatoes and millet were used. Or barley and acorns.

There is a strong likelihood that someone has already made the type of miso you are considering.

So ask us, or go to http://www.soyinfocenter.com and search. It’s there. Or check out books and papers in our reference section.

Got Koji?

Knowing how to work with koji is a skill that everyone should possess. And Miso is really one of the more spectacular things you can do with koji. If you don’t know how or don’t want to make your own koji, you can buy rice or barley koji online or from health food stores or Asian food stores.

We’ll explain how to make many different types of koji, especially soybean koji because we’ve never seen it for sale anywhere, but don’t let that stop you.

Once you get a whiff of the different intoxicating smells of rice koji being made you will be hooked. Freshly made koji has a very seductive smell.

You can also make your own shio-koji (a type of seasoning marinade), and amasake (a naturally sweet grain paste made by breaking down starch) with koji. You can make miso using shio-koji or amasake as well, along with quite a few other things.

Where do I store it?

Where are you going to store your miso when have finished assembling it and it needs to age? Whether it’s a short or medium or long aging process it works best in a stable place.

What does stable mean? It means the temperature won’t go up or down from like 45F to 100F.

Miso can actually be buried – in the right type of container – and even freeze in a well tempered wooden one but it will take more time to age. But it will be tasty and complex!

Lower temperatures do really slow things down though so it’s not a great idea to put your miso somewhere that it could freeze. At least not until a few weeks have gone by so the crucial lactobacillus type of bacteria can develop. Your miso might even be done by then, anyway.

If you are making miso in a place that has a stable environment or even outdoors as long as no animals or insects can get at it, and it’s well covered and weighed down, just make sure it doesn’t bake in the sun or heat.

If you are making miso in a house that has a stable environment or even outdoors as long as no animals or insects can get at it, and it’s well covered and weighed down, just make sure it doesn’t bake in the sun or heat. And follow the steps in the next part.

Talking Shih, Recipe and Event Update

Jasmine Amasake

At the event at Resobox in the East Village you will experience:

  • how to make miso (味噌)
  • how to make shio-koji (塩糀)
  • how to make misodama (味噌玉)
  • how to make takikomi gohan (味噌炊き込みご飯)
  • how to make kimchi base for fast kimchi (because summer is coming!)

The point of all these items is to show you what to do with what you have on hand, and what you can access. Got kids? Work, like even two jobs ? Need to spend less time and money cooking and more time enjoying food? We know what you need to know.

Grilled Radicchio with KimChi Sauce

Sometimes Chefs have access to fresh ingredients that a forager, farmer or artisan just harvested or made, other times they have to deal with what they ordered or shopped for versus what is in the house. It’s really a bigger version of what we all go through at home when tired or busy or exhausted. That doesn’t mean you can’t use something in your pantry, refrigerator or from your local store and make something filling and very tasty. 

Chef Ken Fornataro will show you how to make food if you have miso, koji, shio-koji, soy sauce, mirin and other ingredients ready to go with  quick trip to the farmers market, your local salad bar, the super market or a dig into your CSA box or your pantry or refrigerator. Even for picky kids – we know all about the young stubborn ones – and people that are eating a vegan diet. 

Often you can prepare things that will last for days or weeks, requiring only what you want to eat fresh that day. 

Based on the demonstrations we’ll have – if accessing the ingredients makes sense and preferably uses ugly vegetables, the following, all vegan, mostly gluten free items:

Miso dama made by simmering miso with mirin, sake, soy and other ingredients. Sometimes people add ground chicken, fish or vegetables to this type of namemiso after it is already fermented. It’s a type of name misosimilar to Kinzanji miso but not fermented from the start with the added ingredients like Kinzanji miso is. Okazu (おかず味噌) miso, the type of miso that both belong to, are meant to be eaten as condiments.

Menu:

Fresh Garlic getting packed into miso for a long fermentation voyage
  • Fried Garlic, Pickled Jalapeño, and Tomatillo Salsa
  • Szechuan Sauerkraut with spicy smoked hamma natto (koji based)
  • Shiitake Kombu Dashi Dama
  • Gohan Takikomi (recipe below)
  • Edamame Crispy Beans (glazed with a shio-koji plum mirin)
  • Jasmine Amasake (sweet, thick, koji based rice)
  • Miso Mayo Dip (miso, mayo with special seasonings, radishes)
  • Cucumber Misozuke (Cukes aged in a black pepper miso)
  • Spicy Ginger, Carrot, Garlic, and Onion Kimchi
  • Coriander Seed, Fennel and Lime Rind pickles
  • Toasted Almond Kisses (savory, nutty, sweet namemiso based)
  • Garlic Misozuke (Fresh garlic fermented in miso)

If you are a member of culturesgroup MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/culturesgroup/events/261196806/, https://www.meetup.com/Evolving/ (Evolving lifestyles) or nycferments https://www.meetup.com/NYCFerments/ $20. Bring cash and pay there if you like. So please join the group and register for the event! Hope to see you there! koji@earthlink.net with questions!

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Recipe

Miso Takikomi Gohan (味噌炊き込みご飯) 

  • Rice 1 cup + 2⁄3 cup (about 300 grams)
  • Water 2 cup (400 ml)
  • Miso 2 TBSP
  • Soy Sauce 1 TBSP
  • Sake 1 TBSP
  • Mirin 1 TBSP
  • Sesame Oil 1 TSP

(Suggested, Substitue with what you have)

  • Carrots 2 small roots, finely chopped
  • Konjac 1⁄2 of a 90 oz package, finely chopped
  • Deep Fried Tofu (Abura-agé) 1 sheet, cut in small strips
  • Fresh Ginger 3 TBSP, finely julienned (optional) 
  • Shichimi Pepper (optional) 

Directions

  • Mix Miso, Soy Sauce, Sake, Mirin, and Sesame Seed Oil well and pour onto the dry rice in a rice cooker (or a pot with lid). 
  • Add water. 
  • Add vegetables and tofu and mix well. 
  • Soak the rice mixture for 20 minutes before starting the cooking.
  • When finished cooking, mix the rice well and sprinkle finely julienned fresh ginger and shichimi pepper if you like. 
  • Suggested Rice:Water Ratio for Dry White Rice : Water = 1 : 1.2 and for brown rice Rice : Water = 1 : 1.6~1.8

Koji Essentials for Busy People

You’ll see demonstrations of

  • how to make miso (味噌)
  • how to make shio-koji (塩糀)
  • how to make takikomi gohan
  • how to make misodama (味噌玉)
  • how to make a refrigerated kimchi base
Millet koji

You’ll learn how to prepare things to use with these things – like a hundred zucchini you can’t deal with.

The point of all these items is to show you what to have on hand, and what to do with it.

KojiFest2019 presented by people that have mastered the art of living and eating tasty food with too little time in the day. Got kids? Work, like even two jobs ?

Need to spend less time and money cooking and more time enjoying food?

Presenters

Makiko Ishida (Maki) is a koji enthusiast, and a busy parent that knows how to budget time without sacrificing nutrition or taste for her family. A native Tokyoite who was born into a katsuobushi (fermented bonito) trading family. Maki-san has a unique sense of how to blend traditional Japanese food with everyday American fare.

Maki especially loves to share easy and fast Japanese home-cooking ideas using koji-fermented staples such as miso, soy sauce, mirin, shio-koji, and sake that anyone can apply into his or her own kitchen.

Professional Chefs often approach cooking with a stone soup approach. Sometimes they have access to fresh ingredients that a forager, farmer or artisan just harvested or made, other times they have to deal with what they ordered or shopped for versus what is in the house.

It’s really a bigger version of what we all go through at home when tired or busy or exhausted. That doesn’t mean you can’t use something in your pantry, refrigerator or from your local store and make something filling and very tasty like already when you get home or realy quick to prepare kasha. The stone in this case is koji,or shio-koji, or miso,or sake lees or a fermented or pickled condiment you already bought or made.

Garlic Misozuke

Chef Ken Fornataro will show you how to make food with a stone. No rabbit or fox will get this meal though! It’s all really about mise-en-place, a fancy way to say if you have miso, koji, shio-koji, soy sauce, mirin and other ingredients ready to go (or even just the miso) a quick trip to the farmers market, your local salad bar, the super market or a dig into your CSA box or your pantry or refrigerator and you can easily do it. Even for picky kids – we know all about the young stubborn ones – and people that are eating a vegan diet.

We’ll also show you how to get ready for the arrival of fresh foods from your local farmer or garden or grocer’s shelves. A #vegan focused event that could be translated into any type of food you chose to eat, but everything we prepare and sample will be plant based.

Koji is the most commonly used word to describe Aspergillus oryzae, a malted mushroom type of microbe that is an enzymatic powerhouse. You might not know how to cook, or even want to, but you still want to eat well without spending an enormous amount of time in the kitchen. Koji can be used with almost any food or even drink you currently eat, from whatever type of cuisine you choose. You can make koji out of just about anything that has carbohydrates in it that will get broken down into different types of enzymes to transform or season your food for you. Quickly.

Fresh Rice Koji

You’ll see demonstrations of how to make miso (味噌), shio-koji (塩糀), gohan takikomi (rice cooked with miso and whatever you fancy), misodama (味噌玉) and a long lasting, refrigerated kimchi base and how to prepare things to use with it – like a hundred zucchini you can’t deal with. All so when we offer the following tastings you’ll say that’s easy and fast! Especially since you can substitute ingredients that you have using the mise-en-place items. 

Based on these items we’ll have – if accessing the ingredients makes sense and preferably uses ugly vegetables, the following, all vegan, mostly gluten free items:

Menu (based on availability):

Menu:
• Fried Jalapeño and Garlic Salsa
• Szechuan Sauerkraut with pastrami flavored smoked hamma natto
• Shiitake Kombu Dashi Dama
• Edamame Crispy Beans (glazed with an amasake shio-koji plum mirin)
• Jasmine Amasake (sweet, thick, koji based rice)
• Miso Mayo (mayo with special seasonings and miso)
• Cucumber Misozuke (Cukes aged in a black pepper miso)
• Spicy carrot, garlic ginger, tomatillo, onion Kimchi
• Coriander Seed, Fennel and Lime Rind pickles
• Toasted Almond KIsses (savory, nutty and sweet)
• Garlic Misozuke (Fresh garlic fermented in miso)
• Baker’s Dozen – Freshly baked breads and Genmai Cha Tea (roasted rice, chilled tea, spices) if 40 people register by May 15.

Fee/Payment: Suggested Fee is $35 for the 3 hour demo and tasting. Bring cash and pay there if you like. Bring whatever you can, but please join the group and register for the event! Hope to see you there! koji@earthlink.net with questions! https://www.meetup.com/culturesgroup/

Lemon Rind pickle

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culturesgroup is about food and drink making, preservation, fermentation, science, and cultural history. We focus on traditional and novel techniques in cooking, fermenting, brewing and preserving techniques using koji, yeasts, and the tasty bacteria that make pickles. We stress sustainably resourced foods, food safety, digestibility, and maximizing the nutritional profiles of foods.