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How to make miso

How to make miso

Miso is a fermented seasoning paste made from soy beans or barley, fermented with the all-round wonder grain, koji. Fermentation times range from one week to several years, which effects the flavour greatly. Younger misos are sweeter and have a creamy, nutty flavour, and are best suited to dressings and miso soup. Older misos are saltier in flavour and much richer. These ones are darker in colour and pair well with more robust flavours such as steak or stews.

Making your own miso may sound daunting but all you need is the right equipment and a little patience. The recipe itself is actually very easy – it’s more about getting your head around the process.

These recipes for sweet and salty misos come from Dean Parker, head chef of The Manor in Clapham. Dean generally reduces the salt content in his misos and ferments at a relatively high temperature which reduces the fermentation time, which is of course very useful if you want to give miso-making a try but don’t fancy waiting months! It also allows you to experiment with a number of different flavours.

You can make sweet or salty misos. Sweet misos are comprised of 3–7% salt and require at least 33% koji to bean. These are the quickest to make, requiring 3–30 days of fermentation depending on the temperature, 15°C–25°C being ideal. Salty misos need as much as 16–25% salt and at least 10% koji to bean. It will also need 5% live miso paste (regular miso paste) which helps to act as a starter. Because of the salt content this miso needs to ferment slower, so a cool, dark area such as a cellar is ideal and takes 1–3 months (or longer if you want to age it for a more complex flavour).

Very high in protein, the soy bean is known throughout East Asia as ‘the meat of the fields’. Unfortunately, this dense bean is difficult to digest, which is where fermentation comes in. Fermenting the beans helps to break down complex proteins into amino acids, which pre-digests the beans. The first bean ferments were pioneered a thousand years ago by Buddhists in China seeking alternatives to meat-based diets. In Japan, the consumption of miso spread beyond the Buddhist monasteries during the Kamakura period (1185 to 1333), and is now a staple flavour of Japanese cuisine.

Ingredients

1
To make a 7% sweet miso, start by cooking the soy beans. Steaming is the best method here as they won't absorb too much liquid; the dryer the miso and the longer it takes to ferment, the better the flavour will be
2
Combine the cooked soy beans with the remaining ingredients and blitz in a blender. You can choose to blend until completely smooth or leave a little texture depending on your preference. Transfer to a container and drop on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles – you need the carbon dioxide to escape otherwise the miso will ferment unevenly
3
Cover the container with muslin cloth and leave in a warm place – the warmer it is the quicker the process will be. 25°C takes around 5 days, so miso is best made in summer if you don’t have a dehydrator
4
Taste after 5 days. If you are happy with the taste, store in the fridge to halt the fermentation process, or leave it out for a few more days to develop the flavour. If you're not in a hurry to use it, leave the miso in the fridge to develop slowly.
5
To make a 20% salty miso, cook the soy beans, again steaming is the best method for this
6
Blend the cooked soy beans with the remaining ingredients, either until completely smooth or keeping a little texture if preferred. Transfer to a container and drop it on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles
7
Cover the container with muslin cloth and leave in a cool, dark area for at least 1 month. As with other fermented products such as wine, miso can be aged for years, and you can achieve a variety of fruity, floral or earthy flavours depending on how long you leave it

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