Rice wine, also known as mijiu, is an alcoholic drink made from sticky rice, traditionally consumed in East and Southeast Asia, and also South Asia. Rice wine is made from the fermentation of rice starch that has been converted to sugars, which in turn produces alcohol. Microbes are the source of the enzymes that convert
the starches to sugar.
Rice wine typically has an alcohol content of 18%–25% ABV.
Rice wines are used in Asian gastronomy at formal dinners
and banquets, but many types are used in cooking.
They are also used in a religious and ceremonial context.
Best known rice wine types are Japanese mirin, mageolli a milky traditional wine from Korea, and of course Japanese sake. Sake is the most widely known type of rice wine in North America because of its ubiquitous appearance in Japanese restaurants.
There are many other types of wines produced from rice with each country and area having it’s own style of wine. Many types come from China and lesser known traditional styles are from Korea, Philippines, India, and smaller tribes from Asia.
We offer three types of rice wine starter kits. Easy to make and enjoy for the holidays. Most starters make 1L of wine and takes about a week to produce. Happy Brewing!
Now that you have made a fresh batch or purchased your koji rice, the next step is what to do with it. Many people use koji-kin to make saké, amasaké, or miso. However, what other ways are there to turn koji rice into something extraordinary? Here are a few recipes to get you started…
Basic Amazaké Ferment
Used in Japan as a sweetener, beverage, or a simple alcoholic drink. Amazake is one of the best known cultured and fermented items from Japan. There are several recipes for amazake that have been used for hundreds of years. By a popular recipe, kōji is added to cooled whole grain rice causing enzymes to break down the carbohydrates into simpler unrefined sugars. As the mixture incubates, sweetness develops naturally.
By another popular recipe, sake kasu is simply mixed with water, but usually sugar is added. In this recipe, amazake becomes low-alcohol beverage if given time.
Amazake can be used as a dessert, snack, natural sweetening agent, baby food, added in salad dressing or smoothies. The traditional drink (prepared by combining amazake and water, heated to a simmer, and often topped with a pinch of finely grated ginger) was popular with street vendors, and it is still served at inns, tea houses, and at festivals. Many Shinto shrines in Japan provide or sell it during the New Year!
What is needed…
3- cups cooked brown rice
1- cup light koji rice
Yield: 4 cups of fermented rice to use as a sweetener or 3 quarts Amazaké drink
Incubation Temperature: 120-140 F (50-60C)
Start by cooking the brown rice and allowing it to cool to at least 140 F (60C). Once cooled, stir in the koji rice and mix well. Place mixture into a glass or stainless steel container that will allow an inch of “headroom” to allow for expansion during the fermentation process. Cover container and incubate, stirring every couple of hours to prevent heat build up. The finished product can take as little as 6 hours with quality, fresh (not dried) koji-kin at optimum temperatures, after 6 hours start tasting the ferment to see if the cycle is complete.
When finished the ferment should thicken like porridge with a mild sweet taste. The sweetness will increase up to a point after which it will change and start to become sour. Once the taste is to your liking, place into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 to 5 min., stirring frequently. Boiling will stop the fermentation process keeping the amazaké sweet. For a smother amazaké consistency purée the mixture in a blender until smooth. Refrigerate any ferment not used right away. If not, the amazaké will become very sour.
Amazaké Sweetener: Use ¼-cup ferment for each tbsp of sweetener called for in your favorite recipes and reducing the cooking liquid by 3 Tbsp. Baked goods will be rich and moist with a more subtle sweetness.
Amazaké Drink: For HOT amazaké, heat one part ferment and two parts very hot water. Add a dash of shoyu and a grating of fresh ginger root. Serve blended mix in heated mugs. For a cold drink, blend 1 part amazaké ferment and 2 part fruit, fruit juices, soymilk water and/or flavoring of your choice.
Doburoku: For simple “grog”, leave the amazaké ferment in the incubator for several days, stirring and tasting occasionally, until it develops a heady, alcoholic aroma. Blend as above, traditionally served in Japan as a thick and creamy drink or dilute to taste.
Mellow Pickled Cabbage
In Japan, pickled vegetables come with many meals, as a condiment or side dish. In Japan it is called ‘Kyabetsu no asazuke’. Unlike normal pickles this recipe is a fermented pickled delight. Like German style sauerkraut, pickled veggies are uncomplicated to make into a fermented snack or condiment!
What is needed…
1 – pound organic cabbage of your choice or a mix of green and reds. Use American style or Napa/Chinese styles
2 – Tbsp non-iodized salt (Kosher or sea salt)
¼-cup koji rice
¼-cup warm water
½ tsp honey or other sweetener
A Japanese tsukemono pickle press
Start by removing the center core and shred the cabbage coarsely. Mix well with the salt and pack into a glass bowl. Put a small enough plate to fit inside the bowl and weight it down with water filled glass jar or non-metal container.
Refrigerate for 3 days.
After 3 days, draw off the liquid from the cabbage but do not rinse.
TIP: Save the liquid brine for other uses. Dissolve the honey/sweetener in the warm water and add the koji rice. Set aside until the koji has dissolved the liquid and softened.
Next, mix the soaked koji and cabbage, mixing well. Pack contents into a straight-sided container, Add a plate and weight to keep everything under the liquid. Submerging the cabbage keeps the mixture from contamination with unwanted bacteria. Allow 4 to 5 days for the flavor to develop then refrigerate. Use within a week or two.
For those who do not wish to mess with jar and weights, a Japanese pickle fermenter is a great investment. Visit our shop to purchase the Japanese tsukemono pickle press. See photos for recommended styles.
Koji Rice Pickled Sea & Root Vegetable Condiment
Here is another great recipe for using your fresh made koji-kin rice. It is a mix of seaweed and root vegetables
with a lot of umami flavor and health.
What is needed…
– ¼ cup of fresh light koji-kin rice
– ½ oz dry kombu, wakamé, or sea palm. Should yield about ½ cup after soaking
– 1 to 1 ½ cups daikon, baby burdock root, or carrot. We enjoy a combination of all three. Try using any type of herbal roots, too.
– ¼ cup naturally fermented soy sauce, shoyu, or tamari
– ¼ cup mild vinegar, plain or flavored
– ¼ cup mirin or saké. Mirin imparts a sweet component to the mix and saké a dry alternative, extremely recommended!
Start by soaking the Kombu and/or other sea vegetable for 10 to 20 min. in just enough water to cover, soak until softened. Reserve ¼ cup of the soaking water and cut the sea vegetables into slivers or short ribbons. Next, scrub the root vegetables to remove any soil and cut them into thin slivers. Place the root vegetables, sea vegetables, and reserved soaking liquid into a saucepan and bring to a low boil. Add soy sauce and vinegar and return to a low boil. Cover and remove from heat. This step kills of any unwanted bacteria or wild yeast.
When the mixture has cooled to 110F (45C) (warm, but not too hot to touch) transfer to a glass bowl and stir in the koji-kin, mirin, and saké. Let the mixture mature for 4 hours at a cool to moderate room temperature, covered, stirring occasionally from time to time.
The pickled vegetables are ready to consume now or pack into quart mason jars and refrigerate the unused portion, which will continue to mellow and enhance the flavors even more over time. But first enjoy a bowl with your favorite grains!
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)
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
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
24 to 48 hrs
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.
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.
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.
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. 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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
Tray of Koji-Kin Spores
Tray 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!