Jordan Wine Country Table - Vol. 15, 2020 - 39

of winter, he opts for more mature miso varieties, such
as Three-Year Barley, which are darker in color and
more concentrated.
South River Miso is distinguished not only by the
excellent quality and variety of its offerings, but
also by its origins. It is one of only a few artisan
companies that produce miso in the United
States. Founders Christian Elwell and his wife,
Gaella, have been making their hand-crafted,
wood-fired miso for nearly four decades in the
Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts.
They learned their craft in the Sonoma County
town of Glen Ellen, under the tutelage of
macrobiotic healer Naboru Muramoto, who taught
them how to craft miso according to a centuries-old,
Japanese farmhouse tradition. After making miso
with Muramoto for two seasons, the couple returned
to their Massachusetts home and began producing their
own miso in 1980.
" At the time there was practically no one making miso in the
United States except for an Asian company in Los Angeles and
another in Hawaii, and they were kind of mass-market versions, "
Elwell says. " The natural foods tradition was just waking up in the U.S.
back then. "
The miso-making process involves two fermentations. First, the grain is
steamed, and then inoculated with the spores of the Aspergillus oryzae mold
to create what the Japanese call koji. The koji is then salted, and the starches in
the grains are converted into complex sugars. After that, the beans are cooked
and then combined with the koji and some mature miso-similar to a sourdough
starter inoculation for bread dough-to kick off a second fermentation. The raw miso
spends anywhere from three weeks to three years in fermentation vats, depending on
the recipe.
While there are variations in the products produced in Japan, they are typically made with rice
or barley. " Using other types of beans and grains, like azuki beans and chickpeas, is something
that we developed at South River, " Elwell says. " Once miso was liberated from its womb in Japan,
it became more universal in terms of what could be done with it. "
This opens up a world of possibilities in the kitchen, as Knoll has discovered, but some of Elwell's
most beloved uses for miso are the simplest. " I don't do a lot of fancy stuff with it, " he admits.
" One of my favorite things to do is to make a miso broth with hot water and maybe a little
parsley. " In the winter, he mixes miso into unsalted oatmeal to give it a subtle, savory flavor and
bring out the sweetness in the oats.
Miso will last indefinitely in the refrigerator, whether opened or unopened, so a small jar goes a
long way. Like fine wine, the best miso evolves and improves with age, darkening as it matures
and losing some of its sweetness. After many years, it develops deep, complex aromas-perfect
for pairing with rich, earthy dishes, such as Three-Year Miso and Jordan Olive Oil-Marinated Filet
Mignon, paired with a glass of elegant cabernet sauvignon.
For those without the patience to wait, South River's offerings include misos that have aged three
years in wooden vats before release. The full lineup, along with recipes, is available through the
company's website: southrivermiso.com.
39
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