What is Miso?
Miso is a Japanese seasoning used in a variety of different foods. Usually you will see miso as a paste. It has also come to be known as a Japanese superfood recognized for its high nutrient value and health benefits. It is said to improves digestion and gut health, may decrease the risk of stomach cancer, and strengthens the immune system. Miso is usually used in small amounts, which is probably good because of its high sodium content. One tablespoon of miso provides a third of your recommended daily sodium intake. Those with soy or gluten sensitivities may need to be careful and watchful of the miso ingredients as it is soybean based.
Miso is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji. It is relatively straightforward to make from home, but takes some patience (6 months to a year) waiting for it to be ready for use. The longer miso ferments, the darker color it will get. Miso can be adapted by using different ingredients or varying fermenting times for a twist on the flavor. These will affect the final taste of the miso which is why there are so many different misos in Japan. The most common types sold in the United Staes are kome-miso (soybeans and rice koji), mame-miso (soybeans only), and mugi-miso (soybeans and barley).
What Does Miso Taste Like?
The taste of miso is best summarized as umami. When added to a dish it brings out a deeply savory, salty-sweet flavor with the added nutrients from the fermentation process. If your miso tastes more sweet than salty, it has likely only fermented for a short period of time. The base ingredients also influence the strength of flavor. White and yellow miso are the mildest with red delivering the strongest flavors.
What Can You Make With Miso?
Traditionally, the most popular dish to use this paste is a breakfast Miso Soup. If breakfast soups aren’t really your thing you can always add it to glazes, stir-fries, sauces, marinades, and dressings. To add this yummy flavoring to your foods, mix a small amount of the paste with the base of your soups, stews, or other sauces. For dishes that cook for a long time wait to add your paste until you are nearly done. Cooking or boiling this mix for too long will kill the active bacteria that act as probiotics. These beneficial bacteria grow as a result of the fermentation process.
How Do You Make Miso Paste?
The first step to making miso is deciding what ingredients you will use. You can use Soybeans, Lima Beans, chickpeas, Farro, Lentils, and more as your base ingredients. Cook your base and mix it with your koji and salt. Create a ball to sit in your fermentation pot. Coat the outside of the ball with salt as a natural preservative. Then you will ferment your mix for 3 months to a year. The longer you ferment the stronger the flavor becomes. Short periods tend to create milder, sweet flavors while long periods of fermentation usually result in saltier flavors.