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May24

A recipe for tofu-misozuke

We’re at an odd place in our development of the tofu-misozuke recipe. After 2 years, lots of web searches, several scientific papers, 1 partially translated 18th century manuscript, and more failures than we can count, we are finally having steady enough success to keep our fridge well stocked with the oenophilic snack that’s been our obsession since our introduction to it. On the other hand, there are enough random inconsistencies that we don’t have a recipe we’re absolutely happy with yet (and hence the several tofu misozuke experiments we have run and are setting up). On the third hand, things do not go awry often enough that we can reproduce the problems and pin them down.

Our very first encounter with tofu misozuke (aged for 6 months), Tokyo 2009

So when a reader asked us for the tofu misozuke recipe, the 2 of us debated whether we were ready to share it. Ultimately, we decided to stick with open sourcing not only in the finished products but also in development. What follows is our current recipe:

  • We’ll need sugar, sake, yellow miso, and firm tofu.
  • Wrap a tofu block in 2-3 layers of paper towels & set a dish on top of the tofu block and let it dry out for 1-2 hours.
  • For each half block of tofu, prepare a marinade spread of 1/2 cup of miso, 1 tablespoon each of sake and sugar. Mix well.
  • Wrap tofu in cheesecloth and smear marinade on all sides. How much of the marinade should be used is up to you and your salt preference.
  • Line a storage container with 2-3 layers of paper towels, place tofu block on top, cover and refrigerate.
  • Change paper towels every month (SEE UPDATE BELOW) – the paper towels will become really wet, yet the tofu will not be any dryer because enzymes in the miso are breaking down the soy proteins and generating water. Chemistry!

That’s it. It takes at  least 2 months for a firm tofu block to be creamy on the outside. We usually start eating our way in at that point, leaving the middle to age a little bit more.

We’d love to hear back from you how things work out in your kitchens!

UPDATE : Just a note to say that the paper towels will need to be changed whenever they become too wet, not strictly once per month. Depending on a number of factors, this could be as often as every week.

Comments

  1. Yummy picture!

    Thanks for sharing the recipe :) . I’m just a bit surprised that you are still going with firm tofu – I thought you preferred soft tofu in your previous posts – faster to be ‘done’ and more creamy?

    • Hi Linh,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      We like both firm and soft tofu (note my time course experiment has both kinds). While it’s true that soft tofu ripens faster, the flavor doesn’t have as much depth. It takes time for that to develop, I suppose. Tofu misozuke from soft tofu is more like fresh cheese while tofu misozuke from firm tofu has a stronger and bolder flavor. Creaminess is the same for both when each is allowed to ripen fully. We’ll make both kinds :)

  2. Hi,

    Great and simple recipe, thank you.

    I would like to make this cheese but i don’t ude any alcohool in my food (allergy), do you think it can still be fermented without using it? Maybe replace it by some organic vinegar?

    Any suggestions?

    thank you

    • Sake is a regular part of standard miso marinade used for other dishes as well and serves to make the miso paste more spreadable by adding liquid. Not sure of a functional role beyond that. This is a curing process, not a fermentation, so we’re not look to innoculate or encourage the proliferation of any microorganism, so sake wouldn’t have a role in that respect.
      Seriously not sure how a marinade without sake would work, but you definitely need to replace the sake with some kind of liquid to make the miso paste more spreadable. Vinegar may be a bit too sour; could still be worth a try especially if diluted a bit.
      Good luck!

  3. I just got some of this started last night (I used brown miso in place of yellow and shochu in place of sake because it’s what I had on hand — think that will be a problem?). The toughest part for me was wrapping the tofu securely in the cheesecloth. I basically tried to wrap it like a present, but that leaves you with extra layers on the ends, which I’m concerned will keep the paste from making contact with the tofu. Do you have tips on wrapping technique? (Pictures would be even better!)

    • Hi Aaron,
      Thanks for stopping by. We’re glad to see people trying their hands at this.
      We’ve also been doing a Christmas present style box wrap, so extra layers at the ends are unavoidable. That hasn’t been a problem.
      Brown/red miso, aside from being saltier than white/yellow miso, also seem to be slower at getting the tofu to develop creaminess – so you will need to be patient.
      Best of luck, please let us know how things turn out.

  4. Most of the miso we get in New Zealand is pasteurised but I would assume this kills the necessary enzymes, do you know what effect pasteurisation of the miso would have?

    • Thanks, Pete, for visiting and commenting. Pasteurization isn’t necessarily bad, and the enzymes are reported to be quite hardy. However, there are many methods of pasteurization, and they would each affect the enzymes in miso differently. Unfortunately I do not know enough about miso manufacturing practices or protein biochemistry to make specific predictions. I’m afraid you’ll have to figure this out by trial and error. I would start with a white/yellow miso with the simplest list of ingredients you could find (water,soybean,rice and/or koji,salt).
      Please let us know how your experiments turn out.

  5. I’m very intrigued by this recipe, and I’ve tried it at home a couple of times. The persistent problem: mold. I typically follow the recipe as presented, with firm tofu and yellow miso, bust can’t seem to prevent it from getting mold a few weeks in – I dry it out as much as I can, but after a month the inside is covered in fuzz. I tried it once with red miso and had less problem with that – there was a tiny bit on the outside layer, but it was safely removed with the cheesecloth, and I ate it without any ill effects. It had a lovely texture, but was a little intense, like a blue cheese. However, yellow miso never seems to work. Do you have any tips to share for preventing mold growth?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Brill,
      Thanks for visiting, trying our recipe, and commenting. I’m glad you’re having some partial success with the recipe – lovely texture and intense taste is what we hope to achieve. We too have found that the mold problem is less prevalent with aka (red) miso. However we do like the texture achieved by shiro (yellow/white) miso more and so we’ve had to come up with a number of solutions for the mold problem. They do seem fridge specific, as we had to devise a new set of solutions when we moved to commercial production after having success making tofu misozuke at home for ourselves.

      Things that have worked for us include:
      - experiment with miso brands. Look for the ones with the simplest ingredients list (water, soybeans, salt, rice, and/or koji/mold). Some miso are made without a proper fermentation step and will lack the rice mold Aspergillus oryzae (koji) which provide the critical enzymes for both miso and tofu misozuke production. It’s not unreasonable to think that the presence of Aspergillus oryzae also conditions the environment to prevent growth by other competing microorganisms. It’s also possible that the fuzz you see actually are Aspergillus oryzae, in which case the following steps may help to prevent that harmless but unsightly problem:
      - using more marinade to improve the salt content. Aka miso is saltier and that maybe the key reason why it’s less susceptible to mold growth.
      - changing the paper towels more often during the first couple of weeks to eliminate moisture accumulation.
      - something that bakers do to protect their stored frostings from mold growth is to cover with plastic wrap in such a way that airspace is eliminated.
      - aging the tofu in a zippered plastic bag and eliminating airspace by submerging it in water up to the zipper line then sealing (a technique borrowed from low temperature cooking experiments). We haven’t tried this yet, and one would think doing so would require more frequent paper towel change, too.

      • I tried to make misozuke last year, I did 2 batches, but each time they also collected mold.
        Thanks for this post – I really want to give the recipe another go when I have more patience.

      • I tried this recipe last year – I did two batches but both times there was mold growth. Thanks for posting this, I would love to try again when I have more patience. Is fresh tofu or store bought best to use?

  6. David Rossi says:

    The first batch I attempted came out sort of chalky, with a texture and taste similar to feta cheese. The second batch was a month in when I was changing the paper towel, and noticed a bunch of different molds on it. I thought that it was ruined, but when I unwrapped it, it was creamy looking. I decided to taste, and to my surprise it was delicious, creamy, and spreadable. I am wondering if the fungus had anything to do with advancing the process. I used sake, sugar, and yellow miso.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed your DIY tofu misozuke.
      The creaminess in tofu misozuke is effected by an enzyme in the koji/rice mold used to make miso. The enzyme is very stable and its activity apparently persists even when the organism is no longer actively proliferating. We know for a fact that the creaminess is possible without the moldy spots because elimination of the molds that was one of our research goals when we were trying to scale up.
      As for the crumbliness, we have noticed that in tofu misozuke that has not aged long enough. Squeezing out the water at the beginning of the process and incomplete digestion of tofu proteins by the enzyme above lead to a drier, chalkier tofu misozuke. I think that’s the problem there – for one reason or another the enzyme activity was inhibited in your first batch.

  7. How big is the tofu block used in this recipe? I have a 300 grams (10.5 oz) block, do I have to cut it in half?

    Also, is the sugar a must? can it be replaced with some liquid sweetener like maple, agave and other syrups?

    • I don’t know about “have to” but if it’s not too inconvenient, I’d just cut the block to make it easier to cure. We do cut our 14 oz tofu blocks in half, fwiw.
      I’ve never tried using syrups but I wouldn’t expect any major difference. Please let us know when you do find out. Thanks for visiting!

  8. Is there any reason not to just coat the outside of tofu directly with the marinade rather than putting on outside of cheesecloth?

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting. Putting miso marinade directly on the tofu makes clean up harder. When the tofu is soft and creamy, scraping the miso away is a production.

  9. I had trouble getting the miso to stick to the cheese cloth, so I did the best i could. It looks very sloppy, but I hope it’s still ok. Any comments?

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting Diane. Sloppiness is OK. In fact, the cheese cloth by capillary action should also help spread the diffusible elements of miso around to the tofu. Best of luck!

  10. I’m going to make this soon, but I wonder, since it’s a an enzymatically cured product and not fermented, I could try using something antifungal in the marinade to combat the seemingly very common mold problem, without hurting the process, right? I’m thinking xylitol instead of the sugar, and perhaps some strongly brewed pau d’arco tea in place of the sake. Those shouldn’t affect the flavour too much.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Another blogger has provided a link to making tofu-misozuke, which is the version of this that is made in Japan, except it’s fermented for at least two [...]

  2. [...] experiments, as no experiment is truly ever complete, even open sourcing their Tofu Misozuke recipe online, and suggest ingredient pairings. They’re experimenting at the moment with Tofu Misozuke [...]

  3. [...] as no experiment is truly ever complete, even open sourcing their Tofu Misozuke recipe online, and suggest ingredient pairings. They’re experimenting at the moment with Tofu Misozuke [...]

  4. [...] and don’t mind waiting two months, you can try making it yourself with Rau Om’s recipe here. I’ll be attempting to make my first batch this weekend since the two blocks I ordered were [...]

  5. [...] online. You can also try your hand at making it yourself, the nice people at Rau Om have made the recipe open source, which is so cool. Another thing to add to the bucket list of [...]

  6. [...] slathered in miso in my refrigerator for two months, after learning about tofu misozuke from the brilliant bloggers at Rau Om. It was supposed to taste like blue cheese… so why not a vegan blue cheese [...]

  7. [...] dairy products, so I’m always up for trying new vegan cheese recipes. I met the bloggers at Rau Om through my counter-top tofu cheese post. They told me about their experiments in making tofu [...]

  8. [...] en bredbar ost, och förvandla ett vanligt block tofu till krämig ost på 2 månader. Tillverkaren Rau Om som själva utvecklat sitt recept tror på att dela med sig, och har därför lagt upp sitt recept [...]

  9. [...] If I had not known what tofu misozuke was, I would have thought that I had just eaten cheese. Is the next step to make it at home? [...]

  10. [...] http://www.rauom.com/2011/05/24/tofu-misozuke-recipe/#more-1583 The key to the texture are the enzymes in the miso, breaking long protein chains down into flavourful and rich, unctuous oohs and aaahs…but now we’ve got to wait another 2 months for the next batch! You’re welcome. Kishk Cooked grain, mixed with salt and a starter culture, then kneaded every day for around 7-10 days, then stored or eaten. I’ve used various grains and cultures. My best batch so far was millet and coconut kefir (made with a water kefir starter). It was tangy, fizzy and absolutely delicious. It can also be stored in olive oil, which worked well, but i’m not sure it’s necessary if you’re going to eat it quickly. On the kefir front I’ve dried some water and milk grains to take with me on my travels, to share with folks. I’ve read that they re-hydrate really well, and aren’t too affected by the process. I’ll give that a practise run before I go. Here’s a good link with more info. http://tarantinofoodvice.wordpress.com/2010/04/19/cheese-or-grain-its-kishk/ Cultured nut cheese Very simply, soak cashew nuts (for example), grind or blend in some way till smooth, then culture, again with kefir, buttermilk or sauerkraut juice. Miso is a great addition. Taste it when thoroughly mixed and add more salt if you like. You don’t want to add too much liquid. Then culture it somewhere warm, and leave it somewhere cool when it’s reached your personal level of readiness. I use a suribachi, a Japanese mortar with grooves that seem to grind better than a Western pestle and mortar. I’ve also a tried a brazil/cashew/miso cheese, very nice! I’d like to try adding sesame/tahini. As i’m not vegan I might try adding kefir butter to it, for richness and tang. [...]

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