Koji Essentials for Busy People

You’ll see demonstrations of

  • how to make miso (味噌)
  • how to make shio-koji (塩糀)
  • how to make takikomi gohan
  • how to make misodama (味噌玉)
  • how to make a refrigerated kimchi base
Millet koji

You’ll learn how to prepare things to use with these things – like a hundred zucchini you can’t deal with.

The point of all these items is to show you what to have on hand, and what to do with it.

KojiFest2019 presented by people that have mastered the art of living and eating tasty food with too little time in the day. Got kids? Work, like even two jobs ?

Need to spend less time and money cooking and more time enjoying food?

Presenters

Makiko Ishida (Maki) is a koji enthusiast, and a busy parent that knows how to budget time without sacrificing nutrition or taste for her family. A native Tokyoite who was born into a katsuobushi (fermented bonito) trading family. Maki-san has a unique sense of how to blend traditional Japanese food with everyday American fare.

Maki especially loves to share easy and fast Japanese home-cooking ideas using koji-fermented staples such as miso, soy sauce, mirin, shio-koji, and sake that anyone can apply into his or her own kitchen.

Professional Chefs often approach cooking with a stone soup approach. Sometimes they have access to fresh ingredients that a forager, farmer or artisan just harvested or made, other times they have to deal with what they ordered or shopped for versus what is in the house.

It’s really a bigger version of what we all go through at home when tired or busy or exhausted. That doesn’t mean you can’t use something in your pantry, refrigerator or from your local store and make something filling and very tasty like already when you get home or realy quick to prepare kasha. The stone in this case is koji,or shio-koji, or miso,or sake lees or a fermented or pickled condiment you already bought or made.

Garlic Misozuke

Chef Ken Fornataro will show you how to make food with a stone. No rabbit or fox will get this meal though! It’s all really about mise-en-place, a fancy way to say if you have miso, koji, shio-koji, soy sauce, mirin and other ingredients ready to go (or even just the miso) a quick trip to the farmers market, your local salad bar, the super market or a dig into your CSA box or your pantry or refrigerator and you can easily do it. Even for picky kids – we know all about the young stubborn ones – and people that are eating a vegan diet.

We’ll also show you how to get ready for the arrival of fresh foods from your local farmer or garden or grocer’s shelves. A #vegan focused event that could be translated into any type of food you chose to eat, but everything we prepare and sample will be plant based.

Koji is the most commonly used word to describe Aspergillus oryzae, a malted mushroom type of microbe that is an enzymatic powerhouse. You might not know how to cook, or even want to, but you still want to eat well without spending an enormous amount of time in the kitchen. Koji can be used with almost any food or even drink you currently eat, from whatever type of cuisine you choose. You can make koji out of just about anything that has carbohydrates in it that will get broken down into different types of enzymes to transform or season your food for you. Quickly.

Fresh Rice Koji

You’ll see demonstrations of how to make miso (味噌), shio-koji (塩糀), gohan takikomi (rice cooked with miso and whatever you fancy), misodama (味噌玉) and a long lasting, refrigerated kimchi base and how to prepare things to use with it – like a hundred zucchini you can’t deal with. All so when we offer the following tastings you’ll say that’s easy and fast! Especially since you can substitute ingredients that you have using the mise-en-place items. 

Based on these items we’ll have – if accessing the ingredients makes sense and preferably uses ugly vegetables, the following, all vegan, mostly gluten free items:

Menu (based on availability):

Menu:
• Fried Jalapeño and Garlic Salsa
• Szechuan Sauerkraut with pastrami flavored smoked hamma natto
• Shiitake Kombu Dashi Dama
• Edamame Crispy Beans (glazed with an amasake shio-koji plum mirin)
• Jasmine Amasake (sweet, thick, koji based rice)
• Miso Mayo (mayo with special seasonings and miso)
• Cucumber Misozuke (Cukes aged in a black pepper miso)
• Spicy carrot, garlic ginger, tomatillo, onion Kimchi
• Coriander Seed, Fennel and Lime Rind pickles
• Toasted Almond KIsses (savory, nutty and sweet)
• Garlic Misozuke (Fresh garlic fermented in miso)
• Baker’s Dozen – Freshly baked breads and Genmai Cha Tea (roasted rice, chilled tea, spices) if 40 people register by May 15.

Fee/Payment: Suggested Fee is $35 for the 3 hour demo and tasting. Bring cash and pay there if you like. Bring whatever you can, but please join the group and register for the event! Hope to see you there! koji@earthlink.net with questions! https://www.meetup.com/culturesgroup/

Lemon Rind pickle

culturesgroup is about food and drink making, preservation, fermentation, science, and cultural history. We focus on traditional and novel techniques in cooking, fermenting, brewing and preserving techniques using koji, yeasts, and the tasty bacteria that make pickles. We stress sustainably resourced foods, food safety, digestibility, and maximizing the nutritional profiles of foods. https://www.meetup.com/culturesgroup/events/261196806/

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/

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.

Miso Power

Hemp Heart Miso
ready to get packed down and aged.
Made with a sweet white miso base of rice koji using Aspergillus oryzae,
the type most commonly used for mellow and quicker misos.

The beginnings of a miso. Through a choreographed interaction between yeasts, bacteria and fungus – typically referred to as fermentation – this mash up of koji and the hearts of hemp seeds becomes an all purpose probiotic rich seasoning agent.

Some claim miso has therapeutic effects, so they never add it to anything above 140F degrees which might inactivate the benefits. We’ll get into the heavy healing and science part of miso and koji later.

Miso can easily be used to cook with, sometimes replacing or augmenting vegetable or animal stocks. We’re in it for the taste. There is no shortage of prebiotic and probiotic foods unless everything you eat is heavily processed and pasteurized.

You can’t make miso, soy sauce, sake, a lot of different types of pickles, a country style alcoholic drink called doboroku, or a useful enzyme rich drink (and sweetener) called amasake without koji.

You can make your own koji. We’ll show you how to make different types of koji from a range of different things. The things you make koji on are often called substrates. Wheat, rice, barley, corn, rye, buckwheat, millet, beans of all types and other substrates.

Is it worth your time and energy when you can pretty easily buy koji online, or in a growing number of grocery stores and markets? Some people can’t get beyond the fact that they are intentionally growing a fungus. a specific type of fungus called a mold on warm grains.

Growing koji, however, creates a truly seductive, fragrant fuzz on freshly steamed rice, barley, beans or potatoes that is hard to forget. You can start off by justing buying a good quality miso from the store though. The best ones are unpasteurized ad definitely don’t contain any chemicals nor preservatives.

It’s almost impossible to get around eating anything that doesn’t contain microbes such as yeasts, bacteria, or fungus. Typically salt is introduced to kill off the bad actors and create lactic acid bacteria (LAB) so the process can continue safely. Not that anyone has ever recorded a case of someone dying from eating miso.

Don’t forget there are two exciting Meetups coming up to attend, one in Long Island City at Fifth Hammer Brewing of the group NYCferments, the other our first collaborative event with www.apexart.com in Manhattan. It’s the first of a series called Koji Fest 2019. Apexart is currently running an amazing installation.

http://peer2pickle.weebly.com/about.html

Koji Fest 2019

February is very special for two reasons, besides the fact there are two exciting Meetups you have to attend, one in Long Island City at Fifth Hammer Brewing of the group NYCferments, the other our first collaborative event with www.apexart.com in Manhattan. It’s the first of a series called Koji Fest 2019. Apexart is currently running an amazing installation. Check it out. We took a few pictures, but it’s really worth going to see. So welcome to New York!

In order to get you started we’ve produced some videos on how to make quick food during a busy work week, or for when you just don’t feel like laboring in a kitchen. We get that. This video is about making gluten free meals, quickly, that taste so good and are so easy you won’t miss out on anything. If we didn’t tell you you wouldn’t know they were gluten free.     

Start

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.