Monday, December 29, 2014

Kitchen Failure - where I demonstrate what not to do when making miso paste

I hate to admit this, but sometimes I try something and it is a total disaster.  I suppose it's one of the side effects of being human, but alas, I wish it wasn't.

I also wish I was the kind of person who would quietly hide my failings somewhere dark and dank, where no one would think to look.  Bury failure under a damp pile of leaves, with only worms to whisper its nasty story too.  Maybe, if ignored, the horrible result would decompose into the soil, bettering the dirt so that new, and more successful things could thrive.

However, that's not what I want for this blog.  The goal here is to write about my culinary journey and share it with my four (or is that five now?) readers what I've learned.  Maybe some of it would be useful to someone some day.

This Kitchen Failure is especially embarrassing because I've recently been crowing about how easy and foolproof it is to make miso paste at home.

And it is easy to make miso at home, unless...

...unless you branch out and try some terribly outlandish thing and then it's a gamble.

Growing confidence with how incredibly yummy my standard chickpea miso recipe is getting, I decided to try a 'let's toss all this old stuff from the back of my cupboard miso' recipe.  I went directly against expert advice, but I had to do it.  I had to know if it would work or not.

It's not.

What did I do and what went wrong.

I used 1 pound of each adzuki and black beans (dried). Soaked and cooked them together.  MISTAKE: they cook at different rates, I should have treated them separately then mixed together when cool.  All of the adzuki beans were cooked to mush and some of the black beans were slightly raw inside.

To this I added 1/2 lb of pearly barley (dry weight), soaked and boiled until soft.  MISTAKE: using grain that hasn't been inoculated with koji spores.

The Koji rice and salt were as per usual.  MISTAKE: I didn't add extra salt to account for the additional volume of the barley.

Covered the miso with soaked kombu rather than plastic wrap.  Although this is different than my normal procedure, I don't think we can blame the kombu for this failure because some of the extra batch I fermented in a different jar also turned putrid. Besides, kombu was the pre-industrial clingfilm of Japan.

Fermented for three weeks.  Mistake: in small letters because I really should have waited for four weeks given how cold the house has been.

The results.

When I uncovered the miso a sour rotten smell like sour beer and compost assaulted me.  Miso should be sweet and salty, not sour and certainly not smelling of rotten barley.

Yep, rotten barley.  As in the pearl barley I added without inoculating it with koji first.  I'm feeling this is the main source of my failure, over confidence and ignoring a thousand generations worth of knowledge.  There is a step I could have taken to get the koji growing on the barley - without having to buy koji mold spores - but I was eager to get things done and didn't want to wait an extra day.

What did I learn?

I relearned that grain needs to be altered before fermenting, like malting or using koji, or even soaking in a sourdough sponge.  Without this alteration, the sugars in the grain aren't available and things go sour fast.

I learned that I really should try smaller batches when experimenting with outlandish miso mixes.

I also know that even though I'm down in the dumps about my current failure, I still plan on making miso this New Years.    In fact I'm very excited about it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing! I've yet to try making miso myself but I'll try to keep that in mind. It's good to learn what doesn't work. :)