Blog_Chickpea Miso_Sarah_03.10.2015_1One of my favorite condiments is miso. It’s creamy, salty, nutty and has that rich umami that is so satisfying. It’s also incredibly versatile The process for making miso is fairly simple. It’s waiting to taste it that is hard! Here is a simple, no-soy version that anyone can make at home. Obtain a bag of rice koji, your favorite beans, some seaweed and salt. You’ll also need some fresh, raw miso from the store or a previous batch. And of course, a recipe! While miso is a long ferment, it is fairly straightforward and the results are well-worth the effort. It helps to know a few tricks. The first trick is that, unlike tempeh,  you’ll need to overcook your beans. They should be soft enough to mash fairly easily. Since you are using dry koji, having some extra moisture in the beans is not a problem. The koji will soak it up. Blog_Chickpea Miso_Sarah_03.10.2015_2

See how creamy and mashed looking that is? I love the color! I mash my miso with a potato masher if I want it a little chunky. This time I went with my hand-held blender. It made quick work of the beans, and incorporated the bits of seaweed well too.

Like most ferments, the next step is to mix, mix, and then mix again. If the salt and koji aren’t stirred in properly, there will be pockets of spoiled miso. Yuck!

The next step involves even more salt. It does sound like a lot of salt, but please don’t skimp. Miso is a ferment, and in a very controlled environment, you could make a lower-salt version. To safely make miso at home, be sure to use all of the salt called for.

After the salt, koji and starter are stirred in, it’s time for…More salt!

This time you will be moistening the jar and coating it with salt. If you have just washed and rinsed your culturing vessel, it will already be moist. Otherwise, fill with water, drain, and let drip for few seconds. Then add a generous scoop of salt. Shake the salt gently until it coats the sides of the jar. Using a fine sea salt will give a better coverage.

Now it’s time to pack the jar. Transfer the mashed bean mixture by spoonfuls. After each addition, pound the vessel on the counter (or floor if you’re me) to settle the paste well. It is imperative to work out any air bubbles. The trapped oxygen will cause the miso to spoil.

Once the jar is done, and you’ve woken the dead with your banging, add more salt to the top. Some people add an extra layer of protection with plastic wrap, but I prefer a thick salt crust. Blog_Chickpea Miso_Sarah_03.10.2015_3 Now you will need some kind of weight. I adore our fermentation weights. They are easy to clean and store and work well for most culturing jobs. This miso is a short-ferment so there the weights are fine alone. If you are doing a long ferment, you may want to add an extra layer of weight in the form of a jar or clean rock. Blog_Chickpea Miso_Sarah_03.10.2015_4

Now seal, and you’re done! I use 2 part canning lids, but any lid that seals well is fine. If it is very tight, plan on loosening it a quarter turn every few weeks to allow gas to escape.

Now the waiting part. If you are able to keep the miso at a consistently cool temperature of 55-60, it will take roughly 5-6 months. At 65-72, the miso will be ready in about 3 months. There won’t be much change at first, and you may wonder if anything is happening at all. Around 2 months, some liquid will start to form around the edges. When the miso is ready, it will have a sweet, nutty, mushroom-like aroma. When it smells like you can’t wait to try it, then you’ll know it’s ready. Absolute culturing times are hard to give. The longer the ferment, the more flexible the culturing time.

Mold is almost sure to grow on the top and around the edges of the vessel. This is to be expected and will not harm the miso at all. When it is finished, scrape off the mold and dig out the finished miso into smaller jars for storage or sharing with friends. As long as the miso smells pleasant and has not developed any slimy patches inside the jar, it is quite safe to enjoy.

Mixing miso with hot water is my favorite light breakfast. It’s also very comforting when I am under the weather. Add a scoop of miso anywhere you would use a bouillon cube for seasoning. Mix in equal parts with mayonnaise for an amazing sandwich spread. Or shake up with roughly equal parts of rice vinegar and your favorite salad oil for the perfect dressing on spring greens.

Don’t forget to start a new batch soon. This one will be gone before you know it!