Mitoku’s miso range, made with highest quality organic ingredients, represents the finest of this traditional seasoning and health food. Miso is integral to authentic Japanese cooking thanks to its bold umami and great versatility. Its rich, complex flavor depends on the fermentation processes that are fundamental to traditional production. This is what sets our miso apart from quickly fermented, mass-produced products.
Fermentation develops the aroma, flavor, and color of miso, and also imparts high nutritional value. Furthermore, miso (especially unpasteurized miso) contains active enzymes which aid digestion and support immune system health. As with all our products, Mitoku’s organic miso range is free from GMO and chemical additives.
Organic Brown Rice Miso Red – Unpasteurised
This full-bodied and wholesome miso contains a deliciously satisfying balance of flavors. Mitoku’s brown rice miso is made using rice with its bran intact, meaning it is packed with dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and essential fatty acids. In addition, the unpasteurized form of this miso is loaded with beneficial enzymes. This is a great all-purpose miso that works particularly well in soups.
*Also available pasteurized.
Organic Brown Rice Miso White – Unpasteurised
An unpasteurized miso, made with organic brown rice koji, Mitoku Brown Rice Miso White is distinctively light in color but rich in taste with pronounced saltiness. It is slightly sweeter than the red variety. Switching from a dark to a light miso can transform the taste and impact of a dish.
*Also available pasteurized.
Organic Barley Miso – Unpasteurised
This miso, known traditionally as “rural miso”, is characterized by its hearty and warming flavor, and is a great choice for soups, stews, and sauces. It is also distinguished by its barley aroma, derived from barley koji. Each product in our barley miso range has its own distinct color and flavor.
*Also available pasteurized.
Organic Hatcho Miso – Unpasteurised
Naturally fermented for two summers and two winters in 200-year-old cedar casks under the pressure of three tons of river rocks, Hatcho miso is the richest and heartiest miso variety. It has a distinctive astringent flavor and deep color, is very rich in protein and has mellow saltiness on the palate. Named “Hatcho” after the town in which it is produced, it is now made under the direction of the family firm’s 19th successive president to a recipe unchanged since 1645.
Organic Sweet White Miso
This light and sweet Kyoto-style miso is made in small batches, with a high ratio of rice koji to soybeans and a short fermentation process. Creamy and versatile, with a distinctive pale-yellow color, it is ideal as a dairy substitute and works well in dips, creamy sauces, desserts, and even baking.
Miso is made by mixing koji, mashed soybeans, salt, and water, then leaving the mixture to ferment and mature. Different types of miso can be made by adding different types of koji to the mixture. Brown rice koji is used to make brown rice miso, barley koji for barley miso, and soybean koji for soybean miso. There are many variables that go into shaping the taste of miso, ranging from the area of production – its environment and traditions – to the production techniques and ingredients favored by an individual producer. Here we introduce the basics of miso production.
Preparation and koji-making
As with sake and shoyu, the most critical element in miso-making is the fermentation starter, known as koji. This kick-starts the all-important fermentation process. The quality of the starter does much to determine the quality of the finished miso. It is not enough to simply sprinkle rice, barley, or soybeans with koji spores. Instead, the koji needs to be provided with an effective medium to grow on. If soybeans are used, for example, they must be washed, soaked, and steamed to create the optimal conditions for the koji to thrive. The producer must also be attuned to environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity in order to judge the correct ratio of koji to soybeans. These factors have a complex interrelationship, which can affect the flavor of each batch.
The following photos illustrate the koji-making process for barley koji. Koji spores (Aspergillus oryzae) are sprinkled on steamed barley in a warm incubation chamber. Inside the chamber, the steamed barley is transformed into koji and becomes ready for miso making.
Fermentation and maturation
The koji is now mixed with cooked soybeans, salt, and water in large fermentation vats. While most miso makers use metal vats, some traditional producers use wood, which provides the perfect environment for microorganisms to propagate and for the koji enzymes to get to work breaking down the soybeans. The mixture is then left to ferment and mature. For the first 20-30 days, the mixture is churned to give a boost to the beneficial microorganisms and ensure that the mixture ferments evenly. After fermentation, the maturation period can be anywhere from three months to three years, depending on the miso variety.
From sweet, creamy, and light to hearty, robust, and dark, Mitoku has an wide range of miso varieties available to stimulate and enhance your cooking.
The key to fine miso cookery is not to overpower dishes with a strong miso taste, but to integrate the more subtle aspects of miso color and flavor in a gentle balance with other ingredients. For example, when making miso soup, the use of a kombu, shiitake, kombu-bonito, or vegetable stock helps achieve a full, rich flavor with considerably less miso than you would need if you boil vegetables in plain water and rely on miso to supply all the flavor. The latter method usually results in either an overly salty soup or one that is watery, bland, and unappetizing.
With respect to color, bright summer vegetables, such as sweet corn or yellow squash, and lightly cooked greens floating in the beautiful yellow to beige broth of a light miso soup are pleasant in warm weather, whereas during the colder months the earthy tones and hearty flavor of dark miso soup with chunky root vegetables and wakame or kale are more appealing.
Certain general rules can be applied when cooking with light, sweet miso, such as opposed to dark, salty varieties. The light color, sweet taste, and creamy texture of sweet miso make it an excellent dairy substitute. For example, try a little sweet miso instead of milk, butter, and salt in creamed soups, and with tofu and lemon or rice vinegar in place of sour cream for dips and spreads.
To realize the full potential of sweet miso, it is a good idea to explore its uses in salad dressings and sauces. Sweet miso and naturally brewed rice vinegar create a delicious tartness that is both refreshing and cooling. Known as su-miso, this combination has a long history in Japanese cuisine and also works well in American style dressings, dips and sauces. Try it with your choice of ingredients such as oil, onion, dill or other herbs, rice syrup, tofu and tahini.
By contrast, dark, saltier varieties of miso combine nicely with beans, gravies, baked dishes, vegetable stews and soups. For a simple and delicious fall or winter vegetable dish, try adding sweet chunky vegetables such as winter squash, carrots, or parsnips to sautéed onions, steaming them in 1/4 inch of water until just tender, then seasoning with dark, long-aged rice or barley miso thinned in a little water or stock just before the end of cooking.
Dark miso also works well in thick soups using root vegetables such as burdock, carrots, and daikon. A lentil casserole seasoned with dark miso warms the body and supplies plenty of high quality protein.
Although not as versatile as light varieties, traditional unpasteurized dark miso can be used to make nutritious, flavorful, and satisfying miso soups that you can enjoy every day in fall, winter, and spring without ever becoming tired of them. Once the weather becomes warm, we suggest combining a dark and a light miso for miso soup.
In addition, dark miso can be mixed with sweet, tangy, or pungent ingredients such as mirin, rice syrup, rice vinegar, or fresh ginger to make a refreshing sauce. Remember, dark miso is stronger in taste than sweet miso and should be used sparingly.
Both dark and light miso are a good choice when you are looking for a salting agent, digestive aid, or tenderizer.
As a salting agent, miso supplies much more in terms of flavor and nutrition than plain salt without its harshness. When substituting miso for salt, add approximately one level tablespoon of any sweet, light miso or two level teaspoons of dark, salty miso for one-quarter teaspoon salt.
The powerful enzymatic action of unpasteurized miso is a natural digestive aid and tenderizing agent. In the digestive system miso enzymes aid the body’s own resources in breaking down complex food molecules. Foods such as beans, tomato products, and raw tofu may cause digestive discomfort. Miso helps balance and digest these foods.
For the same reason that miso aids digestion, it is also a great natural tenderizer. When used in marinades, miso enzymes break down the complex molecules of vegetable fiber and animal protein into more readily digestible forms.
For many people making the transition to natural foods, getting other family members on board can be a challenge, and for families with a commitment to healthy eating, cooking for guests who are not accustomed to this way of eating can be tricky. Miso helps bridge this gap. It brings a depth of savory flavor and a satisfying complexity to simple fare.