Miso is a fermented soybean paste commonly used in Japanese cooking. Umami (the fifth taste) that Miso contains will help make your cooking special. It can be used as a hidden spice for a variety of meals as well as for Miso soup and is one of the traditional food items that has supported a healthy diet in Japanese food for centuries.
Someone once said to me that when you make your own Miso you will have a special intimacy with that Miso. When I tasted the Miso I made in February, despite it still being very young, I could taste the Umami, but I’m looking forward to the taste changing as it continues to ferment until December when it will finally be ready.
I always thought Miso making would be very difficult as the recipes seem to require various delicate processes. But the method introduced here is designed to be as easy as possible and keeps its quality better than the ready-made version you can buy in the shops. The recipe is a combination of experienced people’s advice and my own research, and although I have never tried this method before, I think it will work. I will update you with the results in November, but if you cannot not wait until then, please go ahead and have fun!
The best time of making Miso is between January and March. The reason for this is bacteria and temperature. It is easy to work in a less bacterial season and also ideal to ferment slowly at the beginning (during winter), with a faster few months (over summer), before slowing down (during autumn). However it depends on where you are, and if you are considering this cycle of seasons in someway, you can try anytime.
It may be a good idea to cook stocks while you are stuck at home.
Ingredients (makes about 1kg of miso)
Dried soybean 200g | Rice Koji 500g (can be purchased online) | Salt 130g (about 11.5% = a little sweet Miso)
*Simply multiply if you wish to make a larger batch.
You will also need
A large mixing bowl | A big pot (for boiling beans with a lot of water) | A drainer | A container to keep your Miso in for many months | A lid that is smaller than the container (to put inside it to seal) | A weigh (stone or anything similar)
*All cooking tools need to be sterilised before use.
Method (total work time is a few hours but the whole process takes two to three days)
The First Day (Afternoon):
- Wash dried soybeans and soak in plenty of water overnight, for at least 12 hours or more (I did 18 hours). Use a large container as the beans will expand to about 3 times the size they were when dried. If you can, change the water a few times during the soaking process.
The Second Day (Morning)
- Boil the soaked soybeans for about 5 hours. At first a lot of bubbles will appear, but scoop them out and keep adding a little bit of water while boiling and eventually the bubbles will disappear. After 5 hours, check if the beans are soft enough to crush easily with your finger tips, if not, boil until they are. Once soft enough, remove from the heat and wrap the pot with a thick material or blanket and leave it overnight in the kitchen.
The Third Day (Morning)
- Re-heat the beans until they start to boil.
- While heating beans, put all of the Koji Kin in a large sterilised container and then mix in the salt a little at a time and mix well.
- Drain the beans well and put into a blender or mash with a masher until the texture becomes a thick paste.
- When the beans are mashed, add the salted Koji a little at a time while mixing. Do not mix in the Koji if the beans are still very hot, the ideal temperature for mixing is around 20C – 25C but I do not check the temperature accurately when I mix.
- Take a handful of miso mix and push into a sterilised container so no air stays in the miso mix. To help set the miso in the container, lift up the container and drop a few times, it is important for the process that no air gaps are left in the miso.
- Spread salt over the surface to avoid any mould growth (on my Miso I did not do this step and instead tried a new method – see the next stage). Cover with cling film and then cover with cooking paper. This helps to seal the surface and keep air tight.
- Put a weigh on top to seal everything. Additionally, you can put a flat tray on top of your weight onto which you can spread Wasabi which is said will prevent the Miso from growing mould with no need for the salt in the previous step.
- Loosely seal the lid of the container for fermentation.
- Leave in a dark and cool place in the house for about 10 months to 1 year.
- If mould appears, you can remove those parts and still use the miso. Some recipes recommend checking your Miso during its fermentation, but I am not going to do this as opening the seal increases the chance of bacteria getting in.