I Eat Plants: Miso

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A couple of weeks ago, I got to go to a miso making class.  I love fermenting things, and I love miso, so why not?

Miso is a fermented paste, typically made with soybeans, though you can find others made with chickpeas and other beans.  Cooked soybeans are mixed with a bacteria called koji, which is typically added to rice; the whole thing is mixed with salt, packed in airtight jars, and fermented for some length of time.

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Mixing it all together.

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of making my own miso for a very long time, but I was under the misconception that you needed a cool, dark place, like a cellar, to ferment miso.  I’ve been an apartment dweller for many years, so I thought miso making was out of my reach.  Turns out, that while that is good and would be necessary for longer-term fermenting, you can do a shorter ferment at room temperature (still in a dark place, like a cabinet that’s not right by a heat source).

 

The miso we made in the class should ferment between three and six months. It’s been less than 2 weeks, so I can’t give you a report on that yet, but I did have the opportunity to try a variety of miso that the instructor had made and been fermenting for varying lengths of time.

IMG_3791A whole bunch of miso.  The lighter colored ones are younger and sweeter.  The darkest one was fermented for 2 years. 

Miso is not technically a raw food, as the soybeans are cooked, but as a fermented food, it’s full of probiotics.  Most of the miso you buy in the store is pasteurized, but the Miso Master brand is not, so it leaves the probiotic-y goodness intact.  I’ve found this brand at both Whole Foods and Mrs. Green’s, but I think you can probably find it at other stores, as well.

So how do you eat miso, and why might you want to use it in a plant-based diet?

I’m sure most everyone know miso soup!  Take a teaspoon or two of miso, add some hot water and stir to dissolve, and add in any flavorings/vegetables/tofu/tempeh you like- I’ve recently been adding kimchi.  In the class, I saw it added to sushi, made into dressing and dip, mixed into granola, and topping rice balls.

Miso is an umami flavor, so it’s nice to add where you want something savory.  I don’t care for mushrooms, so it’s a nice addition when I leave the shrooms out.  When I make kimchi, I add it in place of fish or shrimp paste.  I often use it in soup, even when it’s not “miso soup” per se.  It can help fill the “void” you might feel when you’re cooking something where you would use a small amount of meat or fish for flavoring.

I just think it’s awesome.

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The jar I got to take home, that now lives in a kitchen cabinet.

The class I took was held in Brooklyn, through the NYC Ferments Meetup group.  Now, there is a very small Westchester Fermentos Meetup group in our area- so if you’re interested in fermenting, you might want to consider joining.

 

Do you use miso?  If so, what do you like to use it in?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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About Author

I Eat Plants columnist Jodie Deignan went vegetarian in 2004 and fully committed to veganism in 2007. By day she’s a psychiatric nurse practitioner and by night she spends a lot of time cooking delicious vegan food for herself and her friends. She’s a bit of a picky eater, with a special distaste for mushrooms, seaweed, raw tomatoes, and eggplant, though she’s discovered along the way she’s a little more open-minded than she once thought. She blogs at The Picky Vegan.

2 Comments

  1. Jodie Deignan on

    I bet if anyone in your area can figure out how to get a miso class going, it’s you, JL. :-)

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