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.
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.
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.