Wallabi's Farm: The English Hototogisu Bakery and Farm Blog

Hello, my name is Sara. In 2005 my husband and I bought an old farmhouse in Okayama, borrowed a few fields and set to building ourselves a pleasant rural life. Now, several years on, we have fields a-plenty, what was until the end of 2012 a wheaty bread bakery and is now prepping to be a gluten-free space, and have incorporated our efforts into the Hototogisu Bakery and Farm. Welcome!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fun with Fermentation: Miso

We've finally gotten around to making this year's miso - we're several months behind schedule on it - I'm pretty sure any self-respecting miso-making wife would have had it done in January, but hey, better late than never, right?

Step 1: We spent several evenings by the woodstove shelling the soybeans. We think we may not have dried them on the plants long enough, and as a result, they didn't all pop out of the hulls as they should have done. We then washed and soaked the beans overnight.

Step 2: After a good rinse, the beans go into the pot. With 3.2 kgs (dry weight) of beans, I had to cook the beans in two batches. I spent all morning and the early afternoon in front of the kamado, feeding a twig fire, struggling to keep the pot simmering but not boiling over. Lunch came to me that day - the fire needed my attention.

The little woodstove in the picture (called a kamado) and the pot we cook the beans in are both pretty cool - it more or less corresponds with the kamado that were once the main cookstoves in Japanese homes. There is a chamber for fire below, and a hole into which a pot with a rounded bottom fits, held in place by a sort of collar halfway up the sides of the pot. This way, the pot is very close the fire without letting smoke into the room. Quite efficient!

Step 3: While the beans are cooking, mix the kouji (um, that's rice innoculated with the miso-making organisims - we bought ours, but would like to make it someday) and salt. The recipe on the kouji bag calls for 1.3kg kouji (fresh kouji, in this case) and 400g salt per 800g of soybeans (dry weight).

Step 4: When the soybeans are done cooking, cool slightly and add to the kouji-salt mixture. We first squished the beans around by hand,

and later gave that up in favor of our juicer/mixer/noodle maker. This wonder machine squished the mixture very nicely.

Step 5: When everything is thoroughly mixed and squashed, the miso-to-be needs to be carefully packed. The important thing to do while packing the miso for aging and storage is to be careful to exclude air from the mixture. To do this, Shuzo would grab the miso mush one handful at a time, pack it in his hands as though he were making a snowball and throw it, with some force, into the container.

Step 6: Once nicely packed, the miso needs to be sealed off from the spoiling influence of the outside world. This is done first with a layer of salt, followed by a layer of plastic wrap applied to the surface of the miso, with care taken to see that there are no bubbles. Then, the lid goes on, the container of miso is hoisted into a quiet corner of the pantry and we endeavor to forget about over the summer. We'll see how it's doing in the fall, or maybe next winter, but since we got such a late start on it, who know when it will be done?

Here is our giant jar of miso - we made about 20kgs. Hopefully it'll be enough for a year, though, in fact, we made little less than that last year and supplies are running low.


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