Second, Mark the Steps

This now three year old miso now has been moved to a storage container, and really doesn’t need to be weighted down at all. You should always cover your misos though.

Making miso is like planning out the steps (choreography) for a performance. The steps don’t have to be elaborate. You just have to make sure that all the participants are ready and capable of doing them – and that some show hog like the ever present bacteria Bacillus subtilis doesn’t take over the proceedings.

Salt usually keeps things under control and moving along, but just to be sure you have to carefully control the amount of humidity and water that is involved in this microbial rave, and just how tightly you pack everything in. Tight enough so interactions between molecules can’t be avoided, but loose enough so that they can actually take place.

Miso is pretty much an anerobic (airless) fermentation, but you do want to allow some way for the gases built up to escape and not get trapped in the miso itself. In the old days the clay pots or wooden barrels allowed just enough gas (carbon dioxide) to escape.

If miso is a longer production lasting a year or more you will need a lot more salt than if you are making a miso that could be ready in days, weeks or months. The bacteria and yeasts we just described above may like oxygen, but they can’t tolerate salt. They are halophobes.

Mellow Miso ( Shinshu or Yellow Miso)

Lactobacillus, however, can tolerate salt and also can get by with a small amount of oxygen – if any. They are halophiles. You want them to develop in your miso to prevent the nastier tasting microbes from taking over.

In order to keep everything under control you need to plan all this out when you decide what type of miso you are making, how it’s going to be weighted down and how much weight is needed, and how the air flow and temperature is going to be controlled inside and outside of the miso.

No insects, pets, other critters nor just any microbe hanging out should be allowed to sneak into the show. Choreograph the process. Unless you know what steps to take, and there is a written plan to follow, fixing a miso that has stepped out of bounds can be very time consuming and sometimes not possible.

That said, making miso is easy. You can even start a batch and finish it up over a few days. In fact, some miso makers make a big batch of starter miso they then mix with new ingredients several weeks after they start. Some people take many days to actually complete the process doing it in little batches. It can be easy if you keep things to a readily manageable size.

Although there might be more ways to make pickles throughout Asia than there are ways to make miso or it’s relatives, there are quite a few ways to do it. Here is how we start out, modifying this plan if we change the outcome we want.

At this point we don’t even need to look at this list. We have our scales at hand and make our labels and lists ahead of time. The first time we made miso in the 1970’s we really wish someone had provided us with something like this though. An extensive discussion of these points will be linked to this list if you want more details. A photo guide with the first few recipes will be posted as well.

Let’s Start

  • Soak beans and grains
  • Have your koji ready
  • Have a list of things you will need for the process
  • Check that all ingredients are at hand
  • Check that your tools are cleaned and ready to go.
  • Make sure your work area is clean.
  • Make sure the place the miso will be stored is ready.
  • Check that your weights fit in your container.
  • Weigh all the ingredients and make notes
  • Cook beans or grains
  • Cool down drained beans and liquid
  • Weigh everything again
  • Prepare koji if dried
  • Check temperature of cooked. beans or grains
  • Weigh your koji and beans/grains
  • Calculate the amount of salt needed again
  • Add seed koji and salt to koji and mix very well
  • Mash up your beans or grains very well
  • Dry out beans or grains if too wet then cool down
  • Mix half of the cooked beans or grains into the koji
  • Let sit about an hour.
  • Add the rest of the beans or grains.
  • Mix very well.
  • Roll some into balls to test consistency
  • Let sit covered or pack into container
  • Place a sheet of wrap or parchment on top of your miso
  • Place weights on top of miso.
  • Wrap miso securely.
  • Label the covering and side of your miso.
  • Log miso into calendar or phone.
  • Check miso at day 2 and day 7.
  • Carefully remove covering from miso
  • Carefully remove weights and coverings from miso using gloves.
  • Replace weights and repack.
  • Check miso during fermentation process.
  • Carefully remove covering from miso.
  • Carefully remove weights and coverings from miso using gloves.
  • Scrape back any top layer and taste miso.
  • Grind or sieve miso.
  • Move miso to clean container.
  • Refrigerate or store miso.

We’ll give you the recipes for a few misos following these steps. After that we’ll show you how we decide how to make an untraditional style misos using these steps, including how to calculate the amount of salt, koji and beans, grains or whatever you need to make miso or one of it’s relatives in the next post, with the extended description of these steps.