Around this time last year, I made my very own homemade organic sprouted miso for the first time. I even brought back a traditional cedar barrel for miso making from Japan in order to do this. It was quite a job as I overestimated what would fit in the barrel and I made 40 pounds worth! Yes, you heard it right. 40 POUNDS!! At the time, letting it ferment for one full year seemed like forever. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that I just put in this much work, but had to wait for a full year until it was done. I would hover over it with curiosity for the first few weeks, but then slowly started to forget about it. When the 6 month mark hit and I opened it up for a check up, I knew another 6 month was going to fly by. Then came Halloween, and Thanksgiving, black Friday. As I woke up from the mixed feelings of happiness and uneasiness from the shopping I did on black Friday, I remembered it. My miso should be ready!
I took the barrel out of the closet and sure enough, it was dated 11/26/15. Exactly 1 year ago, this miso was made. I couldn’t believe it was finally time. I’ve longed for this very moment so no time to waste! Let the opening begin.
I took the cover and outer lid off. The salt bags I used as weights peaked their heads out through the inner lid. I always liked how this looks.
I removed the salt bags and the kelp lid and the salt mounds were waiting for me. No sign of mold so far.
I peeled off the kelp lid made from laying kelp, and the salt layer greeted me. Usually, there should be a pooling of dark brown liquid, tamari at the top, but looks like I didn’t get much on this one. It may have been because I didn’t have enough weight on it, or maybe I needed a bit more water content, or the LA climate was too dry. You can see that the little bit of tamari came up from the miso and got absorbed by the salt layer. That’s were the salt is brown colored.
I scraped off the salt layer and the beautiful deep brown miso revealed itself. No sign of mold whatsoever! Amazing!! What a beauty!! Since there was no mold growth at all, I decided to keep the tamari salt to use for cooking. It should make a delicious miso tamari salt.
Just to make a comparison, this was how the same miso was 6 month ago. More of a yellow brown and didn’t have much sheen.
Drum roll! Then this is the same but 1 year old miso! The color difference is quite significant when you look at it side by side. A beautiful deep auburn color with a nice sheen to it. It also has a slight alcohol smell from the fermentation, which wasn’t there 6 month ago. What a difference half a year makes in the fermentation process! And the taste? A full bodied intense but well rounded miso flavor. The depth of flavor is like no miso I’ve tasted before. Ok, I fully get it now. This is an art form.
Since I used organic brown rice koji, the little rice grains were still intact. If you use the regular white rice koji, it breaks down and disappears, but the only organic koji that was available in the US was brown rice koji. I transferred the grainy miso into a couple of jars, and the rest was blended up in the food processor to make it into a nice and smooth miso. It took a good couple of hours blending and stuffing the jars with a barrel full of miso. But when it was all done, I just sat and gazed at these beautiful little miso babies. I was a proud mama!
My cedar miso barrel needs to be in constant use, otherwise it will get damaged so I immediately ordered koji for this year’s miso making. I’ll make some tweaks based on what I found this time, and post another miso making chronicle post.
That night, I made miso soup without dashi to see if the rumors were true. Dashi is stock and you cannot make miso soup without it. It’s sacrilege and if you tell a Japanese person you made miso soup without it, they will give you a horrified look and immediately give you the miso soup 101 lecture. But rumor has it, homemade miso is so good, you don’t even have to use dashi, quite possibly the only time us Japanese might be ok with, dare I say, dashi-free miso soup? The rumors were true. The deep rich flavor made the miso taste like it for sure had dashi, even though it didn’t, and boy was it tasty! I drank the broth up like a thirsty man in the desert. I can’t get enough of it! Guess what’s for dinner tonight? That’s right, miso soup!