Category Archives: Japnese Cultures

Section dedicated to Japanese style fermentation such as miso, koji and koji rice, natto, etc.

Tsukemono Pickled Garlic – Three Great Recipes for Japanese Garlic

Pickled Garlic – Three Great Recipes for Japanese Garlic Tsukemono

In our quest to provide you with culturing recipes to use with your ferments, we have three great uses for garlic in the Tsukemono Japanese style. All the recipes are easy to make and provides the healing properties of garlic. Try a small batch of each to see which ones you like best! Recipes from the book: Tsukemono – Japanese Pickling Recipes by Ikuko Hisamatsu

Garlic in Miso – Ninniku Miso-zuke

This reminds me of the ‘stamina’ soups we would get at little Japanese shops in Tokyo and Atsugi (厚木市, Atsugi-shi is a city located in central Kanagawa Prefecture)
Known to be the ‘stamina builder’, which is used as an appetizer, condiment, or pickle. Just a little goes a long way. The strong garlic smell will reduce in time of about a month or more. The miso will preserve the garlic for long-term storage.

garlic in miso

What is Needed:
– 9 oz of fresh garlic
– 9 oz of aged miso (We suggest using a dark miso, however, any miso will work)  Make sure to use an unpasteurized miso.
– 3 to 4 tbsp mirin (or a sweetener if you cannot find mirin)

Directions:
1. Start by separating the cloves of garlic, trim off the roots and outer skin. Make sure to remove the thin membrane under the outer skin.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the garlic. Briefly blanch  the cloves, remove from pot, and drain.
3. Pat the garlic dry, being careful not the break or damage the cloves.
4. Combine the miso paste and mirin.
5. Place a layer of miso in the bottom of the packing jar. Add cloves and cover with more miso. Keep adding layers of miso and garlic. Top off the packing jar with a layer of miso. Make sure no garlic is exposed.  You can also add a layer of salt at this time, which will help keep mold from forming.
6. Seal the packing jar or container and allow to sit in a cool place for a month or more. Store the container in the refrigerator during the summer months or in hotter locations.

garlic miso eggplant
Japanese eggplant with garlic miso paste

Once ready for use, the cloves can be either eaten by themselves or added to other dishes.  Use a light miso for a sweeter batch and a dark or brown miso for stronger taste.  Try making a little of both and see which is liked best.  Makes a great garnish for barbecued meat dishes.  Also, nice to thinly slice and add to stir-fries or to season plane rice. Enjoy

Garlic Honey – Ninniku Hachimitsu-zuke

This is a great cultured ferment for the winter season!  Easy to make and loaded with cold and flu fighting properties.  We recommend using RAW honey for the best taste and beneficial remedies.  The honey is ready in as little as 2 to 3 days. Wait around a month or more to eat the garlic cloves.  The garlic will start to break down if left to sit to long, best to make smaller batches to use within a month or two.
The honey gives a nice sweet garlic flavor for many dishes.  Or if your a garlic fan you can eat the cloves, like candy.
The garlic infused honey, when thinned down with water, makes a great hot or cold drink to enjoy or as a cold remedy!  One can find many benefits to using this recipe for health and well being.

garlic in raw honey
Garlic steeped in raw honey

What is Needed:
– 10 oz (300g) Fresh garlic
– 7 to 9 oz (200-250g) Raw Honey

Directions:
1. Start by separating the cloves of garlic, trim off the roots and outer skin. Make sure to remove the thin membrane under the outer skin.
2. Wash and pat the garlic dry, being careful not the break or damage the cloves.
3. Prepare a small packing jar by boiling in water to sterilize also called a water bath.
4. Pack the garlic cloves into the sterilized container. Pour over the honey. Allow the honey to set for a minute and top off, making sure to cover all the cloves.
5. Cover with lid and allow to sit in a cool dark place.  Fermentation times very, after a couple of days one should see bubbles forming in the honey mixture.  After a week, place in cold storage for better long term preservation. Enjoy!

Garlic in Soy Sauce – Ninniku Shoyu-zuke

This recipe works well to rid the garlic of the strong odor.  This recipe comes from Korea, but incorporates well into many dishes. Fresh garlic is the best.  Use a local source if possible(Support your local farmer).   Select well-proportioned bulbs as they are served in halves.  Takes about two months before ready for use or when the odor diminishes.

garlic in soysauce
Garlic steeped in Shuyo

What is Needed:
– 10 whole garlic bulbs
– 2 cups rice vinegar
– 1 ¼ c shoyu or favorite soy sauce
– 2 tbsp sugar or mirin to taste

Directions:
1. Choose round uniform bulbs that will form pretty plum blossoms when cut horizontally in half.
2. Peel the outer skin leaving only a single layer of skin to hold the garlic bulbs together. Trim away the stem for better packing.
3. Prepare a small packing jar by boiling in water to sterilize also called a water bath.
4. Pack the jar or container with the garlic bulbs. Add the rice vinegar and allow to stand, covered, in a dark space for two weeks.
5. After the two-week period, pour off 2/3rds of the vinegar (keep for other uses such as salad dressing).

garlic in shuyo
Both the rice vinegar soaking and shoyu steeping

6. Mix the soy sauce and sugar until sugar dissolves. Warming the soy sauce will help combine the sugar.
7. Pour the mixture into the garlic/vinegar mixture and cover with lid.  Date and label jar to know when the ferment is ready.
8. Just before serving, cut horizontally in half. Enjoy!

Enjoy these new uses for garlic throughout the winter time for stronger
immunity and health.
Happy Culturing…Live, Grow, Share Cultured Foods!

Making Japanese Shinshu Miso and Shiro Miso

  All Japanese Misos have the same basic recipe format; main difference is the quantities of the ingredients and incubation times. A dark or heavy miso will have less koji rice and more salt verses a sweet or mellow miso.  Once the koji-kin/koji rice is completed, you can use it to make this Shiro miso.  The fermentation time is quicker for this miso, 3 to 4 weeks, over a heavier miso, which can take 6 months to 3 years.  The following instructions make two very classic types, one fast and one aged for 6 months:

Japanese Miso Production
Traditional Japanese Miso Production.  Stones are used to hold down the koji/soybean mixture in wooden vats..

Making Shiro Miso

shiro miso

So let us get started! What you will need…

1-cup dry soybeans
3 ½ -cups light rice koji
2 ½ -tbsp sea salt
1-cup soybean cooking water
1 -tbsp un-pasteurized seed miso (optional or buy locally)
Note: The seed miso aids in the faster culturing of the fresh koji rice

Any type of un-pasteurized miso paste will work. It contributes active beneficial cultures, which in turn assist in the maturing/aging process. If you make a good batch of miso, make sure to save some of the paste for the inculcation of new batches.

Yield: 4 ½ cups
Fermentation Time: 3 to 4 weeks
Aging Temperature: 77F (25C)

Shiro Miso Directions:

Cooking the Soybeans…
Start by soaking the soybeans overnight or for 8 to 12 hours in 4 cups of water.
After soaking, drain the soybeans and bring to boil in fresh water. Boil until the soybeans can easily crush between your fingers. Add additional water as needed. Time for cooking is around 4 to 5 hours, or 30 minutes in a pressure cooker at 15 pounds.

Mixing the Miso and Ingredients…

Drain the soybeans, reserving enough cooking liquid. Transfer the soybeans to a mixing bowl and mash thoroughly. Add the reserved cooking liquid and salt over the beans, mix. Allow the soybeans to cool below 140F (60C), before adding the koji rice and seed miso. If the soybeans are too hot, the heat could kill the
koji-rice mold culture. Mix again.

Packing the Miso Crock or Jar…

Now that the ingredients are mixed, it is time to pack the miso mixture into your jars. This recipe will pack a 1½-quart jar. Sterilizing the crock or jar is recommended to help prevent contamination. Sterilize a dry crock or jar by heating it upside down, in the oven at 300 F for 30 minutes. Allow to cool before moving. You can use a beer sterilizer, too.
Pack the mixture into straight-sided jar or fermenting crock. Expel any air bubbles trapped in the mixture (a chopstick works well for this). Flatten the surface and sprinkle enough salt to cover the miso mixture making sure to cover the edges. Cover this with clean plastic wrap, placing it directly on the salted mixture and up the sides. Place a weighted lid or bag over the plastic wrap. Make sure the weights are pushing down on the mixture. Lastly, cover the top with a breathable cloth or paper to keep out dust and contamination. You can vary the recipe a bit if desired,
until it is to your liking.

Letting the Miso Culture…

This part of the process involves allowing the packed koji rice miso to ago. For Shiro miso, the period is 3 to 4 weeks. Once minimum ago is reached, take a sample to taste. However, try to save some to allow further aging to compare taste. Smooth the surface once again adding a bit of salt to cover.
Make sure to label each batch with information such as type, date packed, recipe used, date completed, etc. Keeping good records will allow the next batch to taste the same as previous batches or you can try new variations to your liking.

types of Japanese miso
Different Types of Japanese Miso

Shinshu Miso – Light Yellow Miso

Here is another classic miso recipe using koji rice and soybeans. You may experiment using other types of grains like wheat, barley or other substitutes for the soybeans. Unlike the quick fermentation of Shiro miso (3 to 4 weeks), Shinshu miso takes 6 months to a year time frame. Miso has a great earthy flavor and umami taste sensation!

So let us get started! What you will need…

2-cup dry soybeans
2 ½ -cups light rice koji
½ -cup sea salt
1-cup soybean cooking water
1 -tbsp un-pasteurized seed miso (optional or buy locally)
Note: The seed miso aids in the faster culturing of the fresh koji rice

Any type of un-pasteurized miso paste will work. It contributes active beneficial cultures, which in turn assist in the maturing/aging process. If you make a good batch of miso, make sure to save some of the paste for the inculcation of new batches.

Yield: 6 ½ cups
Fermentation Time: 6 to 12 months
Aging Temperature: 77F (25C)

Shinshu Miso Directions:

Cooking the Soybeans…
Start by soaking the soybeans overnight or for 8 to 12 hours in 4 cups of water.
After soaking, drain the soybeans and bring to boil in fresh water. Boil until the soybeans can easily crush between your fingers. Add additional water as needed. Time for cooking is around 4 to 5 hours, or 30 minutes in a pressure cooker at 15 pounds.

Mixing the Miso and Ingredients…
Drain the soybeans, reserving enough cooking liquid. Transfer the soybeans to a mixing bowl and mash thoroughly. Add the reserved cooking liquid and salt over the beans, mix. Allow the soybeans to cool below 140F (60C), before adding the koji rice and seed miso. If the soybeans are too hot, the heat could kill the
koji-rice mold culture. Mix again.

Packing the Miso Crock or Jar…
Now that the ingredients are mixed, it is time to pack the miso mixture into your jars. This recipe will pack a 1½-quart jar. Sterilizing the crock or jar is recommended to help prevent contamination. Sterilize a dry crock or jar by heating it upside down, in the oven at 300 F for 30 minutes. Allow to cool before moving. You can use a beer sterilizer, too.
Pack the mixture into straight-sided jar or fermenting crock. Expel any air bubbles trapped in the mixture (a chopstick works well for this). Flatten the surface and sprinkle enough salt to cover the miso mixture making sure to cover the edges. Cover this with clean plastic wrap, placing it directly on the salted mixture and up the sides. Place a weighted lid or bag over the plastic wrap. Make sure the weights are pushing down on the mixture. Lastly, cover the top with a breathable cloth or paper to keep out dust and contamination. You can vary the recipe a bit if desired,
until it is to your liking.

Letting the Miso Culture…
This part of the process involves allowing the packed koji rice miso to ago. For Shinshu miso, the period is 6 to 12 months. Once minimum incubation time occurs, take a sample to taste. However, try to save some to allow further aging to compare taste. Smooth the surface once again adding a bit of salt to cover.
Make sure to label each batch with information such as type, date packed, recipe used, date completed, etc. Keeping good records will allow the next batch to taste the same as previous
batches or you can try new variations.

White miso soup
White miso soup with scallions

Now that you miso is finished aging, your ready to use it in many recipes.  We have several miso recipes at our main site and are always adding new recipes.
Making miso is a great way to add living cultures into your lifestyle…Happy Culturing!

If you need pre-made koji-rice or koji spores please visit our store for fresh spores and other miso making items.

How to Make Koji-Kin Rice From Koji Spores

Use for Amasaké, Saké, Light Misos, or Japanese Pickles

Making your own fresh koji rice is not complicated if you have the correct tools and utensils on hand.  Some equipment listed will make the process easy for someone with culturing experience.  Making koji rice may not be the best culture for someone
new to fermentation or culturing..

What is needed…

  • A large bowl or pot for soaking 6 cups (1420ml) of sushi style rice
  • A sieve or colander for draining the rice
  • Wooden (traditional) or metal spoon to stir the rice
  • A large cooking pot for steaming the rice.  Also, a modified bowl and a bamboo or metal vegetable steamer (See photos)

    Tools for making koji at home
    Items for steaming sushi/polished rice
  • Pans or trays for inoculating the steamed rice
  • Heating mats/incubator with temperature control or a food dehydrator
  • Flour sacks material or cloth for holding the steaming rice.  No cheesecloth.
  • Towels for covering the inoculating rice

Ingredients…

  • 6 cup (1420gr) polished sushi rice (Plain white or brown rice will not produce the same results)
  • ¼ cup (237gr) white rice flour or fresh grind from sushi rice
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) koji spore starter

Fermentation Time:
24 to 48 hrs
Incubation Temperature:
85 F (30 C)

How to Make Koji Rice…
Let’s Us Get Started…

Step1:  The first step is to rinse and soak the sushi rice for 6 hours or more.  Time this to end at the point you wish to start steaming the rice.  Rinse the 6 cups of rice several times in fresh cold water until the water runs clear.  This will take around 3 to 6 washes.
Soaking sushi/polished rice  Rinsing is very important to remove the starch from the rice kernels.  If not removed, the finished steamed rice can stick together and makes complete inoculation difficult.

  After rinsing, cover the rice with 2” or 50mm of water and soak the rice in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours.  We soak ours overnight. 
Note:
  If allowed to soak more than 10 hours will make the rice soft and may affect the inoculation process.

Step 2:  After soaking, drain the rice in a colander to remove excess water.  Removing the extra water between towels will also work.  This step aids in keeping the cooked rice lump free.  Once ‘dry’ place the rice in the pan setup.  The setup includes the large cooking pot, a bamboo or metal steamer, and the modified bowl that will fit into the bottom of the pot.  Add two inches of water to cover the bottom of the pot, but does not touch the steamer.
Steam koji rice setup 01steaming koji rice 02

 

 
Line the steamer with the cloth and add the soaked rice.  Press the rice out to the sides so the steam will go through the rice and not around it.
We find that making a hole in the center of the rice helps in correct steaming.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil.  When the steam rises through the rice (not just up the sides), time the steaming rice for 50 minutes.  Watch to make sure the water does not boil dry.  Add additional water by pulling rice bundle to one side and pouring the water down the side of the pot.  About halfway through the process you may wish to turn the rice so the bottom will not over steam. 
Note:
Do not poor the water on the rice. 

CAUTION: Steam is very hot, so use utensils to avoid injury and safety.
Steaming sushi ricesteaming sushi rice

 

 

 

Step 3: As the rice is steaming, prepare the koji spore starter for inoculation.  Start by heating a dry skillet and lightly toast the rice flour to sanitize it.  Not not burn the rice flour.  Cover skillet and place in the refrigerator until cooled to room temperature.  Once cooled, add the koji spores and mix well with clean spoon.  Expel the air from the spore starter bag and reseal.  Spores are very small and adding them to rice flour helps in even distribution of the spores.  At this time, clean your work area, too.  Wash and sanitize the trays for inoculation.
Prepping the rice flour mixture Step 4: After steaming for 50 minutes, the steamed rice will look like a hot rubbery lump.  You may check to see if the rice is ready by taking a small sample and tasting it.  Properly cooked rice will have a rubbery feel and taste, the colour is somewhat clear.  Rice should not be hard (under cooked) or soft like boiled rice (overcooked). 

Steamed rice ready for koji spores  NOTE: Over cooking of the rice will not produce the desired finished product, as the spores cannot encapsulate each grain of rice.  Most important is that the rice grains are whole and not broken by over cooking/steaming.  The trick is to have enough moisture within the rice grains for the koji mold to form, yet not overcooked to the point that the rice will start decomposing.

Remove the rice from the steamer and place in the incubation trays.  Use a wooden spoon or rice paddle to brake up any clumps in the rice and create a uniform overall moistness and spread evenly in pan or tray.  Cool to a temperature between 113 F (45 C) to 80 F (30 C).

Polished steamed rice ready for inoculation

Once cooled, the freshly steamed rice is ready for inoculation.  Use the previously prepared spore and flour mixture for this purpose.  Sprinkle half the starter-flour mixture over the cooled rice and mix thoroughly.  Again, spread out the cooled rice, add the second half of the starter-flour mixture, and mix well.  Now cover the trays/pans with the cover or use plastic wrap and place tray(s) in the incubator or on the heating mat.  Sometimes an oven with the light on will produce the required heat.  Incubate at a temperature of about 90 F (35 C). 
Note: It is important to get the koji mold actively working before unwanted bacteria can take hold.  It is also fine to add extra spore starter, which will speed up the culturing time.

Step 5:  Throughout the day, every 2 to 4 hours, check the internal temperature of the rice koji.  Should hold temperature at 81-96F (27-35C).  This temperature range is optimal for the development of enzymes necessary to make sweet cultured foods like amazaké and make sugars available for saké yeast.  Temperatures higher than this will not ruin the koji for miso making, however, prolonged overheating will kill the koji mold and unwanted bacteria may take over.  Once the temperature is checked, make necessary adjustments to the incubator.

After 24 to 48 hours at 85F (30C):  Wash your hands and open the trays.  There should be a faintly yeasty smell with a sweet fragrance of mushrooms.  The grains should start to show white, fluffy signs of mold growing.  If the koji rice is not fully cultured, mix the koji and allow incubating several more hours.

Inoculating koji rice

Note:  As the koji rice ferments, it will produce heat from fermentation so decreasing the incubator temperature will be needed.  To allow better heat distribution, run furrows one inch deep and two inches apart.

Replace the lids and place back into incubator or on heating mats.  Make sure lids are tight to keep in moisture.  If the rice becomes to dry fermentation will decrease or stop altogether.  Adding a damp cloth over the trays can help if more moisture is needed.
The internal temperature should not drop below 77 F(25 C) nor go above 104 F(40 C) for very long.  If the rice is over heating, stir the koji rice mixture, level off and replace furrows.  Cover and place into the incubator and adjust temperature.

Step 6:  Keep checking the temperature about every 4 hours and stir koji rice at this point.  Level off, replace furrows, and cover.  Keep incubating the koji rice mixture, until rice grains are about 70 to 80% encapsulated.  Check this by breaking some of the grains in half.  By now, the rice should have a chalk-like whiteness and a sweet taste.  Once mature, bring trays to room temperature and stir from time to time, until cooled.

Measure out the amount needed for immediate use.  Once cooled, package the koji-kin into airtight containers and place in refrigerator or freezer.  Dry the finished koji rice product for longest-term storage (Dry at a temperature below 85 deg F).

Fresh koji-kin rice will last about a month, dried and keep refrigerated 6 months, and dried and frozen will last up to a year.

See our koji recipe section for ideas on how to use your fresh koji in many traditional Japanese dishes.

Advanced Techniques

 Some have asked on how to make koji spores themselves.  If the finished koji-kin rice is left on it’s own, without drying, it will start to produce spores.  Koji spores are dark green in color, as pictured below.

Koji-kin rice going to sporesTray of Koji-Kin Spores

koji rice spore productionTray of Koji Close Up

  Once the spores are produced, the natural culturing cycle is complete.  The cultured rice is dried at a temperature of under 85 Deg F and then ground to a powder.  The only problem arises from doing this yourself, is that of quality and purity controls.  Because the spores are produced in a home environment vs. a lab the chance of contamination by other molds and/or bacteria is high.  We do not produce any spores at our Culture Bank.  We buy our tane-koji and kin-koji spores direct from Japan! 

Happy Culturing… Live, Grow, Share Cultured Foods

Spore selections from our store:
15gr Koji-Kin Spores    ‘EM’ Tane-Kin 454gr Packet
Tane-Koji Spore Packet 20gr