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Author Notes: Making soy-free miso paste at home is embarrassingly easy, especially now that we can now use the internet to order pre-cultured koji rice. As this is a sweet miso, it only takes a month to ferment at room temperature (opposed to red miso that requires minimum one year). This live culture food is wonderful in dips, stir fry sauce, glazes, and yes, even miso soup.
You'll need a gallon vat to ferment the miso in. This can be made from anything non-reactive (I use the pottery liner from a busted slow cooker). Pottery, glass, or even plastic makes a great vat, however, metal can react with the salt and fermentation in the miso to impart bad flavours or damage your container.
Koji is actually a mold that has been grown on the rice (koji rice) that converts the starch in the rice into sugars which can then be fermented. Koji is only just beginning to be recognized for some of it's amazing health benefits - something that traditional Japanese culture already knew for centuries. You can culture your own koji rice at home, though it takes a few days and careful temperature control. Better yet, buy some already cultured koji rice for this recipe. —trampledbygeese
Makes 1 gallon
- 2 pounds Dry Chickpeas
- 2 pounds Koji Rice (rice inoculated with koji spores, it's yummy, really)
- 5 ounces Sea Salt (NO iodine)
- Optional: Kombu seaweed
- Make certain all your tools are very clean, either by pouring boiling water over them, or rubbing them with sake or vodka. Miso is very susceptible to outside influences at the early stage of fermentation, so if you have any other fermented foods on the go, like sourdough starter, or sauerkraut vat, then take extra care with this cleaning stage. Please do not use antibacterial anything as this will kill the beautiful invisible beasties that we rely on to make miso delicious.
- Sort through and give the chickpeas a good wash in cool water, removing anything that isn't a chickpea. Soak chickpeas overnight in plenty of water.
- Drain the chickpeas and give them another rinse. Put the chickpeas in a large pot (they will probably double in size, so you might have to do this in two pots) and cover with at least two inches of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the chickpeas are very soft and easy to mush (more than regular chickpea cooking). You may need to add more water during the cooking so keep an eye on it. This can take one to six hours depending on the quality and age of your chickpeas. (feel free to use a pressure cooker for this stage, following the instructions that came with the cooker)
- While the chickpeas cooking, combine your koji rice and salt. Massage the salt into the rice with your clean hands. This helps wake up the koji. Place to one side
- Remove the chickpeas from the cooking liquid, keeping the cooking liquid to one side for later. When it's cool enough to handle; using the method of your choice, mash approximately one third of the chickpeas. I use to take one third of the chickpeas and put them in the blitzer, then return them to their friends, but now I use the back of a wooden spoon to mash the beans against the side of a bowl until roughly one third look mashed up.
- Leave the chickpeas to one side to cool (you can stir them occasionally to speed up cooling). When they are cool enough to handle (less than 120 degrees F) then mix the chickpeas, koji rice and salt together. Add small amounts of cooking liquid into the mix until everything has the consistency of soggy playdough.
- (optional: moisten and sprinkle the inside of the vat with sea salt first) A little bit at a time, put the mix into your fermentation vat (a one gallon size vessel made from non-reactive substance like pottery, glass, or even plastic). Be careful not to leave any air bubbles as you fill up the vat. Press it down well and smooth over the top. You can sprinkle about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sea salt on top to encourage friendly fermentation - optional but recommended if you are going to be fermenting warmer than 72 degrees F
- Cover the top of the miso with plastic wrap, or the more traditional method of kombu seaweed that has been soaking in water for about half an hour. Find a plate or inner lid that is just a little bit smaller than the inside of your vat (about 1/4 inch is best, but miso is forgiving if it's a bit smaller). Place this inner lid on top of the miso and weigh it down with a cleaned stone, jug of water, or other food-safe weight. My rock weighs about 5 pounds, but again, miso is forgiving if you want a heavier or lighter weight. Cover the whole thing with a clean cotton or linen cloth to prevent dust and flies getting in.
- Tuck your miso vat away somewhere where it can stay at room temperature (roughly 68 to 72 degrees F is ideal, but it can easily tolerate hotter or colder temperatures). Leave it alone for at least three weeks, preferably a month, and up to six weeks. Check on it every few days if you like. After a few days, there should be a layer of liquid on top, if not, add some boiled and cooled water so it only just covers the top of the paste.
- When you open up your vat, there will be mold. If there isn't, it's unusual. It should still be alright if it has a sweet smell to it. Koji, the ingredient that does most of the hard work in miso making, is a mold. The mold will probably be white with blue, green or yellow patches. Although koji mold is good for us, it can also impart a musty, unpleasant flavour to the miso. So we will scrape the mold off the top (perhaps first draining the liquid into a bowl). If you have to scrape off some of the miso, that's fine too. (Here's the scary bit which is standard for just about all fermentations: If the mold is black coloured, then things are wrong and should be discarded, likewise if there is a horrible (non-miso) odor permeating from the ferment. It is highly unlikely that something will go wrong, especially with this time honoured technique; however, it's your miso, I can't be there to smell it for you, so you're going to have to rely on your own judgement.)
- Once the liquid is removed from the top and the mold is scraped from the surface mix up all the remaining miso paste together. It should be quite lumpy. If you want a smooth miso paste, puree it at this stage, but personally I take great joy in the traditional texture of chunky homemade miso. Besides, I can always pure a tiny bit if a recipe demands a smooth paste.
- Place the miso in clean jars (or other non-reactive containers) being careful to avoid air pockets. This should keep in the fridge for about a year.
- The liquid from the top of the vat is Tamari - a very potent sauce, something like soy sauce (only without soy because we used chickpeas!). Strain the tamari through a clean (I boil mine), tightly woven cloth to remove any spare bits of mold. Label and and use as you would soy sauce (only use less as it's super-potent).