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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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