GEN4, Mastering the Miso Mystery (part 1, Koji)

To kick off our spring season of hands-on DIY science/art/culture/gastronomy/exploratory  Group Experiment Nights, our very own Amalie Knage led  the first part of a GEN wherein she showed a full house of participants how to make fresh koji from scratch, which after a few days will be ready for part two of this GEN, where we will make the fermented miso paste from soy beans and our fresh koji. We also tasted a wide array of fermented Japanese delights all made from koji. We sampled miso, natto, roasted koji, sake and more.

A sake toast to celebrate the microorganisms that made it possible.

Amalie first learned the koji and miso making technique when she was staying with a Japanese family on the West Coast of the USA. This means we had a Dane teaching a very international group of participants ancient food science learned from Japanese living in America—this GEN perfectly encapsulates the international and inclusive spirit of Biologigaragen! Knowledge has no borders.

amalie and farmer
Amalie on the farm where she learned to make miso.

Avery McGuire from the Nordic Food Lab was also in attendance. We have close links to the Food Lab and we in fact initially obtained the sporulated koji we used for making our own fresh koji. Avery was happy to share her knowledge on the subjects of koji, miso, fermentation and beyond. She gave us a great history lesson, starting by discussing the first time miso was mentioned in China in 300BCE and progressing from there.

Noah and Avery
Noah and Avery taste natto– which is another (and, subjectively speaking, slightly more horrifying way) to ferment soybeans.

To make our koji, we followed four basic steps:

1. We steamed pearl barley.

.steamed barley

2. We let it cool to 40C (temperatures above 40C will kill the culture).

letting barley cool

3.  We inoculated the barley with sporulated koji, which is grains (pearled barley) covered with spores of the mold aspergillus oryzae (a. oryzae is the same fungus that also helps to create sake and soy sauce).

innoc4. We put it into the sterilized incubator at a temperature of 30C and will leave it there for 48 hours. It has to be checked on every six hours during that period.


Feel free to come down to lab over the weekend and see the incubation in progress! We look forward to seeing everyone who was at the GEN yesterday on Sunday at 3pm when we will use the fresh koji to prepare the actual miso paste.

That GEN is already full but please join us for future GENs! Each GEN is limited to 15 attendees, sign up now for the upcoming ones to make sure you get a spot:

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