Okay, so I started the dandelion wine post last month and then I sort of forgot about it because, with wine, there’s just an awful lot of waiting around. And then I rushed through it because I was really excited about this next venture, homemade miso! I started the miso project back in the fall, using the very easy-to-follow instructions by the fabulous Nancy Singleton Hachisu in her excellent Preserving the Japanese Way.
The whole thing is actually pretty pricey because you have to get a couple pounds of dried soybeans (I opted for organic) and order koji starter online and then pay a lot for shipping because it’s a live product and needs to stay cold. You also need a lot of salt, though that’s at least cheap. Anyway, I’ve just been through my photos and apparently I didn’t document the process well, which is a little sad because there’s some fun throwing of balls of soybean-and-koji balls into the fermentation jug, and some steps that make you question your sanity a bit. Lacking my own photos, here are some I stole from the Permaculture Research Institute:
The basic process is that you soak and the cook the beans, drain them, and then mash them. I did this by hand, so my finished miso has more texture than commercial kinds. After the beans are mashed up, you add salt and koji, squeeze together handfuls, and then throw those into the fermentation pot so they make a satisfying “thwack-splat!” You have to throw them hard because you’re trying to get rid of air pockets. Then you sprinkle on more salt and cover the whole with a tight-fitting lid. I used a plate that fits right into my fermenting crock. Over this you place a cloth (I used a tea towel) and then a heavy weight (I used a gallon wine carboy filled with water) and drape another cloth over the top and tie it around the base. Ms. Singleton Hachisu assures the reader that the cloth “will become scarily dusted with green mold spores” because it’s actually the mold barrier. Then you really just let the whole thing sit round outside. I started mine in September or October and let it ferment until today. Traditionally, when the weather warms, you just start stirring and let it hang out through summer but when I opened it up today it smelled great so I decided it was done. Normally it apparently goes through summer.
Because of the expense and the fact that the whole thing stays covered, I was quite nervous but it turned out really well, and there’s a lot of it! Six pounds, apparently. I have mashed it down better than in these photos so there aren’t air pockets and stuck it in the fridge. But before I did that, of course, we needed a taste: . It’s rich and flavorful and so satisfying! The texture is a little surprising if you’re used to the smooth stuff but the bits are just like amazake (which makes sense since they’re both made with koji) so they’re not objectionable.
The only problem is that I now have 6 pounds of miso taking up space in my fridge, but I think that’s a problem I can handle.