Miso is a traditional fermented food from Asia that has become more and more appreciated all over the world, as sushi has become a popular fast food – not only for the new flavors it brings, but also for the health benefits a good miso can impart.

The miso we find today is nearly always imported from Japan where it is produced in huge modern factories. There are a number of factories that are smaller and produce miso in a traditional manner. Then, there are of course, a few producers making small scale, local, and traditional miso in the USA and Europe as well, such as South River Miso (check my link page). The very best miso, however, is homemade miso, which is not at all difficult to make in your kitchen.

Typically miso is made with soybeans, koji and salt, and fermented from anywhere between a couple of weeks to a couple of years. There are also misos made with fish, chickpeas, peas, beans, etc instead of soybeans. Koji is a special moldy mass of rice or barley, but here again, the variations of growing medium are many. You can make your own koji (I have instructions for making koji in a separate page here) or you can buy expert-made koji from a number of companies like South River Miso.

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Here is how to make rice miso

Here’s what you need:
750 grams soybeans
750 gr rice koji
345 gr sea salt

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Start out by rinsing and soaking the soybeans for about 6 to 8 hours.

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In the evening, preferably, cook the beans for about 4 hours watching carefully that they don’t cook over or burn on the bottom.

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Let the boiled beans sit all night to post-cook and gradually cool down.

In the morning mix in all the the koji and salt, and mash this mixture using an immersion blender leaving a few whole beans for looks. You may need a little water to get a good consistency.
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Pack into glass canning jars and seal tightly so that no air can get in. Label the jars with the type of miso and date.

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These jars are placed in a warm corner of the kitchen for about a month so that the fermentation can get going. Then they are moved to a cooler place like a food cellar to continue fermenting and aging for two years or more.

The miso making season is always during the winter when not much else is going on in the garden. I like to make many smaller batches as in this recipe in order to keep it manageable in the kitchen. Last years result was about ten liters of different kinds of miso. The above picture shows the total of three batches. In the foreground is some ready-to-eat mellow miso from a year earlier.

It’s the fermentation that makes the miso.

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How to make mellow rice miso.

Here’s what you need:
750 grams soybeans
800 gr rice koji
150 gr sea salt

Mellow rice miso has more koji and less salt, so it takes only about 1 year to ferment. Follow the instructions as for making rice miso above.

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How to make sweet white miso.

Here’s what you need:
500 grams soybeans
600 gr rice koji
100 gr sea salt

Sweet white miso has a greater proportion of koji, less soybeans and less salt, and takes only about 6 months to ferment – quicker, but with a more lite, sweet flavor. Follow the instructions as for making rice miso above.

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How to make barley miso.

Here’s what you need:
700 grams soybeans
700 gr barley koji
320 gr sea salt

Start out by washing and soaking the beans for about 8 hours.

Boil the soybeans about 4 hours, keeping an eye on it, especially in the beginning, so that it doesn’t bubble up and boil over.

Let the beans cool down. Normally I cook the beans in the evening and then let them sit on the stove overnight to cool down slowly.

Mix in koji and salt.

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Mash with an immersion blender into a fine consistency leaving a few beans whole.

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Pack into an air-tight canning jar pressing out as much air as possible.

The result:

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3 kilos of barley miso

But first it has to ferment for 2 years. Leave it in a corner of the kitchen a few weeks to get it going, then take it to a cooler food cellar or such to ferment slowly.

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Instant miso soup

You’ll need:
water
miso

What to do:
– warm up one cup of water
– put it in a cup or bowl
– mix one spoonfull of miso into it
– drink

This is a true elixir for a gardeners tired bones.

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Basic miso soup

Need:
water
tofu
chives
wakame seaweed
miso

Do:
– place wakame in water
– bring water to a boil
– turn off heat
– add cubed tofu to water
– add diced chives
– add miso to flavor

This recipe can be adjusted endlessly according to which vegetables, tofu, seaweed and type of miso is available.

If you have any questions, suggestions or otherwise, please feel free to contact us at:

timogarden@telia.com

By the way, we are a planning a three week trip to Japan in April. We hope to visit some small-scale ecological gardens and traditional food production outfits. If anyone out there has any tips on places to visit, let us know!