Making Miso. Or Not.

Miso is why you should always have at least one type of koji on hand unless you are buying pre-made miso. You can make or buy a lot of really useful and tasty things made with koji besides miso, but miso is definitely the most sophisticated member of the koji family.

Black Gram Miso

Making miso is like creating the dance 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 their part – 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 the microbial rave, and just how tightly you pack everything in. Tight enough so interactions can’t be avoided, but loose enough so that they can actually take place. Nobody pins baby in a corner.

If miso is a long production (like two or three years) you need a lot of salt. If you’re making an all bean like Hatcho miso that will eventually taste like a cross between chocolate, a well aged red wine, and nirvana if it were a dense pst then salt it up and wait. But you can make other misos in days, months, or under a year.

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 is going to be controlled inside and outside the miso.

No insects, pets, other critters nor just any microbe hanging out should be allowed to sneak into the show. Make a plan. Stick to it.

Mellow Miso ( Shinshu or Yellow Miso)

The Miso Dance

Train your koji, rice, salt, beans or grains or whatever – seriously, you can make miso out of just about anything but you might not actually like the way it tastes – to act out the steps before the production is presented. Because unless you know exactly what steps to take, and there is a written plan to follow (including labels written out beforehand), count on something getting messed up. Miso can be very forgiving, but don’t test it’s willingness to adjust to new and uncomfortable situations.

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.

Wait, Plan.

We’re going to play the hold on listen to the voice of experience card on you. No? Okay we’ll play the Chef card on you. Oh, the days and nights and next days we’ve spent not sleeping, sweating, stinking and trying to throw together on overambitious projects.

They can be a great learning experience – especially if you’re getting paid overtime for it – but getting paid for the hours you actually work in a kitchen are as rare and as ridiculous a concept as someone won’t have pay for poor planning. And you can’t make up the sleep. And you’ll probably lose your job. Or your shirt. As in money.

But even a busy parent or two job worker can do it if you plan small, ahead, and factor in exhaustion, malaise or distraction. Especially if you take our moromi miso approach.

Think of it as a chef’s mise-en-place (things you should always have ready on hand regardless of what you can resource on a specific day) approach to making miso and other things. You just had the experience card played on you.

Moromi Miso: Miso Smart

Why do we love the moromi miso approach? If you don’t get around to making four different types of miso with your one gallon of moromi miso you still have your really easily assembled moromi miso. Eat it. Cook wit t. Make pickles wit it. Marinate with it.

It’s also why we like shio-koji so much. Actually, it’s why we love koji so much, but let’s stick to miso now.

Imagine what you can make with a fermented garlic miso moromi. Like this ketchup.

Moromi miso (sometimes referred to as okazu miso) is traditionally a somewhat softer and almost loose miso with chunks of koji or beans suspended in it. It’s made from the same ingredients that are used to make sake or doboroku or shoyu (soy sauce).

We make a lot of those things anyway, or at least versions with more or less salt and varying ingredients, so why not plan ahead and make a gallon of moromi miso. By adding different grains or legumes or tubers turn one gallon into four different gallons of miso that are ready all at the same time. Or at different times throughout the year.

We’ll show you how to do that step by step, but not all at once. And in the next post. We’ve been making miso for decades, some of us our entire lives since we were kids as part of family gatherings.

But things have kind of changed. What we now know about the science of miso making is amazing. We also know that someone who is really gung ho today is very likely to tire or get bored and suffer from miso making burnout.

Do you have an unopened or half eaten container in your fridge? Do you know or associate with people that do? See. Obviously not making miso together is the root cause of the weakening of the family unit throughout the world. Not the internet, nor the inability to communicate without a electric device.

Miso Master Organic Red Miso comes in sizes from 1 pound to 40 pounds. Others may make miso as good as this, but no one makes it better.

You Don’t Have to make your own miso.

Just so you know you could buy the miso. Some of the recipes we provide on how to actually use the stuff will inspire you to overcome your illogical fear of miso. You can use miso to make a salad dressing or tacos or a stew that will completely change your outlook on life. We’re not kidding.

There are many ways to use miso you probably have never heard of, including preparations of miso that blend several types of miso, misos that get simmered with sweet or savory things that make an entire meal with a bowl of grains, misos that make incredible pickles, and even baking misos. Got your miso? Or do you want to know how to make koji first? Or make your own?

Recipes

Come learn in New York City! www.meetup.com/culturesgroup/

Mushrooms and Koji

#KojiFest2019 is an ongoing series of events hosted by culturesgroup (https://www.instagram.com/culturesgroup/). Expect to learn, ask questions, and taste and enjoy. April 13th at RESOBOX on East 3rd Street in New York City. A multi course tasting event with three wild sages and experienced microbe wranglers. #kojifest2019 #veganevent 

Porcini Black Trumpet and Leek Nuta with Homemade Miso, Vinegar & Wild Seed Mustard @malloryodonell

Kumquat, Carrot and Red Pepper Pickles

Wild Greens Pkhali

Pkhali is the traditional Georgian paté of vegetables such as spinach or leeks, in this case its going to be a mix of wild greens probably nettles, mustard and herbs like pushki and wild chervil.  Depending on what Mallory has on hand and what he can gather it will probaly include these ingredients: Wild mustards (garlic mustard, wild cabbage and dames rocket), nettles, wild chervil, field garlic, ground elder / walnuts, garlic, Georgian spices (blue fenugreek, coriander, chiles) a splash of homemade vinegar and a dash of black walnut oil. 

Wild Greens Pkhali @malloryodonnell

Aline Bessa,

Aline Bessa is a baker, cook and food waste sage. She constan tly thrills people @bichobk with her breads, ferments and other tings that include yuca. Yuca is the energy source for at least 400 million people around the world. Aline will discuss – and sample – some of the tastiest ways the plant is used.

Yuca @culturesgroup

Aline will discuss how to ferment this root with various ingredients in multiple ways to create flavors ranging from cheeselike, to nutty or fruity. For every thing described, there will be an accompanying dish so that it will be easier to understand the process better.

Resobox Space at East 3rd Street in the East Village in New York City @resobox

Yuca Ferments

Miso soup with tucupi (a fermented yuca broth), szechuan buttons (jambu), culantro and goma

Yuca rolls (vegan pães de queijo) stuffed with nut cheese made with sour tapioca starch (polvilho azedo) miso

Puba (fermented yuca) pudding with miso caramel

There will be a yuca-based “cachaça” for the adults, too. Its name is tiquira.

Vegan Braised Beef Brisket made of mushrooms and yuca flour @culturesgroup

Yuca Flour (farinha)

@bichobk describes: “How many types of farinha (yuca flour) have you used? Farinha can be readily found here in the United States, either at Brazilian stores or online, but almost without exception these come loaded with artificial additives.

It is incredibly hard to find farinha from the North or Northeast of Brazil here, especially of any quality. In Bahia we use farinha de guerra. When we run out of it, we use cassava garri from the Nigerian store up the street.

We also have farinha d’agua from the North of Brazil, and farinha ovinha de Uarini, a gift from our friend @raonilourenco These are all artisanal products, and they all share the same ingredients: yuca. “

Rice Koji for making sake shio koji, shoyu koji, amasake, pickles and sake @culturesgroup We’ll have some freshly made at the event! Along with misos and sauces and pickles and surprises.

KojiFest 2019 – Spring

Sweet Corn Sourdough Bread

Koji Fest 2019 is an ongoing series of events hosted by culturesgroup (https://www.instagram.com/culturesgroup/). Expect to learn, ask questions, and taste and enjoy.

The events focus on methods and examples of how koji and other microbes are used throughout the world in many cuisines to elevate the taste and nutritional benefits of local and regional foods.

Koji is the most commonly used word to describe Aspergillus oryzae, a malted mushroom type of microbe that is an enzymatic powerhouse. There are other types of koji that are members of the Aspergillus family that have their own unique characteristics.

Enzymes and other byproducts produced by koji are creating solutions fordealing with environmental toxinsand even human disease. We focus on te amazing taste sensations and the layers of flavor that koji can create through rapid, or traditional methods.

Presenters will provide tastings of foods that use koji or other fermentation techniques. These include misos, shoyu, shio-koji and how the enzymes created by koji can quickly or over time create incredible tastes and nutritional benefits.

Some things will be lightly dressed with a probiotic rich sauce, others will be deeply flavored misos or sauces that highlight a fresh ingredient or can be eaten on top of or in cooked grains, beans, vegetable based proteins and even desserts.  

Mushroom cured and fermented to taste like bacon

Depending on what is available the day before the event we plan to have, perhaps with a few substitutions these things garnished with accompaniements.

  • Traditional three year old miso
  • Sweet simmered miso
  • Black beans with smoked mushroom bacon
  • Greens with cashew, garlic, herb pesto
  • Tucupi miso soup (a fermented yuca broth, szechuan buttons (jambu), cilantro and spring vegetable. 
  • Nut cheese using miso made with sour tapioca starch
  • Yucca rolls (vegan pães de queijo)
  • Puba (fermented yucca) pudim with miso caramel
  • Pickles (kumquat and carrot, shio-koji cucumbers, tempero baiano style mushrooms). 
  • Rice, garnished (spiced peanuts, date and ginger douchi, gomashio bahia). 
  • Corn chips, seasoned

Joining Chef Ken Fornataro for this event.

Mallory O’Donnell

Mallory is a wild food writer and enthusiast, sometime cook and dabbler in creating food based on sustainable and local resources. Inspired by exposure to the worlds working-class cuisines, Mallory cooks globally-influenced cucina povera with an emphasis on homemade staple ingedients, fermentation and simple, traditional techniques.

Emphasis is on the wild ingredients reflective of the terroir of the Northeast US, and on creative applications involving neglected or ignored wild ingredients such as bark, roots, wild seeds and spices, pollen, and tree leaves, branches and sap. Many of these open up exciting new avenues when combined with traditional preserving and fermentation techniques, an increasing role in which is being played by koji.

Mallory documents food experiments as well as native and invasive wild foods at @mallorylodonnell on Instagram, and www.howtocookaweed.com

Roast garlic, cashew and cilantro pesto

Aline Bessa

Aline Bessa is a fermentation enthusiast, exploring connections between the techniques she’s learned in her home country, Brazil, as well as here in New York, with local and sometimes foraged ingredients. In her cooking, fermentation is primarily used as a means to uncover the complex flavors of the ingredients, sometimes not accessible at first sight/smell/taste.

In addition to that, preservation techniques help to keep her favorite tropical flavors available year-round, which is particularly important for riffs on Brazilian dishes and cocktails.

Finally, fermentation is an important ally in her constant battle against food waste – food byproducts are usually turned into new products in her house. Aline is getting a PhD in Computer Science at NYU and she brings her scientific acumen to all her kitchen experiments.

Recipe

Worchestershire sauce

Most things labeled as Worcestershire sauce contain anchovies, a type of fish that people trying to avoid animal products don’t want to consume.

We created a vegan sauce – no animal products including honey and fish – that you can pretty quickly assemble yourself if you don’t want to buy any of the existing vegan or vegetarian sauces typically available at health food stores or online.

This version is the faster version of one that uses koji and takes a few months to ferment. It’s just as good in things you are cooking, or in which it doesn’t really play a major role. It’s also great when using it with meat or any recipe that a vegan wouldn’t be interested in eating. So, try it. We use it in our vegan mushroom bacon.

½ cup raw apple cider vinegar

1 cup brown rice vinegar

¼ cup organic tamari or soy sauce

¼ cup unsulphured dark molasses

3 TB Umesu (umeboshi plum vinegar)

1 TB tamarind paste or other sour fruit paste

1 TB hot asian mustard powder

1 TSP ginger powder

3 TB very dark aged miso

3 TB dried onion flakes

1/3 TSP cinnamon

½ TSP garlic powder (or several fresh smashed)

¼ tsp cardamom

¼ TSP powdered cloves

½ TSP ground white pepper

A few pieces dried citrus peel, preferably orange, toasted

1/4 tsp dried seaweed powder (kombu, wakame, anything but Irish Moss or other gelling types )

Simmer very slowly for 15 minutes, at which time it should be about to boil.  

Let cool down below 140F, just not colder than tepid)

Add ¼ cup rice wine vinegar (4 to 5 % acidity)

1 TSP sweet smoked paprika

½ TSP alleppo pepper flakes or ground black pepper

1 TB dark miso

Stir well and let sit until room temperature. Strain, saving solids. Bottle and refrigerate sauce for up to 6 months. Or add a tablespoon of sea salt and it will last at 72F for at least three months unless you use it alot.

We’ll provide recipes this is used in besides our mushroom bacon (recipe below) after this described event.

April 13th Event in NYC

April 13th at RESOBOX (resobox.com) you can experience a multi course tasting event. #kojifest2019 #veganevent

Each #kojifest2019 event includes different guest presenters and participants sharing and sampling different handmade, regional fermented and traditional foods, most made with a koji-centric item such as miso, shio-koji, amasake or tamari.

Enroll for information about all related events, or register for events at the culturesgroup MeetUp site.

Recipe

Mushroom Bacon (vegan)

The cool thing about the marinade for this dressing is that it can be used with a few different types of mushrooms, or on a snack like roasted beans or even popcorn. Just don’t go overboard with the marinade if you don’t intend to use it for the amount specified in the recipe.

The mushrooms don’t have to be pre-treated other than washed and de-stemmed if using shiitake, but if you marinate them for over 15 minutes they will start to really produce water that will dilute the intensity of the taste.

If you don’t have maple syrup, coconut palm syrup or dark brown sugar work as well. Use the palm if you want it less sweet, though. We used the liquid smoke version here because most people don’t have smokers or want to do the stove top thing – easy in a wok or stove top steamer we smoke our nut cheeses in – and it works just as well.

There are quite a few decent brands out there, make sure they don’t contain stuff you do not want to eat. You can also use unsalted smoke powder – sparingly – to create the liquid smoke, or just add it to the marinade.

Use either portobello mushrooms or shitake mushrooms sliced like bacon, or even crimini or button mushrooms. Either way, this marinade is for 2 pounds after cleaning. Some mushrooms may need to be drained after the first trip to the frying pan. Then re-sauteed with something sweet and tamari.

We like to save the marinade if the mushrooms have been hanging out a while and deglazing the pan and reducing the liquid afterwards. If you want to resaute these right before using to crisp them up or just do them ahead of time do that.

Make sure there is more oil than liquid on them, adding some extra oil to store. Maybe 1 TB or 2. Not more unless you’ll be throwing them into a hash brown potato or root vegetable dish. Later for that.

2 LB portabello mushrooms

2 TSP liquid smoke

1/4 cup soy sauce (tamari if GF)

1 TB maple syrup

1/4 cup frying quality olive oil (not EVOO)

1 TB Worchestershire sauce (vegan recipe from culturesgroup above

1/2 tsp toasted and ground coriander seeds

6 TB olive oil or high temp substitute

Cooking the mushrooms: Get pan hot and add oil. Add mushrooms with tongs. Do not overcrowd the pan. Careful of splattering although there should not be more than 2 TB oil in your pan. Fry them like strips of bacon – obviously not layout bacon – that turn over after a few minutes for even browning. Don’t overbrown.

You will need to do two to three batches. Have each batch draining on absorbent paper. Don’t stack them on top of each other. Make sure the pan, wiped out if necessary, reheats after each batch and new oil is added.

After all the mushrooms have been cooked reheat the pan and add ther mushrooms over high heat. Add 2 TB maple syrup and 2 TB tamari and glaze the mushrooms quickly. Remove from pan.

Use right away or lay out and keep warm. Drying this out only makes them better, as long as most of the water is already out.

Ginger Date Black Koji Hamma Natto, a super garnish for rice. This is onbe of three major types of natto. This one uses koji, not a bacteria called Bacillus subtillis.

Koji Spores

Using Aspergillus oryzae and other Aspergillus spores for sake, misos, shoyu, fish sauces, meat sauces, etc.

The next 12 posts will be about specific enzymes, making koji on different substrates such as rice, beans, and other grains like barlet or wheat, research into clinical uses for koji enzymes, the ongoing and widespread use of Aspergillus spp. enzymes (esp. kojic acid from Aspergillus oryzae) in food processing, etc. The amount of information available is voluminous (for those that still read books) and even online. 

Aspergillus sojae grown on black soybeans for douchi, miso and kecap manis

All posts will be in the context of side bars to recipes for tasty food, however.

Any site that sells spores will have descriptions in English, some so incredibly poorly translated you will easily lose patience. What spores yoiu need is really based on the very basic principle that when inoculated at the lower end of the temp range of 85F spores will pretty much produce more proteases and lipases. That a pretty good temperature to aim for if you are making koji on most substrates.

At the higher temperature range of around 104F you will generally produce more amylases. In low or non fat substances like rice for sweet or quick misos, sake, or amasake you want as much amylase as you can get. There are thousands of different spores however, although you’ll probably never be offered more than 50 from any one producer. Spores are designated by how quickly they create heat, or the length of the hyphae.

If you have a bean or a more fat and protein containing substance like barley or meat or fish you really want to be using Aspergillus sojae that is way more inclined to produce proteases, cellulases and pectinases. Most soybean miso or shoyu spores, although rarely labeled as such, are actually A.sojae.

Every spore distributor in the USA always says they only sell A. oryzae, although their spores are always made in Japan. You could create a decent koji from mild rice or barley miso specific spores sold by Gem spores that are A. oryzae to get the job done, but studies clearly show you are not going to get as much proteases etc. to create more amino acids and other things to increase both umami and maximum nutritional value, and break down proteins and fats.

Places like http://www.higuchi-m.co.jp/english/index.html and Akita Konno sell spores http://www.akita-konno.co.jp/en/seihin/index.html through different exporters (a customs certified agent is required). The former provides some really useful charts on what each spore type does, and are the only place we know of that sells the enzymes we use.

Although somewhat difficult to understand these two do the best job of explaining what they are selling. If you are willing to wait a little, and have somewhat that can translate their English translations into English there is always kawashima-ya (https://kawashima-ya.jp) and other sites.

Just remember there are miso spores, and sake spores, and shoyu spores and shochu spores. We have our own spore guy that gets us what we want, but most people will never need what is not offered through the internet.
You can also easily get koji spores almost overnight in the US through the Modernist Pantry (https://www.modernistpantry.com/shiragiku-koji.html -shirayuri is for white things that are sweet, shiragiku for brown things like browner misos and shoyu) 

Most spore providers will provide an English language label, like these spores from Gem Cultures packages available to professionals. They also sell much smaller sizes. These are good spores, but you won’t get the best effect if you use them for beans or high protein sauces or misos.