Soy is a contentious bean as it can be both
good and not so good for you.
About a decade ago I thought about my impending journey into menopause, and with so many women these days having issues with menopause symptoms, I thought I had better prepare myself through natural means- just in case I will be experiencing those nasty hot flushes and mood swings.
I read up on soy and looked at scientific tests done in relation to treating menopause symptoms, and I found it to be quite interesting and promising. I even read a book that was written by a doctor on using soy for this purpose with glowing reports of success. It was about the same time when my interest in soy was in full flush so to speak, that I also came across some very negative information on soy. Phytic acid in soy reduces the assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. Trypsin inhibitors in soy interfere with protein digestion and soy phytoestrogens can disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer.
Phew! Not at all straight forward it seems.
Traditionally fermented organic soy eaten in small amounts seemed to be the best option open to me, so the next step was to learn how to ferment soy.
This turned out to be really fun and interesting as I learnt how to grow moulds on rice so I could then ferment the soy and turn it into miso. There are two ways of making miso, one the old fashioned way and another by using a pure mould strain and using temperature control. This took some thought as the rice preparation had to be kept at 30ºC for around forty hours. I needed an incubator. My first incubator was an old fridge with a light fitting placed inside and a dimmer switch on the outside. This meant that I could control how bright the light was shining inside the fridge- hence how much heat was being produced. I had a thermometer placed inside the old fridge and checked the temperature at regular intervals and found that it worked exceptionally well.
So how do we begin to make miso?
To start a new ferment we need to ‘catch’ the right micro-organisms for the job. Microbes are all around us but to attract the right organisms we need to create an ideal environment for them to feed and multiply in.
How to attract the right microbes for making miso:
A Koji is a starter culture for making miso and the following method needs no specialized equipment.
Old fashioned koji.
Cook one kilo of white rice in a rice cooker adding one cup of water to one cup of rice. Allow to cool. Take handfuls of the rice and roll into balls of about six centimetres in diameter. Take strips of banana leaves and wrap them around the balls and keep them together with rubber bands. Place the balls in a well ventilated area away from birds and possums. The balls should be ready for use in about two months. The colours growing on the rice balls should be green and black. If you find orange and red colours growing on the rice balls, then they are not the right kind of moulds and these balls should then be discarded. Koji is best made in the cooler time of the year and the atmosphere should not be too dry. When the koji balls are ready, peel off the banana leaves and store them in an airtight container. When you are ready to make miso, wash the koji balls and add a little bit of water and allow them to soften overnight before adding to the cooked soya beans the following day.
Making the Miso
Soak one kilo of soya beans overnight in plenty of water. The following day, drain and add plenty of fresh water and cook until the beans are soft enough to squash between your little finger and thumb.
Blend, squash or mash the beans into a paste and add the broken up koji. Add ten tablespoons of coarse sea salt to the soya bean mix and scatter some of the salt into the bottom of a clean container. Roll the miso mixture into small balls (the mixture should feel like earlobe consistency) and throw the balls into the container so that any air is expelled out of the mixture. Scatter some more salt on top of the miso mix and place some grease proof paper over it. A plate can then be placed on top of the paper and some light weights placed on top of the plate. Finish by sealing the contents with some plastic wrap. Don’t forget to label and date the miso. It should be ready in about 9 months but 18 months is definitely better as the salty taste will have mellowed right down.
This type of miso will have a dark brown colour and is supposed to be very beneficial for your health. When frying or barbequing meat, add some raw miso to the meal. Burnt meat has amines all through it that are carcinogenic and cutting off the burnt bit won’t help. Adding dark brown miso will help to counteract the negative effects. Miso can also help to eliminate radio active substances and has the effect of rejuvenating damaged cells. Apparently miso was generously handed out in the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima to help counteract the damaging effects of radiation.
This old fashioned miso has a decided mushroomy aroma and makes excellent miso soup. My favourite way of adding miso to the daily diet is to add some to the salad dressing. I couldn’t imagine a garden salad without it. Now the big question on your mind is did it help my menopause symptoms? Well, besides some hot flushes every now and then, it’s been a big non event. Did it help? Who knows, maybe I just don’t have any symptoms after all!