MONTH 2018
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The Library ...

Miso Making: Notes and Recipes
by Linda Conroy

Recently I offered a talk to an eager group of people on the topic of miso and fermented soy. While putting my notes together for this talk I realized that is it is impossible to talk about miso without discussing the way that Asian cultures have historically ingested this fermented food. The Japanese recognize that soybeans need careful processing to remove naturally occurring substances that are harmful to humans. They eat fermented soy products i.e. miso, tamari and tempeh, along with lots of other foods that have significant nutritional value. For example if you go out to dinner at an authentic Japanese restaurant you will be served miso soup with seaweed, burdock and fish or meat. These foods compliment each other and contribute a wide array of nutrients to a seemingly simple soup. 
One account I read described soups made of fish. These soups include the organs and bones, and are considered strengthening foods and good for anemia. Carp soup is traditionally given to women after childbirth. It is made from the whole carp, including the head, bones, eyes and all the organs except the gall bladder, and cooked four to eight hours with barley miso and burdock root.
This tradition of ingesting fermented soybeans has been translated in western culture into the ingestion of unfermented soy as a protein source. If you tour the health food as well as conventional grocery stores of today you will find soy in a high percentage of products on the shelf. Most Americans ingest unfermented soy several times a day, some on purpose and some inadvertently. According to Naturopath Linda Melos, independent research studies shown unfermented soy to cause hypothyroidism, pituitary insufficiency, infertility and other endocrine disruptions with as little as 2 tablespoons per day. She states that soy can produce asthma and other allergic reactions, immune system problems, irritable bowel syndrome, cancers of the digestive system and liver as well as infantile leukemia. So our translation of and the hard core marketing of unfermented soy products may be leading unsuspecting consumers down the road to poor health.
Miso on the other hand is a traditional Japanese condiment. It is a fermented soy product that when eaten in a traditional context; combined with shredded burdock, seaweed and a meat or fish broth has exceptional nutritional value. Miso can also be made by fermenting barely, rice, adzuki beans and/or wheat. Tamari is the liquid that results from the miso making process; it is preferred to Soy Sauce which is not a fermented food.
Soy like most beans has anti-nutritional qualities that need to be broken down before they are ingested or they will cause a wide spectrum of digestive distress as well as nutrient depletion. Generally speaking beans are well soaked to neutralize the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors they contain and to break down difficult to digest complex sugars. Simply soaking cannot break down enzyme inhibitors in soy; they are only deactivated through the fermentation process. For an extensive discussion on the topic of unfermented soy and the problems associated with it see Also note that it is best to purchase soy products that have been grown organically and that are not genetically engineered.
Miso is made by inoculating rice with a culture called Koji (Aspergillus oryzae). This rice is then added to cooked soy or other bean and/or grains and left to ferment for 3 months or longer; sometimes as long as 10 years. Note that Koji is a culture that synthesizes vitamin B, thus offering this nutrient to the body. If you would like to learn to make your own Miso at home get a copy of the book Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. I made two batches this winter and they are fermenting as we speak!!
Miso also contains minerals such as iron and trace minerals such as: zinc, manganese, and copper. A single tablespoon of miso can contain as much as 2 grams of protein During the second world war Dr. Shinichiro Akizuki, director of Saint Francis Hospital in Nagasaki and his associates spent years treating atomic bomb victims. Although they were just a few miles from ground zero, neither he nor his staff suffered from the usual effects of radiation. Akizuki hypothesized that he and his associates were protected from the deadly radiation because they drank miso soup everyday. In 1972 this hypothesis was confirmed when researchers discovered that miso contains dipilocolonic acid, an alkaloid that chelates heavy metals and discharges them from the body. Note that seaweed and burdock also bind with heavy metals and carry them out of the body. Eating these three foods together is a powerful ally for optimal health.

  Making Miso:

~It is ideal to make Miso during the cooler months. Fall and into winter.
~You will need to decide if you are going to make your own starter culture.
The starter culture for Miso is called Koji. The starter is made up of a fungus, Aspergillus oryzoe which is traditionally grown on rice. You can make or purchase Koji. If you decide to make your own  you will need to purchase the spores.  
White Rice is typically used to make koji, brown rice can be used if the bran is removed or minimized. Pearled Barley is used when making barley miso and many other substrates have been used. Rice needs to be steamed, not cooked.
For the best instructions on making koji see the Book of Miso by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi
Miso Recipe:
~4 cups whole dry soybeans (soaked for 10 hours and drained)
~1/2 cup salt
~10 cups Koji
1.     Cook beans until soft, up to 4 hours or you can cook in a pressure cooker.
2.     Strain beans and retain liquid.
3.     Take 2 cups of the bean liquid and add the salt to dissolve.
4.     Mash the beans to the texture that you like.
5.     Once everything is cool to the touch, add the brine and Koji to the beans. Mix thoroughly.
6.     Pack the Miso into a crock or a glass jar.
7.     Heavily salt the top of the Miso. *You will be removing the salt, so do not be afraid to heavily salt it.
8.     If using a crock put a plate on the top of the miso and add a weight to keep the paste under the liquid.
9.     With a jar, it is best to use a small mouth jar, as this will help to keep the miso under the liquid. Incubate or ferment at 77 degrees.
10.  This can be decanted after 4 weeks and can be fermented for up to 8 weeks. *this sweet miso is fermented for a short time. Many other styles of miso are fermented for 1,2 3 or more years. I have had delicious homemade Miso that was fermented for 5 years.
Salad dressing is something I have not purchased in a very long time. Back when I did purchase it, the ingredient list, no matter how "organic", always contained something I had concerns about. As a result, I began making my own dressing and will never turn back. It is so simple and one of the most nourishing things we put on the table.
Here are a list of reasons I make my own dressing:
  1. I know what goes into it.
  2. I can choose ingredients that add to the nutrient density of my meal. In other words, I am getting my vitamins and minerals from my salad dressing.
  3. I get to put my wonderful herbal infused vinegars and occasionally an herbal infused oil to the dressing (which lends itself to #2). Vinegar is a great medium for extracting vitamins and minerals as well as supporting the body in assimilating them.
  4. I can add new ingredients along the way, making each dressing unique and interesting.
  5. This dressings also makes a great dipping sauce for bread, vegetables and whatever else you are inclined to dip.
  6. I can make enough for a week or two in 5 minutes.
Adding herbs through infused vinegars and/or oils adds to the dressings the nutrients that the vinegar and/or oil extract from the plant. Vinegar will extract a wide spectrum of vitamins and minerals and provides the perfect menstruum for nutrient absorption. And if you use raw apple cider vinegar you benefit from the extra nutrients in the vinegar.
I often serve this dressing at class lunches, wild eats dinners and during the apprenticeship program. I am often asked for the recipe, so here it is. Enjoy!
Salad Dressing and/or Dipping Sauce
1 cup Olive oil
1 TBS miso paste or more to taste (in addition to our own homemade miso, we like South River Miso. Of course you can use any Miso paste that you have access to)
1-2 TBS raw local honey
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup Tamari or Shoyu (another fermented soy type sauce)
Combine above ingredients in jar and shake or wisk together.
I sometimes add buttermilk which thickens it and adds a creamy texture.
You can also add ground flax seeds, ginger, and/or garlic to make an Asian-inspired dressing.
This can be used on salads, any vegetable dish, grain dishes and/or as a marinade. The more miso you add the thicker the dressing will be.
Of course those of you who are like me, a scratch cook, you will add whatever you have available to create your very own version.
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz
Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery
Full Moon Feast by Jessica Prentice
The Book of Miso by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi (this wonderful resource is available as a download for free.
To purchase Koji and to order delicious Miso: South River Miso Company
To purchase Koji and other cultures: Gem Cultures:

Linda Conroy is a bioregional, wise woman herbalist, educator,wildcrafter, permaculturist and an advocate for women's health.

She is the proprietress of Moonwise Herbs and the founder of Wild Eats: a movement to encourage people and communities to incorporate whole and wild food into their daily lives. She is passionate about women's health and has been working with women for over 20 years in a wide variety of settings.

Linda is a student of nonviolent communication and she has a masters degree in Social Work as well as Law and Social Policy. Linda has been offering hands on herbal programs and food education classes for well over a decade.

She has completed two herbal apprenticeship programs, one of which was with Susun Weed at the Wise Woman Center and she has a certificate in Permaculture Design.

Linda is a curious woman whose primary teachers are the plants; they never cease to instill a sense of awe and amazement.

Her poetic friend Julene Tripp Weaver, eloquently describes Linda when she writes, "She listens to the bees, takes tips from the moon, and follows her heart."

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