Kanjikomi Miso

Marika Groen

February 21, 2022

Last October, American food professionals visited fermented food producers to deepen their knowledge of Japanese fermentation culture during the “Hakko Tourism in Japan” tour campaign. As part of the tour, organizers held a tasting session where guests gave candid advice from the perspective of the American market to food product manufacturers looking to enter the United States market.

As I write this, we are already approaching the second half of December. It’s the end of the year according to the new calendar, a time to reflect on the past 12 months and think about the new year ahead.

At my friends’ breweries, koji making and brewing are in full swing, which means that the kanjikomi, the brewing in a cold season that I mentioned last time is at its peak.

Even at home, people are busy updating their kitchens with fermented foods, opening last year’s miso and preparing miso for the next year with the new koji.
Today, I would like to write about the basic preparation of miso. Traditionally speaking, miso is a fermented soybean paste. Soybeans are the seeds of a leguminous plant. Plants often contain toxic substances to protect them from natural enemies, and in the case of legumes, the seedpods, the beans, contain substances that inhibit the action of enzymes and cause biological stimulation. For this reason, beans are generally not eaten raw.
Since ancient times, therefore, soybeans have been processed and eaten in various ways: roasted to make flour, extracted for their oil, mixed with water and filtered to make soy milk, which is then coagulated to make tofu, and the tofu is then fried.
One of these methods is fermentation. Turning them into natto by natto bacteria, turning them into koji to make miso or shoyu, are all ways in which people have incorporated soybeans into their daily diet, making them easily digestible, long-lasting, and delicious.
Let me share the basics of making homemade miso today.
Prepare equal amounts of soybeans and rice koji, and about 20% salt of them. Wash the soybeans well and soak them in water overnight to allow them to absorb the water.
Once they have absorbed the water, cook them until they can be pinched and crushed with your fingertips. This can be done by boiling, steaming or using a pressure cooker. In the meantime, mix the koji and salt well. This is called shiokiri-koji and is also used to preserve koji. Interesting, isn’t it? When water is added to this mix of koji and salt, then it becomes shio-koji, which is both a preserved food and a seasoning. This time, we do not add water, but leave it as it is.
After the soybeans have been boiled, mash them until they are smooth, and when they have cooled to the body temperature, mix them with shiokiri-koji. At this point, squeeze it with your hands and let the koji absorb the water from the boiled soybeans. When they are moist, roll them up and put them in a clean, dry container, making sure that there are no gaps.
Mirin mustard chicken plated on white dinner plate with sliced tomato and lettace
When they are all packed, flatten the surface, sprinkle with salt, weigh them down and store them in a cool, dark place to prevent them from being exposed to the air. They should be stored in a cool, dark place, where they will not be forgotten.
After a year, it’s ready. Easy, isn’t it?
Once you’ve got used to it, you can switch to other protein-rich beans, or change the rice koji to barley koji.
Take the time to prepare miso for your future self, alone, with your family or with friends.
Making miso is writing a letter to the future, wishing for our health in body and mind.
Malica Ferments | + posts

Marika Groen is the head of Malica Ferments, an online platform dedicated to fermented products. As a Kojiologist, traveler, brewer, photographer, and writer, she published the book "Cosy Koji" in 2021, offering insights into the art of Koji making based on her worldwide lectures and experiences.