Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Getting ready for Miso Club

The first rule of Miso Club, we talk about Miso
The second rule of Miso Club, we love making miso

Tomorrow will be the inaugural meeting of Miso Club.  I've invited a very good friend over for what I hope will be the start of a long and happy ritual, New Years Day Miso Club.  The idea is that since red miso takes about one year to make, or longer, then we would get together every New Years day and make miso, then when finished, dig out the miso we made the year before and enjoy it.

Also, winter is the best time to make red miso.  Sweet miso like I've made before can be any time of year, but red miso, that's made in winter.

To prepare for miso making, I've been making koji barley.  This is barley grain that has been blessed with koji mold.  Yes, mold.  Mold is awesome.  What it does is it transforms the starches in the grain into sugars which can then be fermented into miso paste.

It takes three days to make the koji barley.

Day one, soak and steam the barley, then incubate it at about 90F for about 24 hours.

barley getting ready to steam

steamed barley is like a giant rubbery lump
and must be separated out before adding koji spores

wrapping up the barley to keep it warm while the mold grows

What I learned is that after 12 hours, the koji grain begins to produce it's own heat and the challenge quickly changes from keeping it warm to keeping it cool enough without getting too cold.  Thankfully koji is a loving teacher and can survive well outside the 'ideal' range.

Day two of koji growing, mixing the grain up every couple of hours, separating any clumps that form, then spreading the grain to abut 1 inch thick (the instructions said two inches, but this was far too hot) then wrapping it up again.

day two, spreading the barley out into an even layer

I should have stopped at the end of day two when the grains were mostly white with mold and a few yellow patches.  But I kept going because the instructions said to.  The morning to day three, all the grains were yellow and starting to spore - which is okay apparently, but not as sweet smelling as day two.  Next time, I'l stop when the grain says to, not when the instructions tell me.

Now I lay the grain out in a thin layer to dry and cool a bit before storing in the fridge.

The barley I'm working with is pot barley, the koji spores came from GEM cultures in the US.  I have tos ay, the koji spores worked like a charm,  I followed the recipe included with the spores.

The next step in preparing for tomorrows miso making is to soak the beans we will cook up tomorrow. Instead of soy beans, we will use chickpeas, sweet delicious chickpeas.  I toyed with the idea of making a lentil miso with local red lentils, but after this week's kitchen failure, I decided to use a bean I know and trust.

Some books about making your own miso at home
The Book of Miso by Shurtleff and Aoyagi
Wild Fermentation by Katz
The Art of Fermentation by Katz
The Miso Book by Belleme

2 gallons of miso will cost me
$14 for the chickpeas
$6 for the barley and koji spores
$2 for the salt
unknown for the electric bill, let's guess $3

Total of about $25 for two gallons of artisan made red chickpea barley miso.  This is totally awesome since the same miso sells for $36 for roughly 1/8th of a gallon in the stores (if I did my math right, that's $576 if I were to buy 2 gallons in the shop).

Next year it is my great hope to grow some if not all of the ingredients for New Year Miso Club, or at the very least, source as many ingredients locally as possible.  Maybe even some local sea salt.

Transitional and Traditional - funny how these two go hand in hand - miso can be made from locally sourced materials, excepting possibly the koji spores.  The Art of Fermentation by Katz has instructions on how to capture your own wild koji and to create koji starter when you already have koji growing.

Soy-Sub:  I'm making a soy free version of red miso.  Any bean can be substituted for some or all of the soy in miso making.  By making miso at home you can have complete control of every single ingredient

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