TASTE OF LIFE/ Homemade miso: Slow down and take time with a simple recipe for homemade miso


Editor’s note: In the Taste of Life series, cooking experts, chefs and others involved in the field of food introduce their special recipes intertwined with their paths in life.

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Cooking expert Megumi Fujii bought a second home in Hara village in Nagano Prefecture in September 2020. She had been looking for a place where she could take some time away from Tokyo, where work caused her stress.

After visiting Nagano many times with that in mind, she came across a house where a woman in her 70s had been living on her own, and eventually she became the new owner.

The village is in a highland that spreads across the foot of the Yatsugatake volcanic group. Though the average temperature in winter can drop to below zero degrees, the area produces in-season vegetables seamlessly from the edible wild plants in spring to tomatoes, corn and more through the end of autumn.

“Each time I go, I am amazed at how good the vegetables taste,” Fujii said. In most cases, she eats them fresh or simply cooked with olive oil. “I enjoy their intrinsic flavor. They are so succulent that I don’t get tired of them at all.”

Though Tokyo offers plenty of good ingredients, they come from different production areas. While in Nagano, she prepares meals only with local produce and allows herself the luxury of enjoying only foods that are in season.

As she spends time gazing at the sky and mountains, she feels herself relaxing. Even when she is back in Tokyo, she began noticing how pretty the plants and flowers growing on the roadside are.

In Nagano, she started to give miso making a try.

“As a cooking expert, I was often asked to create time-saving or simple dishes that could be prepared quickly, but I had always wanted to make preserved food,” Fujii says.

At the earliest, the miso is ready to eat two to three months after preparation.

“The sweet and subtle smell is the sign,” she says.

Partly because the temperature is low in Nagano, it takes about six months for the aroma to rise. If the miso is left to mature further, the flavor deepens.

“It’s fun finding the maturity you prefer,” she said.

She is also trying to bake bread using natural yeast. After activating the yeast and making the dough, she looks for a place in the house with the suitable temperature and lets it slowly ferment.

The scenery of her life is shifting slowly–from days when she was in a race against time to life where time is on her side.

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Megan Fujii: Born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1966, Fujii is a cooking expert and national registered dietitian who graduated from Kagawa Nutrition University. She is known for her wide repertoire, ranging from daily side dishes to small dishes to accompany drinks. She has written many books, including “Fujii Bento” published by Gakken Plus.

Megumi Fujii (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

BASIC COOKING METHOD

Main Ingredients (Amount that is the easiest to make)

500 grams soybeans, 1,000 grams fresh rice koji (kome koji), 300 grams salt

1. Thoroughly rinse soybeans and immerse in generous amount of water for 10 to 15 hours.

2. Add drained soybeans in pot and pour in just enough water to cover them, then place on heat. When pot comes to a boil, remove bubbles and simmer for 5 to 6 hours with lid on while adding water if it is reduced. Cook until soybeans will squash easily between fingers.

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Simmer the soybeans until they squash easily between your fingers. (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

3. Separate beans and simmering liquid. Place beans in plastic bag and crush into a paste. Set 250 grams of simmering liquid aside.

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Place cooked beans in a plastic bag and grind into a paste. (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

4. Add 250 grams salt to rice koji and thoroughly mix.

5. Add soybeans and mix as if turning it over. Add simmering liquid and mix well. Form into balls the size of a softball.

6. Slam and pack 5 into disinfected storage container so pockets of air do not remain. Sprinkle 50 grams of salt on top. Cover with plastic wrap and place drop lid. Place a weight of about 500 grams, cover and let it age for 3 to 6 months.

About 4,970 kcal and 299 grams of salt for the total amount

About 35 kcal and 2 grams of salt per 1 Tbsp

(Nutrient calculation by the Nutrition Clinic of Kagawa Nutrition University)

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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Jinsei Reshipi (Life Recipe) column

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