Mother Sauces

Mother Sauces: Tomato

Classic French cooking has a long established tradition of using five sauces that pair with specific traditional ingredients. They are called mother sauces. If you were going to make a gratin of potatoes or macaroni and cheese, you would make a Béchamel sauce. If you added salt, pepper, nutmeg and Gruyere cheese to it a Mornay sauce was created – a child of Béchamel.

The five types are Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole, Hollandaise and Tomato. We count Mayonnaise and Vinaigrette in with the Hollandaise since all three are emulsions of an acid base with fat that can be the start for thousands of variations.

Classifying something as a mother sauce is useful because it makes it easier to keep track of the variations. The French have a highly regarded cuisine, but so do the Chinese, Indians, Mexicans, Japanese, Italians and, really, every region and ethnicity throughout the world.

Sometimes, depending on what culinary tradition you were following, the classic mother sauce was made with rigorously chopped celery, carrots and onions (called a mirepoix), and aromatics. An aromatic could include almost anything like mushrooms, peppers, garlic, bacon, etc.

Defining specific techniques and defining basic preparations, such as what the mother sauces are, is what makes varying from these standards so important and interesting.

Today there are a lot more types of mother sauces, including jiangs. The Jiang category includes all kinds of legume based pastes, soy sauce, shoyus, misos, fermented grain or nut pastes. It also includes other protein rich sauces typically made from animals as in fish sauce, garums, and beef sauces.

The way we make any sauce today often ends up using concentrated essences and other ingredients that are easier and faster made with things like sous-vide cookers or pressure cookers. But they can also include short or long fermented ingredients based on jiang such as soy sauce or a fish sauce as mentioned above.

We also consider pestos, barbecue and dessert sauces as mother sauces.


Types

  • Béchamel
  • Velouté
  • Espagnole
  • Holllandaise
  • Tomato
  • Mayonnaise
  • Vinaigrette
  • Pesto
  • Barbecue
  • Dessert sauces
  • Jiangs

All of these sauces can actually be turned into something you are already familiar with. They are typically easy, and usually tastier than store bought. But you can make some part or all of them to make them your own. Or just add a dash of soy sauce or fish sauce to a store bought one.



We will explain how to make and use these all of them, classic and unique sauces, condiments and other things we consider essential items to have in your larder. You’ll learn how to cook and ferment everything as we go along, or at least become a better informed eater.

The French perfected the food preparation protocol of mise-en-place. It’s not like they invented it. It’s that they codified it, and described it. Everyone was pretty much taught that to make a basic Béchamel sauce you made a flout and butter mix and cooked that with milk.

The traditional French mother sauces are great classic sauces, but cuisine is being invented, reinvented and recycled all the time. We know so much more about what cultures around the world have been doing, sometimes for thousands of years, that it’s clear that the French way only way to create a mise-en-place.

Asian basic sauces including miso and soy sauces are now incorporated into all types of cuisines.


Mother Tomato

Here is how we make our classic tomato mother sauce. Remember that the more things a mother or base sauce contains, the less adaptable it will be. If you add meat or a specific spice to it, you can’t use it for a vegetarian dish or something that just doesn’t taste good with that spice.

Our tomato sauce is not very much like the French original but it’s uses are incredibly varied. You could just as easily make a concassé or a coulis from fresh tomatoes and herbs – we consider those more as vinaigrettes or pan sauces – but this sauce works for us.

The use of peppers makes this an ideal stepping off point for Cajun, Creole and other cooking styles, including Italian, Spanish and Indian cuisine.

Adding proteins such as peanuts, vegetable protein (TVP) make this a quick and fast meal sauce to have on hand. You could add ground meat or shrimp this, but we’ll exlan those sauces in upcoming posts.

Use toasted almonds or sunflower seeds for an equally tasty sauce. If you to go bean free skip the textured vegetable protein and use dehydrated tomato flakes, sun-dried tomatoes, or a cup of chopped carrots or parsley.

Regardless of whether you choose to add meat or a fish stock or lots of mushrooms, it will be tasty and last at least a few weeks. If the fennel bothers you add basil or some other spice. The variations are almost endless.

Remember that you can’t remove meat or anchovies or cheese or rosemary from a sauce, but you can always add things.


Dried fermented soybeans or shih, make a great base taste for tomato and other sauces. We make out own. You can buy them readily online on in Asian grocery stores. These are plain. Some are already seasoned. If you use pre-made seasoned ones, rinse and soak well before frying unless they suit the dish you are making.

Tomato Mother Sauce

  • 1 cup or 3.1 ounces or 88 grams TVP or protein substitute
  • 1 small or 1.5 ounces or 45 grams chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup or 125 ml olive oil
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 TB or 1.4 ounces or 40 grams fermented black beans (shih)
  • 1 cup or 250 ml water or stock
  • 1 cup or 60 grams dried celery
  • 1/4 cup dried garlic chips
  • 1 cup or 84 grams dried peppers
  • 2 cups sake, white wine or stock
  • 2 TB dried oregano
  • 6 3/4 cups or 53 ounces or 1500 grams crushed plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup or 60 ml extra virgin olive oil

To make the sauce cook the textured protein and chopped yellow onion in the regular olive oil with the fermented beans and fennel seeds until golden brown. Add the water, then the dried peppers, garlic and onions. Add more sake, wine or stock and simmer for ten minutes.

Add tomatoes and oregano and simmer another 15 minutes, gently. Add a very small amount of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, although it is not necessary. Add the extra virgin olive oil and any fresh, chopped parsley you like at the end after removing from the heat. Usually, we use a cup of parsley.

Put this tomato on sauce on rice, or spread on a pizza crust with cheese, or eat with toast on on vegetables. Mix it with beans and you have chili. Tempeh curry or parmesan with or without dairy or nut cheese is tasty!

We will publish several other basic recipes for tomato sauces. Each one will serve to illustrate why sauces typically vary depending on what you are going to cook in them, what ingredients you have at your disposal, what you are putting them on, blending them with, or how you will finish a dish right before serving.

Variations coming up: Crispy shrimp tomato sauce, black garlic tomato sauce, Creole cooking sauce and a mushroom miso tomato sauce.


https://Cultures.Group


The Name of the Rose

Today is my birthday and I have a few things to say. Mostly everything I want to convey on this year’s birthday – September 15th – has all been said before in Nina Simone’s song “Feelin Good” At least the attitude part.

The recipe for this is actually already posted at culturesgroup.net

The semiotics or foodways start of a new year follows. As will the recipes that depend on understanding a few basic concepts. Although we haven’t yet introduced all of the misos, sauces, amino pastes, pickles, sakes, amasakes, kefirs, brews, yeast and bacteria centric items and baked goods and sweets that we’ve been making over the years, our corn rose miso has been very popular.

We only call it miso because the predecessor of all things made with koji is a word that has never been widely accepted in the English speaking world. Even the word koji is an inadequate translation of the predecessor to the what the original word for koji actually meant.

When the Japanese were gifted the knowledge of how to make and use koji – along with their first system of language – it was done by Chinese buddhists. The reason why so many people have seriously inaccurate ideas of where some things originated, or even that they have existed for thousands of years, is that the Chinese had no need to claim invention of anything.

The Japanese, however, kept repackaging and inventing while creating a hagiography of these things that were really just different versions of Chinese jiang, the predecessor even to the little fermented soybeans named shih or docuhi that many people insist are the actual precursor. Before koji there was jiang. Adding koji to jiang made it even better.

Ketchup and Worcestershire Sauce were derived from jiang, as were dozens of ither things such as miso and soy sauce and fish sauces and even preserved meats and game.

Nope

Sometimes the romanticized version of the past has worked well for the Japanese, and other countries to be sure, but other times it has failed miserably. Whoever though of the idea that foreigners would understand thus buy more Japanese sake by calling it rice wine should have been corrected.

The claim that they discovered or invented koji, or that it is endemic to only their country, is just not accurate. Still, the entire world should be extremely grateful to the Japanese for their efforts and inventions, especially Americans, because Japanese scientists including Dr.Takamine’s contributions to several industries in this country have been very significant.

麹 or 米糀 – Aspergillus and friends or pet Aspergillus

Millet koji.

But let’s start with the koji, or 麹, since it is what set everything off. 麹 really has little to do with the purified spores (tane-koji) that the Japanese have so brilliantly domesticated. When the Japanese think koji they mean 米糀 (rice koji or come-kouji) or sometimes another subspecies of Aspergillus (mold) grown on barley, millet, sweet potatoes or soybeans.

We’ll get to the Zygomycetes (Rhizopus, Mucor, Rhizomucor), yeasts and bacteria later, but even then it’s really rare that at some point in miso making or shoyu making and ocassionally even sake making they aren’t part of the process. Even if that just means avoiding them at all costs.

You should at least know these things exist. But we’ll try not to get too microbiologist on you unless it really matters.

Corn: Vinegar, Koji and Hamma Natto
Three corn kojis, three tastes (vinegar, koji, shih)

Su Jiang Rou or Shoyu what?

Many research papers, patent applications, books, journals, PhD theses and extant scrolls – as well as some pretty old oral communications – accurately document the development of mochi koji 麹. The stuff that seems to have taken hold in the minds of Westerners, at least, is bara koji, not mochi koji though.

We are actually partial to the bara koji, because as with sake and a whole lot of other food stuffs and beverages, the original sake was awful. Bara koji helps us to avoid that type of sake entirely. That said, Shanghai yeast balls or Chinese yeasts balls – way closer to the original mochi koji – can make some pretty amazing things.

Furthermore, modern day additives to sake that come from Aspergillus such as A.luchuensis or A. oryzaes and sometimes yeasts, bacteria or microbial enzymes should be welcomed as great things, especially if they help to avoid the industrialized unpalatable swill (増醸酒 ぞうじょうしゅ or Zojoshu) that is produced and consumed in Japan on a widespread basis.

Nukazuke (corn pickles made with corn nuka or bran). Thank you, Lactobacillus plantarum and friendly halophiles, for everything you do

Unblinded by Science

As I recently discussed at a recent meeting of culturesgroup, the invention of s16 rRna technology along with rapid advancements in other ways to quantify very precisely what bacteria and other microbes (yeasts, fungi, etc.) that populate the microbiome of any product have exploded the research into what microbes are in what we eat.

This is not all that new a thing, though, as the romanticizers of traditional methods keep trying to sell their goods. But industry and artesans can now either industrialize or individualize or do some of both when making something like soy sauce or amino sauces or sake with widely accessible ingredients.

Look to the Yeast

When I say there is actually only one thing that is ever created through any type of transformative process like using something to make koji from or add koji to or inoculate with a specific mold or fungus what I mean is that everything is on a continuum, a horizontal progression from ingredient to outcome.

The sokujo style method of making sake – basically just adding lactic acid derived from bacteria to avoid having to create it in what is called a shubo or moto in a time consuming and more expensive way – is almost exactly the same thing as making shoyu and even miso.

If you want to direct tastes or mormi develop look to the yeast. Sometimes, the water minerals or the bacteria, often cadged from a previous batch, do the trick as well.

Shiitake mushroom shoyu or soy sauce.

With the help of amazing new equipment with which we can measure a microbiome (as in the mkicrobiome of a vat of soy sauce) and it’s inhabitants down to the genetic level it makes clear how much respect the artesans that have been making these things for thousands of years deserve.

And this old world is a new world
And a bold world – Nina Simone, Feeling Good

Knowledge begets new customs and traditions. Don’t repeat history and not learn from the past. Using new tools and techniques, it’s time for new generations to experiment and create new foodways.

Not that we know everything we want to know yet. Just that it should be a fusion of the traditional and the modern, a sustainable and enlightened way of creating new foods and tastes.

Microbes Eat Corn

Corn Tempeh made by Ferment.Works

Aspergillus oryzae (koji) chomping down on corn to make koji that will serve almost a hundred purposes, about as many as the types of corn (races) known to exist.

Corn Shoyu – Recipe

  • 10 cups/2200 grams steamed yellow grits corn koji (A. sojae)
  • 2 cups/300 grams kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 cups/425 grams ground corn masa koji
  • 2 cups /500 grams water
  • 3 cups/550 grams corn masa, toasted
  • 2 cups/275 grams dark brown roasted corn
  • 1 cup 120F water

    Keep at 92F to 100F for two weeks, stirring every day. Cover but not tightly. Then add:
  • 2 cups 120F water
  • 65 grams coarse sea salt
  • 3/4 cup 170 grams non-nixtamalized whole corn koji, ground

    After 6 weeks at 92F to 95F (3 to 6 months if at 72F) strain. Use the lees or dregs, if any, for a pickling bed, a moromi type miso, or the base of another shoyu or amino sauce or paste. This should yield a solid gallon.

You could replace all the corn koji with barley koji. or brown rice koji, but still keep the toasted masa and the browned corn.

Soy sauce, but really corn sauce because of microbial enzymes and corn without beans. Next post we’ll include another corn shoyu made with beans and another corn koji, while we slowly hit you with just a little science behind the bacteria, yeasts, fungus and koji types behind shoyu.
September 9th Events at Resobox
  • Monday, September 9 , 2019
  • 2:10 PM –  3:50 PM, $20 register here
  • Resobox, Long Island City, New York, New York (MAP)

Asian ferments like miso, tempeh, shoyu, pickles, amasake and shio koji, and even sake and vinegar, can be made with corn. Chef Ken Fornataro of culturesgroup and Kirsten Shockey of ferment.works will demonstrate how wild and cultured microbes like koji (miso, sake, shio koji), lactobacteria (pickles) and Rhizopus (tempeh, oncom) make tasty, unique and nutritious foods. Class participants will be learning about and tasting:

  • Caviar Lentil soup with Corn Tempeh croutons
  • Hokkaido Ramen corn chowder (in red curry broth)
  • Corn and radish and roasted shrimp kimchi
  • Hominy and onion salad and pepper salad, corn shoyu dressing
  • Sweet corn, lavender lemon cornbread
  • Tomato salad with parsley, corn vinegar, and extra virgin corn oil dressing
  • Corn shio-koji roasted glazed corn nuts
  • Corn Amasake Chai (Iced Tea) 
  • Doboroku (country style sake made with corn and rice)

Everyone will receive a bag of corn miso. Depending on seasonal availability we may have to have substitutions for the above dishes, and we may also have some things you can buy to take out:

  • Eggplant and ginger namemiso, spicy eggplant corn hagosuchizuke (corn koji)
  • Corn, Raisin, Cinnamon, Molasses and spice corn cookies
  • Assorted one, two and three year old misos will be for sale during the event, as will as take out bento boxes for those unable to attend class

If you would like to purchase one of the Shockey’s books at the event let us know at culturesgroup@earthlink.net or order online at https://ferment.works

Corn, Squash, Black Bean and Rice Tempeh

Fermentation Workshop

  • Monday, SEPTEMBER 9 , 2019
  • 4:00 PM –  6:00 PM
  • Resobox (Map)
  • $20 Event Fee

Presenters

Ken Fornataro

Ken has been cooking, fermenting and preserving vegetables, seeds, grains, fish and legumes with A. oryzae, yeasts and bacteria since childhood. He was taught traditional Japanese, Chinese and Russian foods, fermentation and preservation techniques to make koji, miso, shoyu, vinegar, sake, jiangs and pickles by Aveline and Michio Kushi, William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, and Jewish and Christian Eastern European immigrants. He is working on a book related to food, fermentation, microbiology and semiotics as Executive Chef for culturesgroup.net

Kirsten and Shockey

Kirsten and Christopher are the co-authors of bestselling Fermented VegetablesFiery Fermentsand the new Miso, Tempeh, Natto and other Tasty Ferments books that came from their desires to both help people eat in new ways, both for the health of themselves and the planet. They got their start in fermenting foods twenty years ago on a 40-acre hillside smallholding which grew into their local organic food company. They travel worldwide helping people to learn to make, enjoy and better connect with their food. Their current work is building their relationship with R. oligosporus and R. oryzae and how these fungal ferments interact with grains and legumes to transform our foods for both nourishment and flavor. You can find them at Ferment.Works

Contact culturesgroup:

Like the Aztecs considered ashes in their corn pots as a blessing, so did the Chinese recognize and make use of the microbial gifts that natured blessed them with. Microbial enzymes make corn’s nutrients available while disarming anti-nutritional factors.

All cultures depend on the ability to metabolize potential food sources. None of this would be possible without the enzymes created by the yeast, fungus and bacteria present in and on corn. 

Just as we have learned how to use Potassium or Calcium Hydroxide with corn, Chef Ken Fornataro will describe how corn treated with microbial enzymes from Aspergillus, Rhizopus, and Lactobacteria can make tasty pickles, vinegar, beer, miso, beans, sauces, meat and fish. September 8th at The New School.

  • Sunday, September 8, 2019
  • 9:00 AM to  3:00 PM
  • New School, Tishman Auditorium, New York City (Map)

Recent Posts

Nixtamalized, Sprouted, Popped, and Maillarded Corn Jiang

First we sprouted some of our favorite popcorn. Not that popcorn makes great edible sprouts, but it starts the process of making the corn more digestible, tasty, and nutritious. The smell and flavor of corn pops! It makes the miso taste like an ear of buttered, grilled corn. With benefits.

Miso Ingredients are listed below. We have taken our miso making steps and walked you through the process. With pictures and videos. Crusty grits, nixtamilizing sprouted popped corn, and mixing it all up are explained in the videos. Making corn stock, and how to weight the miso down, cover it, and let it ferment are explained in previous posts.

  • 450 grams/3 to 4 cups crusty baked grits (any kind)
  • 1770 grams/2 cups dried organic popcorn that has been sprouted, popped, and nixtamalized
  • 2400 grams/14 to 16 cups koji rice made with Aspergillus oryzae
  • 250 grams/1 cup coarse sea salt
  • 250 ml/1 cup warm brown corn stock
  • seed miso (optional, up to a cup)

Sprouted corn and popped sprouted corn after being cooked in corn stock with calcium hydroxide (nixtamalized)

Sprouting popcorn is pretty easy to do. But you can actually buy sprouted popcorn from online vendors such as Shiloh Farms, Thrive Market, or at a health food store. Our local supermarket actually carries it as well.

Sprouted corn and popped sprouted corn after being cooked in corn stock with calcium hydroxide (nixtamalized)

Baking nixtamalized grits until until crusty.

Mix the baked grits, salt, popped and cooked corn together. Mix well.

Mix the Miso

If you plan to do it for the longer 3 to 6 month period add up to 1/10th of the weight of the other ingredients (about a cup) of unpasteurized seed miso. We prefer using mellow white miso. Use a soy free miso if you are trying to avoid soy.

Pack it in.

When packing the miso in keep massaging it, mashing up and corn kernels to prevent having to grind it up later. Weight your miso down after packing the well massaged and supple mix into your container.

This is a pretty quick miso. You can ferment it at 85F for 30 days, then at 72 F for 15 days. Check it after the first week just to be sure everything is okay. Otherwise you could ferment it at 72F for 3 to 6 months.

When you feel it is done, remove some and grind it up. You can even chop it up on a cutting board old school style, or grind it in a mortar or a Japanese suribachi. Remember that you don’t have to grind up all your miso at once. Re-cover it and let it continue to ferment after taking out what you need.

Taking Stock of and Making Stock from Sweet Corn

First the corn stock. You can actually make this with half eaten, older, or cosmetically challenged corn and it will still deliver the smell and taste we lust after in corn. If you are using fresh corn save the husks for making tempeh or tamales or little packets of natto if you like.

Roasting corn picked a little more than a few days ago to create a very tasty stock and water replacement to give dishes a greater organoleptic corn thrill. The smell of corn roasting until brown from the Maillard reaction and the caramelization of corn’s inherently large percentage of sugars can provoke a Proustian Madeleine response in those of us that grew up near corn fields.

Corn Stock Recipe

Hack up four ears of raw, sweet corn into two to three inch pieces after shucking and removing the corn silk if it’s still on, then place in an un oiled pan. Bake the corn for 3 or 4 hours.

You could also just brown the pieces very well in a big heavy pot until they were caramelized and dark but not burnt. Or throw them on a hot grill.

Cover with water (6 to 8 cups) and cook for an hour or two on top of the stove, or cook in a pressure cooker – we’re not naming names here – in the same amount of water for 20 minutes. Let cool off and strain. You can also add any well roasted corn kernels to the broth – up to 1/4 cup per 6 cups of water, and strain everything for a richer taste.

Besides using this for our corn misos, breads, rice or bean based breads like idlis and dosas, you can just chill the stock and sweeten it (or not) for iced tea. Or add spices and tea for chai. Use it instead of water or even stock in just about any case you would use water or stock.

Of course you can also use it as a chilled or hot soup base adding whatever you like to it. In any case, this stock is so versatile and tasty and simple consider it as part of your mise-en-place. It lasts for up to a week in the refrigerator. We make it once a day when it’s corn season.

The amount of starch in corn and that starches ability to be gelatinized makes it a stand out candidate for microbial intervention: pickle it, ferment it, use it instead of rice starch for a kimchi or fermentation base, or turn it into a soy sauce type seasoning agent and dipping sauce. Or a marinade. Or alcohol. Or mirin.

Lots of recipes coming, many presented at one or more of September events we are presenting at, or collaborating with other people and groups to provide.

Just a few of the things you can make with corn:

  • wine
  • pickles
  • puddings
  • cakes
  • breads
  • chutneys
  • soy sauce (with or without beans)
  • grits
  • hominy
  • polenta
  • moonshine
  • beer
  • corn nuts
  • syrup
  • flour
  • sprouts
  • tamales
  • tortillas
  • tacos
  • stews
  • mirin
  • ice cream
  • and many, many different types of desserts.
Corn germ and corn tips from nixtamalized corn. In the 1980’s we used to make macrobiotic unrefined corn germ oil and barley malt pecan pies with a cornmeal crust. Not exactly low fat but unbelievably tasty. The removal of the 
germ reduces the chances that the corn will go bad in your larder or when transported to other places.

If you’ve ever picked the corn tips off newly nixtamalized corn (whole dried dent or field corn treated with potash or more commonly calcium hydroxide or cal) to make pericarp free, homogenized color, hominy it’s easy to see how canned hominy of a very consistent quality, or dried hominy (known as posole by most people) became popular.

A lot of the quality of fresh corn that is available to most consumers depends on how close a local corn field was, and how carefully and coldly fresh picked corn could be transferred to an alert buying public.

Except for a few hard core corn enthusiasts that argued about the perfect timing schemes to seize ears of corn from the fields and throw them into boiling water to get the sweetest, freshest corn, suburban and city folk were pretty much stuck with buying corn from grocery stores. Removing the kernels off the cob and getting just the juicy parts to be sauteed as a vegetable side dish is always a treat. Some places sell fresh, raw corn kernels as well.

For a while, popcorn was the best selling gourmet food item in any state in the country. As you’ll see, it makes a mean sprout that can then be popped, nixtamilized and made into a variety of things such as miso.

You can do a wide variety of things with dried (or freeze dried) sweet corn and field corn. There’s nothing like breaking out a big jar of pickled corn still on the cob or corn relish or chutney in the middle of winter. Our corn miso will make you think you are eating a piece of freshly grilled and buttered corn. Even if you are eating it on an ear of fresh corn in the summer.

Sweet corn miso aging in the refrigerator after a 6 month fermentation period. Deep.

We suggest adding some some at the last minute as is recommended with all misos – boiling it destroys the good things about this ferment and dulls the flavor – to a new England Corn Chowder, or spread on a corn based pizza crust topped with roasted garlic, cheese and pickled, charred jalapeños. Yes, recipe on the way.

Corn on the cob is just unavoidable in certain areas. No clam bake or crawdad boil or lobster dinner or barbeque was without corn. Often steamed along with the other ingredients, or cooked straight in salted butter and served as a side with unsweetened corn bread that had been cooked in cast iron in ashes, or dumped right on top of a shrimp gumbo.

Also, the argument about how to best (read properly and socially acceptable) eat corn in public, and whether it was even fair to serve something sure to get stuck in the teeth of well heeled diners made corn on the cob something avoided at formal dining occasions.

Corn from Masienda we nixtamalized and spiced and added to roasted pumpkin seeds and other ingredients for tempeh using a culture called Rhizopus oryzae. For hominy for our tempeh – or posole – we never use more than 1% lime (by weight). Same way we make our rapid grits for fermentation after soaking out the corn bran as we call it.

A Few Corn Facts

In most areas there are typically two classes of corn sometimes with a few varieties available, sweet corn or field corn. There are other types of corn grown for specific reasons, but most people never see them growing.

Sweet corn is not supposed to dry in the fields if it is meant to be eaten as sweet corn. Racoons and other corn eaters like coatimundi would never let that happen, anyway. Pumpkins with prickly vines, pole beans and tall sweet corn can be an effective deterrent. As can dogs.

Field corn was always yellower, grew taller, left on the cob to somewhat dry out for easier processing like a lot of grains, and a lot of fun to play in. When field corn is really dry it has indents or recessions on the top that are created as the corn loses moisture.

That’s also why it was sometimes called dent corn. If you get it before it is that dry it’s edible and tasty, just not as sweet and juicy as sweet corn.

But all corn is good. Big thanks to the Mississippians and other Native America tribes that created entire societies in what is now called the United States around corn. Pretty sure Vermont would be just green mountains had corn not been amenable to the cold climate there.


Mixed Kojis and the Dregs

At one of our monthly forums we had lots of already cooked, organic Carolina Gold rice leftover. We also had lots of soybean pulp, or okara, leftover from making tofu.

Okara has a large amount of protein that like other beans and grains and seeds makes a tasty miso. Remember protein equals amino acids equals umami so throwing away protein is just crazy.

Ground millet koji and less ground rice koji

Those are the times you are glad you have 2 or 3 kilos of koji hanging out in your refrigerator, or in a cool cupboard or larder. You can, however, cut this recipe down to just a quarter of the called for ingredients, and even substitute whatever type of koji you have for the millet koji.

Those are also the times you are glad you have a scale to weigh out your ingredients, because with leftovers it’s really unlikely you just happen to have exactly the right amounts of any ingredient. If, for example, you need 2564 grams of ground koji, and you have some millet koji and some rice koji and some corn koji in different amounts what happens if that comes to 4356 grams of koji?

LIke shio koji, miso is typically made using a ratio of ingredients. Again, salt drives the proportion of the other ingredients in your miso. You really have to weigh your salt carefully. Because the amount of salt you use determines how long you should ferment your miso.

Even if you vary the amount of koji you use because you want it to be sweeter or be ready quicker, salt will determine whether that is achievable regardless pf what you use to make your miso.

Work it to a paste.

Koji may be the driving force behind your ferments, but salt makes sure the road is clear, steers the car, and, and determines which microbial passengers get in or out of the car during the journey.

Determine beforehand where you are going so that you how much salt you need to get there. There are maps and calculations involved. Here is what you need for this miso.

We’ll go over the calculations afterwards. Because miso don’t play when it comes to back seat drivers, and arguing about directions once you start the journey. Sure, you can probably make course corrections as you go along, but these detours typically require both more energy and time. That will cost you.

Mixing in the okara (72F) and the now pretty mashed up rice and kojis and salt

Again, we only use organic non-GMO beans for anything we make with soy. So unless you have a soy allergy, fermenting the soybeans with grains creates a very nutritious miso with very little or none of the potentially indigestible things that most beans have.

Ingredients (in grams)

  • 1796 grams cooked rice
  • 768 grams soy okara
  • 1044 grams ground rice koji
  • 1000 grams ground millet koji
  • 296 grams coarse salt
  • 75 grams seed miso
  • 235 grams water

Okay so typically a miso that has roughly equal weights of koji and the miso base – in this case the rice and the okara – will be a 12 month miso. In other words it will take that long to ferment before it really pops. But, the salt still determines just how fast and to where this miso is going.

LIke making legislation, at first.

You would usually aim for between 10% to 12% for such a creation. But because we already ground up the koji, and we added the seed miso to make sure our miso had the right microbial influences during its youth and stayed sweet at heart we decided to make it a 6% salt miso.

We added up the weights of the cooked rice, the soy okara, the ground rice and ground millet kojis (the koji can be all unground white or brown rice or barley koji if you have that on hand), the seed miso and the water. Then we calculated a specific percentage of salt we needed to make that: 300 grams.

Play with your miso balls

Because we added both water and seed miso to this, we calculated the salt amount with those ingredients in the formula. We usually don’t do that. Instead we usually just weigh the beans or grains after cooking and mix. If you have cooked them properly, you usually will not need either liquid or even seed miso.

Balls waiting to be smashed into the container a few at a time to remove air. They will yield to the collective.

We reviewed our miso making list and made sure all our bowls and container were clean and salted down – again, we really dislike using alcohol for this because we feel it better for the development of the taste of the miso, but use really strong tasteless vodka or something that is at least 80 proof to rinse things with if you like – and our space and faces were clean and smiling.

We also used gloves, and make sure we didn’t pour anything directly down a drain or anywhere else without a strainer.

Grind some coarse salt over the top. Just a sprinkle is needed. Definitely not more than a few tablespoons though, unless you think it’s going to be at or above 85F for a long time.

We mixed our salt and ground kojis together with the water and seed koji with a clean spoon – whole unground koji would have been massaged with the salt – then mixed in the okara then the rice.

Use protection. Every time. Every time.

Then we massaged the miso mercilessly until it felt turgid like a really thick balloon filled with liquid, incapable of crumbling and willing to yield just a little when pressed down.

Cleverly weighed down by using another very clean food safe bucket that can be filled with whatever it takes to get to 2500 grams. This way if the miso starts to creep up the side or exude tamari too quickly – that would be less than a month in this case – the weight can easily be reduced by removing some of the weights from the bucket.

Because we had already created our two labels for our miso – for the side of the container and the hoodie or whatever covering you use, and we already had 2500 grams of weight ready because we always try to weigh it down with at least half the weight of the finished miso – did we mention you really should be using a scale for this? – it took about 30 minutes from start to finish.

So the next post we’ll show you how to use shio koji in your misos, pickles, salads, salsas and condiments and more.

A little Maillard reaction – brown like a duck
Repacked for another three months. It already tastes like a young miso on its way to developing into a miso of character and strength with countless possibilities.

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.

Upcoming Events

Ferment.Works
  • Tuesday, June 25, 2019– Release of Ferment.Works new book. culturesgroup’s Ken Fornataro discusses and gives recipes for a country style sake called doboroku, vinegar, and a quick amasake. He also discusses the sake industry in the US.

    Best-selling fermentation authors Kirsten and Christopher Shockey explore a whole new realm of probiotic superfoods with Miso, Tempeh, Natto & Other Tasty Ferments.

    Besides William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi of SoyInfoCenter, Ken Fornataro of culturesgroup, Betsy Shipley of Make the Best Tempeh, Ann Yonetani from nyrture, Jeremy Umansky and Kenny Scott and Allie La Valle Umansky of Larder, Christian and Gaella Elwell of South River Miso Company, Head of Fermentation at Noma in Copenhagen, David Zilber, Tara Whitsett of Fermentation on Wheels, Sarah Conezio and Isaiah Billington of White Rose Miso – a part of Keepwell Vinegar – who make incredibly tasty and creative misos, vinegars, and koji based items, Cheryl Paswater of Contraband Ferments, Jon Westdahl and Julia Bisnett of Squirrel and Crow , Rich Shih of ourcookquest.com, and many, many others including vendors and artesans.

    “Their ferments feature creative combinations such as ancient grains tempeh, hazelnut “cocoa nib” tempeh, millet koji, sea island red pea miso, and heirloom cranberry bean miso. Once the ferments are mastered, there are more than 50 additional recipes for using them in condiments, dishes, and desserts – including natto polenta, Thai marinated tempeh, and chocolate miso babka. ”

Got any upcoming events, let us know!

Presentation at apexart.org. Check out Chef Ken Fornataro’s recent interview

Previous Events

  • Wednesday, June 19, 2019 6:00 to 9:30– Food Karma has hosted many featured events during New York Cider Week, and this year we’re back by popular demand to ring in the summer with hard cider! Start the season off right at CiderFeast NYC, a food and drink event with outdoor space, sunset views, live music, and of course plenty of cider! This all-inclusive event will feature cider tastings from 15 brands, food samples, and more!
  • It will also double as a book launch for Andy Brennan’s new book Uncultivated: Wild Apples, Real Cider, and the Complicated Art of Making a Living. CiderFeast NYC

    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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