Beans – Part 1

A race of people is like an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself. —Malcolm X

Since today is Indigenous People’s Day in the Americas, and the indigenous people of the Southeastern part of the US or what was really a huge land mass called the Americas taken care of by tribal governments and societies, the beans they cultivated and pass along should be the focus of today’s celebrations.

The last time I saw my friend Ken Albala I had him sign my Beans book. The book is a treasure. You can still buy it online and in bookstores. Rereading some passages today about Christopher Columbus and what exactly he brought to the Americas and why he set out in the first place is a sobering experience.

“Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians, and princes who love and promote the holy Christian faith, and are enemies of the doctrine of Mahomet, and of all idolatry and heresy, determined to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the above-mentioned countries of India, to see the said princes, people, and territories, and to learn their disposition and the proper method of converting them to our holy faith; and furthermore directed that I should not proceed by land to the East, as is customary, but by a Westerly route, in which direction we have hitherto no certain evidence that any one has gone.


So after having expelled the Jews from your dominions, your Highnesses, in the same month of January, ordered me to proceed with a sufficient armament to the said regions of India, and for that purpose granted me great favors, and ennobled me that thenceforth I might call myself Don, and be High Admiral of the Sea, and perpetual Viceroy and Governor in all the islands and continents which I might discover and acquire, or which may hereafter he discovered and acquired in the ocean; and that this dignity should be inherited by my eldest son, and thus descend from degree to degree forever. ” The Diaries of Christopher Columbus

Beans from the Southern United States. Pretty sure that the self proclaimed Admiral Don tried some of these.

Ken’s book touches on so many of the really important issues that the history of beans includes, including this absolutely brilliant summary about why al the resistance to soybeans people express might be nonsense. That is not to say, however, that some people don’t actually have soybean allergies. Proteins can have that effect.

But properly soaking and fermenting soybeans – the next post is all about making soy and other bean kojis – can quite dramatically reduce or eliminate those concerns.

Soybeans soaking in water. Faces that I see. The unique saponins of soybeans.

Ken Albala gets into it in a precise one paragraph description in his book:

“The importance of fermenting soybeans was not only a matter of preservation. Although they could not have known this, fermentation counteracts the anti-nutritionalfactors present in soy. Soybeans contain what are called trypsin inhibitors, which prevent the pancreas from producing a digestive enzymes important in breaking down protein.

Raw or improperly cooked soybeans can also cause an enlarged pancrease; they inhibit growth and lead to cancerous tumors. Phytic acid present in soybeans also hinders the absorption of iron and zinc, which are necessary for the proper function of the nervous system

The phytates essentially fuse with the metal ions, including calcium, forming compounds that pass directly through the digestive tract unchanged. Fermentation destroys these toxins and the enzymes involved in the process also break down soy making it more digestible, and in a sense pre-cooking them so they require less fuel.

In other words, fermenting soybeans not only made them more interesting and tasty, but also provided a range of more nutritious foods that could support a large population.”

How we make bean koji from different beans and force it to make a quart of tamari per gallon of miso.

The book, Beans, also treats a few other subjects really well. Including how Italians in different parts of Italy made their famous and fabulous fagioli – with recipe – and not only the story of Tepiary Beans, but of the indigenous people’s whose day we celebrate.

You could even buy it on Kindle right now here. Although unless you are using canned beans – even soybeans- soaking them must be done properly!

About Ken Albala and Beans

From the description at Amazon: “Winner of The 2008 Jane Grigson Award, issued by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). Winner of the 2008 Cordon d’ Or Culinary Literature – History Culinary Academy Award. This is the story of the bean, the staple food cultivated by humans for over 10,000 years. From the lentil to the soybean, every civilization on the planet has cultivated its own species of bean. The humble bean has always attracted attention – from Pythagoras’ notion that the bean hosted a human soul to St. Jerome’s indictment against bean-eating in convents (because they “tickle the genitals”), to current research into the deadly toxins contained in the most commonly eaten beans. Over time, the bean has been both scorned as “poor man’s meat” and praised as health-giving, even patriotic. Attitudes to this most basic of foodstuffs have always revealed a great deal about a society. Beans: A History takes the reader on a fascinating journey across cuisines and cultures.”

Got our herb mix ready for a bean dish that has been slowly simmering the last twenty hours. An hour before and this goes in. You could also just add one of our amazing misos. Or buy a great one from the store and some scallions and add in at the last minutes and enjoy.
Cultures.Group

One Bucket Miso

  • 4 TB/66 grams coarse sea salt (plus a little extra)
  • 3 cans/650 grams canned cooked drained beans (see note below)
  • 2 1/2 cups/567 grams rice koji
  • 1 cup/245 grams bean liquid

Don’t obsess over the weights of things for this recipe. Just use the first figures given for each ingredient. Do not throw your bean water away. You need about a cup of it – a little over half of one of your bean cans full – and you need to follow the easy and exciting steps as we describe them. Ignore the words in italics below (they look slanted to the right) entirely if math stresses you out.

The important thing is that you get about 1 cup or 245 grams of the bean liquid and that you follow the order of the steps we describe. Otherwise, you will need more bowls, and most likely a scale. And something besides your hands to mix with. With the 3 cans of Brad's Organic salad beans that say 15 ounces on them that we used we ended up with about 5 1/2 cups or around 650 grams of beans, and a little more than two cups or 565 grams liquid from the beans. If you use brown rice or barley koji, you might need almsoit twice the amount of bean liquid. And more salt. 
We used a 2 quart bucket.

Any plastic bucket you use must be food safe, and cleanable if it looks dirty. It’s really easy to find these from a restaurant or other place that gets thick ones with food in them all the time. You can also order them online. If you are using a recycled container make sure it hasn’t been used for chemicals or bleach, or exposed to heat. The thicker the better. Make sure you don’t have a leaky bucket with tiny or obvious holes in it.

We used 3 cans of Brad’s Organic Salad Beans (garbanzo beans, kidney beans and pinto beans with a tiny amount of salt) that cost us $5 on sale at a local supermarket. Saved us hours of work.
Salt matters. If you use coarse salt is is very unlikely that anti-caking agents have bee added as is often done with finely ground salts.

We always use coarse salt. Use coarse Kosher salt if you can’t get an only salt coarse sea salt like the red La Baleine container on the right. The fine La Baleine sea salt actually has several added ingredients. If you can get coarse Maldon smoked or regular coarse sea, or another brand that is just salt you can use that instead.

Beans opened and drained into the koji container. Because you didn’t completely remove the tops off your beans, it was easy to keep the beans in the cans and separate the liquid out. Make sure to save at least a cup of the liquid.

Don’t open the cans all the way. Keep the beans in the can when you drain off the liquid. When you remove the bag of koji from the container you will have a container to drain the liquid off the beans into the koji container. But keep the beans in the can.

If you are using beans with a pull off top – Goya organic, for example – don’t pull that top all the way off either. This is important unless you have other containers and a strainer you have already cleaned.

This is a recipe for a one bucket miso. You could use other beans like Eden brand black soybeans or yellow soy beans or garbanzo (ceci) beans, or whatever ones you find that don’t have preservatives or chemicals as long as they say organic.

Actually, beans with seaweed in them, or spicy beans also work unless you don’t want spicy miso. With certain beans like garbanzo beans just make sure to crush each bean between your fingers as you mix up the miso. This ensures that you really mix everything together well. Unless you are intentionally trying to make a country style, chunky miso, you really want to mash things up very well.

1 Tablespoon of the coarse sea salt. You need three handfuls (3 tablespoons) of this to go into your miso, another handful (one tablespoon) for salting the container and for the top of your miso after you have mixed it together.

Let’s Get This Party Started Right

Bucket wet with bean juice and salty

Take some of your bean water and swish it inside your bucket. Try to get it on the sides. Dump the three tablespoons of the coarse sea salt in the bottom of the bucket. Try to get as much of the salt on the sides but don’t get stressed about it.

Add your koji and work it.

Add all your koji. Start massaging it together. If you were using fresh koji it would break down really quickly, and even start to melt. Because we are using dried koji in this case, it might take longer for that to happen. Massage a minute, let it rest for two. Then massage a minute then let it rest for two. Again. Repeat.

After the frottage you should only have little bits of rice covered with enzymes, hungry for beans. Shove all the beans into the koji and salt mix and use your hands to prod the beans, forcing them to yield between your finger tips.

Keep going.

You should be able to start to make balls that start to hold together (see above). After about seven minutes, you’ll start to see splotches of beans, koji and salt that have stuck to the bottom or sides of your bucket. Let it rest for a few minutes if you must. Otherwise keep going.

Almost there. Everything is starting to stick together. Are you tired? If so, cover everything well with your rags and take a nap. You can even go to sleep, then go back at it the next day.

The next day we added our cup of room temperature bean water. It’s okay if everything, including the bean water sat out, covered, for 12 hours or more. We put our bean bean water in the koji container into the miso container then cover the entire thing with our rags so nothing gets into either.

If it above 80F where you are making or storing your miso, sprinkle a little salt into your bean water. It’s likely your miso will be melding together at that temperature.

The next day.

After rolling your balls of miso together you can start to pack them down with your hands into your container. The balls should hold together and feel firm, yet still pliable and yield. If they crumble, they are too dry and need a little moisture. If you have any bean water or just a tablespoon or two of clean water massage that into your miso before packing it down very firmly.

Salt the top

After your miso is well packed down sprinkle with at least 1/2 tablespoon of coarse sea salt. If it is 80F or higher, you can sprinkle up to an entire handful (one heavy tablespoon) onto the top. If you have a lid, cover it. Otherwise, start wrapping it with your rags.

Unless you will be making other misos just take a picture of this one and name the picture with the date and type of miso. Otherwise label it with a piece of tape and a marker or pens that doesn’t run. You can wrap it up even further if you like. Keep it out of direct sunlight. This could be ready in as little as ten days, or maybe two months if it started off and stayed cold for that time.

You can check on it at any time. Just untie the rags and take the lid off. After a few days it might have a slight smell. Let it air out a few minutes, mix it up again with clean hands and repack it in.

If there is a very strong smell, or some mold or yeast growth on top you’ll have to take that off and air it out at least an hour. We don’t recommend stirring that back in with a fast ripening miso like this. Add a little more salt.

If the miso is a little puffy or loose there is probably too much water in it. Add a teaspoon or more salt and repack. Check it in a few days.

Miso Making Lists

Before we post the very extensive description of how we make miso we offer this list so you recognize that if you can only access the following things you can still make great miso:

  • a gallon size, food safe container (not metal)
  • canned beans
  • koji
  • salt
  • Paper bags or clean rags
Koji, and Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz

Koji seems to be the hardest and often most expensive thing to buy. You can’t make miso without it, though we do explain how you can cadge some from other sources.

If you have ready access to the things we suggest instead of whole koji, actual koji might not be so hard for you to get. And, people that make koji centric things like to barter or gift things to people that appreciate what went into making them.

We’ll get into making your own koji in future posts. Once you bond with koji there is no going back. It is the red pill. Koji is the one.

The next post will be detailed miso making steps with pictures for those tht communicate using images. Also, we have been filling in the References section, the Events sections – when people submit them to us – and the new Methods and Definitions sections.

Millet koji made by culturesgroup

The complete miso making check list

In the next post, Bucket Miso, we are going to show you how to make miso using one container, rice koji, canned or salad bar beans, salt, water (liquid from the beans, actually), and some old, clean clothes taking up valuable miso space in the closet. Follow the instructions carefully and you will not even need weights.

But if you are already committed to the lifelong journey, this list is pretty extensive. Hand made wooden crocks are obviously very cool and usually very expensive unless you can make them from the right wood yourself. If you can, barter for a huge amount of koji.

You do not need every item on this list. You are encouraged to come up with any substitutions readily available to you, especially locally. Whenever possible, let the local farmers know any organically, sustainably grown ingredients they have are of interest.

Remember the rule of 5 above, and based on what you can afford or resource you might need:

  • A miso making space
  • A place to age your miso or a place to refrigerate it for a while
  • A miso storage container (crock, jar, bucket, etc.) or one clean heavy food safe bucket – not metal – if making a one container miso (next post).
  • Weights, or some way to weigh your miso down
  • Parchment paper or food safe plastic or cloth for the top of your miso
  • Beans (or whatever your miso is going to be)
  • Koji
  • Salt
  • A Scale
  • A thermometer
  • PH strips or something to measure the acidity of your miso
  • Seed miso or something like it
  • Hot water (or other liquid)
  • A colander and a strainer (especially to avoid clogging your drains, even when washing your hands or utensils things off)
  • Clean buckets, jars or bowls
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Oven gloves or something to handle hot items
  • A masher (hands, potato mashers, mortar and pestle, meat grinder)
  • A Pressure cooker, or a rice cooker, or pots to heat/cook things
  • A microwave if you are just heating things up, including water
  • Firewood, or fuel for stoves or heating devices that use them
  • A gallon of really hot water if all the above is unavailable
  • A hood for your miso (paper, cloth, recycled packing,bags)
  • Food safe bags to store the miso if not using your mixing bucket
  • Clean cloths or paper towels
  • Labeling and documenting materials (or a phone with a calendar or notes app)
  • Wrapping stuff like tape or string to keep your miso cover in place
  • Lids for your quart size Mason jars or a crock lid if the wrapping and taping and labeling part is just too much for your first quarts or crock of miso.
  • Patience.

This is a pretty big list. Here’s the thing. When people started making miso in the past, they didn’t have electricity, refrigerators, pressure cookers, thermometers and sometimes not even rice koji or beans.

You don’t have to be rich to make miso. You just need to make sure you have everything in the same place at the same time in the right condition when you decide to make it. If you have never made miso before, or aren’t really into being in a kitchen, remember people have been making miso or something like it for at least a thousand years.

Back then they didn’t have electricity, refrigerators, pressure cookers, thermometers and sometimes not even the rice to make koji or beans. People that didn’t have the ingredients, tools or labor that wealthier people had access to used whatever was local or available. Seasonal weather variations were used to grow koji and age misos.

You can make miso with one container in which you can mix and age your miso. You can use any area to create a stable temperature that doesn’t fluctuate too wildly. You can make miso with a heating element, or a microwave, or an electric tea kettle or just a big pail of really hot water.

You can use canned beans, pre-made koji, and your hands to tell whether things are the right temperature (careful, though). You can wrap your miso in old clothes or blankets then throw it under a bed, or in a closet, or leave it in a box or a cooler you won’t need until next Summer.

You can actually cadge the koji from another thing like unpasteurized shoyu (soy sauce), amasake (sweet rice pudding), sake or a lot of previously made unpasteurized miso to make miso. We’ll get into that later. But it would also taste great.

If you want to spend money on specific tools or already have them, cook your own dried beans or whatever your miso is made of, and make your own koji we’re sure your miso will also be great. But you will need a few of the items on the list, as well as assorted tamps, frosting spatulas or air removing utensils, and possibly even sanitizing agents like strong drinking alcohol like high proof vodka. We don’t like to use the later two, but some people do.

If you are making your own koji that’s usually at least 48 hours before you actually start mixing anything. It’s around 24 hours before hand if you are soaking and cooking your own beans. It’s also sometimes a few days or weeks before you get your house – and yourself – and everything you need in order if you are ordering your koji or buying it from outside.

If you are making a type of miso that you need already prepared miso – we make blended, simmered, and some nut, fruit and some seed misos with already made miso – make sure you have that on hand.

Remember, making miso or koji should never control your life. Plan ahead and it shouldn’t. Most of items things can be placed in a big box or closet as you gather them if it might take you a while to get everything together.

Some people keep their tools for making miso together in a place like they might store things to celebrate holidays or start the planting for their gardens. First timers should really check this list though

You also need to think about starting with clean clothes, footware, and headware, and have a place to clean yourself and your area up afterwards. Because when you are tired or get distracted you most likely won’t want to think about it. Having a space to put your miso until the next day if you have to stop – yep, you can do that – is good to think about beforehand.

And a word from some professionals that have done things like this on a small and large scale, usually as just one of the things they are doing. Your house or the place that you live, especially if you share it with others, should be ready for this. In professional kitchens you just won’t get away with trashing the place and walking out. You need to plan on how order and cleanliness will be restored in your chosen miso making location.

Eggplant and ginger temple style miso made with a lot of kamut (wheat) and barley koji. It is undergoing a two month fermentation process. The eggplant, ginger and several other ingredients were pre-fermented or cooked. With some vegetables, for example, that could take up to a month of salting and weighing down, or partially drying.

We have made miso using hospital lunch rooms, church kitchens and even corporate cafeterias. Making miso in a college dorm room can be challenging but is doable. If you are more interested in stating with pre-made miso that you are going to put vegetables, or fish or meat into you have to make sure those things are also ready.

Then again, as we mentioned earlier, you can make great mixed or blended or vegetable full misos – we’re going to give you lots of recipes for our favorites – with dried or frozen or cured or salted things.

You can use a microwave to heat things up. You can use bottled water and heat it up in an electric tea kettle or a microwave, as well as your beans. Instant Pots and other electric multi-purpose devices are really convenieent and useful to have as well.

Whatever you decide, we hope you think about these things beforehand so you don’t get discouraged and become a miso drop out. Because making miso, and especially using koji, are useful skills you should learn. And you get to eat the results of your work.

If you have a question about what will work and what most likely won’t work, see the contact info below. Send us a e-mail and we’ll try to answer quickly. On Instagram, you can tag us or DM us.

Third, Make Corn Miso

This miso is a very special miso for us. We use it not only with fresh seafood, especially shellfish and grilled vegetables, but also for several dishes we grew up on. These include gachas with rabbit or fresh bacon, polenta cakes fried in thick green olive oil and cloves of garlic, and Argentina style harina tostada in the morning with toasted almonds and fresh figs.

A little sumac and mashed garbanzo beans makes a great falafel type fritter with chopped pickles and hot sauces and creamy tahini, as well as a type of pancake that we used to eat in the Summer with grilled peppers and basil. We didn’t use corn miso back then, but this miso now gives us a reason to look forward to Summer when we tear through corn fields like raccons, knowing exactly when the corn milk is ready.

We make lots of corn based things with koji. Corn miso, corn amasake, corn doboroku, corn sauces like soy sauce, and corn shio-koji because we love corn. We consider it a local treasure in the tri-state area of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. It grows pretty much anywhere in the United States.

Actually, you can’t get better corn or soybeans or a whole lot of other grains and beans than those grown in the USA. Even the rice grown in the USA is spectacular. Check out our growing resources list.

When you can buy organic pre-made masa harina (corn treated with lime) it makes things very easy. But you don’t even have to nixtamalize corn to use it. Koji and other microbes are all too happy to chomp down on corn to make it digestible for humans.

We can grow koji on corn cobs – listen up food wasters – and cornmeal itself. We didn’t come up with the later idea. It’s been down for hundreds of years throughout certain areas of Asia. We just think we may have elevated the practice to a higher level. Corn koji was in the past considered inferior. It’s not at all.

First, let’s make this very simple and incredibly versatile miso. We’ll post some more corn miso recipes in the next day or two.

Corn Rose Miso

Corn Rose Miso is one of the easiest misos you can make. You can use regular rice koji instead of jasmine rice koji. You can even use corn water or fresh corn put in a blender instead of amasake.

Note that we make only one quart of this miso at a time. This smells so good you’ll want to eat it while you are making it. You can use lavender or another flower essence if you prefer, or leave it out all together.

  • 1.5 cups/425 grams amasake or water
  • 2 cups/322 grams jasmine rice koji or other rice koji
  • 2 cups/234 grams organic masa harina
  • 2 TB/35 grams fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp rose water

Heat amasake or water to 110 to 135F but not above. When you are sure the temp is below 135F add the rice koji (ground into a powder if you like) and the organic masa harina. If you want a sweeter, faster miso add another cup/100 grams of ground rice koji and a little warm salted water.

Mix everything together well as if you were making dough. The miso should not be crumbly. You should be able to roll it out into balls that aren’t hard. Add a TB of warm water and a pich of salt several times if necesary to loosen the miso up, but remember that removing liquid from a miso can be nearly impossible.

Cover it very well and let it sit for a while and come back and add more water then instead of forcing it. You will need these types of adjustment skills for the more complicated corn misos and other misos we’ll walk you through. The detailed miso steps descriptions will be posted by then as well.

Sprinkle rose essence over miso and pack into a well cleaned wide mouth jar a little at a time to prevent air pockets. The jar must be very clean. Rinse out with a little water and sprinkle with salt if you aren’t sure. Make sure the jar doesn’t have any cracks in the rim or you cut get badly cut.

Place a small weight inside the quart jar and cover with parchment or a thick plastic bag cut into pieces. Screw on top. Check at a week. It should be done in 30 days, but you could check it and taste it at two weeks if you like – especially if you added more koji.

Don’t ferment over 72F. If you do, check it every few days and chill if it starts to sour or smell off. But you should avoid that from happening. Refrigerate when it’s ready. You should see a little pooling of a yellow brown liquid called tamari on top. Mix it in. Or lick it off when no one is looking.

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