Garlic miso is as simple and delicious as it sounds. It can be made in a few minutes and enjoyed for months, which is the best part. It actually produces two products too. A miso that has been infused with garlic and garlic cloves that have been infused with miso. The Japanese name for this process is Ninniku Miso-Zuke which means garlic preserved in miso.
If you’re new to fermenting, this is the easiest recipe I can think of to start with. It doesn’t require a lot of knowledge, equipment or any special techniques. What you’ll need most though is patience, because as with all fermented foods, it needs time.
What is miso?
Miso (pronounced Mee-so) is a traditional Japanese ferment that is most commonly known as a soup served at Japanese restaurants. It’s also best known for its rich, umami (very savoury) flavour. Miso is usually made by combining mashed soybeans, with salt, water, a grain and the beneficial mould Aspergillus oryzae. The grain (often rice or barley) is first inoculated with A. oryzae to form a fermented product called koji. The koji is then mixed with the soybeans and salt, and depending on the miso being made – is left to ferment anywhere from weeks to years. Occasionally other ingredients may also be added or other legumes like chickpeas or adzuki beans may be substituted for the soy.
In the miso making process, the A. oryzae present on the koji creates enzymes called amylase and protease. These work to break down the carbohydrates and proteins in the grain and legumes. The result is a delicious and much more digestible end product.
Does miso have any health benefits?
It sure does and plenty of them. Miso is rich in protein and minerals, it’s a good source of several vitamins like some B vitamins as well as vitamins E and K2. Given miso is a fermented food, it also provides beneficial probiotic bacteria for the gut. Be sure to look for unpasteurised varieties to enjoy this benefit though. This is because heating as part of the pasteurisation process can kill the beneficial bacteria.
How do I use miso?
There are lots of different ways to use miso. As mentioned above ensuring it’s not excessively heated is the best way to get most benefit from it. When making soup with it as an example, always set aside the just boiled water, leave for a minute then add the miso to this. Never add miso to boiling water! However, if using it just for its flavour properties rather than its medicinal ones you can use it anyway you like. I particularly love it in dressings, sauces, marinades and of course to use as a pickling bed for garlic. I also find miso (as a soup) is excellent for settling the stomach along with improving digestion. So, great before a meal or as a little snack if feeling unwell.
Is there just one kind of miso?
In short, no. There are several that range in colour, texture and flavour. There are some that are quite pale and sweet (young) and those that are very dark and salty (longer aged). Colours range from pale yellow (known as white) to a very dark brown almost black. Texture can range from very smooth to chunky too. When buying miso, you really want to consider what you’re going to use it for. Do you want a rich, dark and salty miso to add to a summer salad dressing? Probably not but it would be perfect as a marinade for meats. When shopping, you’re likely to see:
Shiro (white rice) miso – made with white rice koji. This is a young miso, fermented for a short period of time. It’s much less salty and much more sweet than red miso varieties. This makes it extremely versatile and great to use in things like dressings and sauces. It’s also great as a soup.
There are many varieties that fall under this name. They are reddish or dark brown to black in colour, fermented for a longer period, much heartier and saltier. Red miso might be labelled by some brands as just that, red miso. Others will label each variety, which may include:
– Mugi (barley) miso – made with barley koji. This has a very distinct barley smell and is the most mild of all the red miso’s. It’s also slightly sweet and good for you to remember that it contains gluten.
– Genmai (brown rice) miso – made with brown rice koji. This is mellow with a small amount of sweetness. It’s definitely heading into heartier/saltier miso territory though. This is more your everyday all-rounder miso so I think if you’re going to choose just one this would be it. It’s certainly my pick for miso soups too. It’s most often Genmai miso that you’re buying if (as per the miso in my pics) you buy a ‘red miso’.
– Hatcho (soybean) miso – made with soybean only. This is usually aged for many years making it very dark in colour. Additionally, it’s quite pungent and can have (but not always) a chunkier texture. When chatting to Holly from foodbyhollydavis about miso varieties, she said the heartiness makes it a miso most suited to those who live in a very cold climate. That’s certainly not us in Sydney!
What’s the benefit of fermenting garlic in miso?
I’ve no doubt you’ve seen the health benefits of garlic mentioned in the media several times. What many articles neglect to say though, is that the majority of those benefits occur when garlic is eaten raw.
Crushing or chopping raw garlic causes a cascade of reactions to occur that result in the production of a compound called allicin. Studies have shown that the allicin in garlic exerts heart protective, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant effects. Raw garlic is also a prebiotic-rich food making it fabulous for the gut, which you can read more about here. When garlic is cooked, allicin becomes inactive so raw is definitely best for those health benefits.
How often are you eating raw garlic? I’m going to guess occasionally to possibly never. Before you let out a ‘hell no!’ on the raw garlic munching… Just know that garlic fermented in miso tastes absolutely nothing like straight-up raw garlic. It’s quite soft and mellow in taste and cuts like butter. A long way from that super pungent, spicy raw garlic taste and crunchy texture. If you’re still gagging at the thought though, you could always just whizz up a clove with your salad dressing.
Steps for making garlic miso / garlic fermented in miso
The recipe is outlined in full below but in essence, making miso fermented garlic really only requires two steps on repeat.
STEP ONE – Add a base miso layer to your jar.
STEP TWO – Add a garlic layer (see pic below) then repeat steps 1 and 2 until the jar is full. Make sure you have about 2cm of headroom left when you’re finished. Also, ensure that miso is your last layer and that you wipe the rim of the jar clean before putting the lid on.
That’s it! Once that’s done all you need to do is find a bit of patience because you’re going to have to wait about one month (more if you can!) until you tuck in. If you’ve tried this let me know what you think in the comments.
If you’re also looking for other ways to use raw garlic, have a look at my chimichurri recipe. I’ve used fermented garlic in it before and it adds so much extra flavour.
Miso fermented garlic
- Glass jar
- Add roughly 2cm of miso paste to the base of a VERY clean glass jar (mine was 16oz / 480ml)
- Now add a few garlic cloves and just gently push them into the miso so they’re snug. Try and avoid letting them touch so how many you add will be dependent on the size of your jar. Three was perfect for me
- Add another 2cm of miso to cover the garlic and try and get out as many air bubbles around the sides as you can (not always achievable!)
- Next add another lot of garlic as you did above. Keep repeating the steps of a miso layer, followed by a garlic layer, then a miso layer etc. until you have about 2cm left at the top of the jar. It was about five layers for me. Remember to try and keep the air bubbles out as you go. The most important thing though, is making sure all the garlic is covered and none can be seen around the edges of the jar
- That’s it! Leave the jar on the kitchen bench out of the sun for three to five days to ferment. Transfer to the fridge and leave to ferment for at least another month or even two if you can wait
- Once ready you’ll have a jar full of garlic infused miso and miso infused garlic. What a combo! See extra notes below on how you might use it.