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Making Soy Sauce At Home

Chinese Condiments

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#1 canucklehead

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Posted 11 June 2007 - 10:36 AM

Retirement can do strange things to people

I have an uncle who has always been a bit of DIY freak. As he and my aunt get older - they are becoming more and more careful of what kind of food they eat. Now that that they don't have growing kids to feed - they try to eat as much organic food as possible and grow alot it themselves.

News reports out of HK last year detailed alot of the lack of quality controls in foods produced in China - so they decided to start making their own soy sauce. I wanted to provide a little update as to how this is done - and I was surprised that it was not as hard as you might think - just a little time and care.

My uncle remembers growing up in post war Hong Kong when food was scarce and making ends meet was not easy. The war had left my grandmother virtually broke (from bribing officials to keep her kids safe), widowed, and still having to find a way to feed 8 kids. One easy source of protein was to make miso at home - fermented soy beans that was cooked with a little pickled plum and rock sugar. My uncle said it seemd like the most delicous food at the time.

Making soy sauce is simply removing the liquid that the soy beans are fermented in. They still end up with miso that they use as a condiment for cooking things like fish and pork - it gives a plumlike sourness . Now in Vancouver - we don't get as much sun as we would like - so the fermeted soy mash does not cook in the sun for as long as it should - so there is more acidity in it then you would find in industrial soy. Still - its pretty good.

Dried organic soy beans are cooked till they are soft and fall apart into a meal when squeezed between your fingers.
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The soy beans are mixed with flour - ratio that my uncle uses is 16 oz of soy beans (dry weight) is mixed with 12 oz of flour.
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The beans and flour is kneaded together to make a loaf. My uncle says that from what he's seen, alot of industrial producers skip this step.
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The loaf is then cut up into disks - and the whole basket is wrapped in layers of towels to promote mold growth.
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The mold growth part takes about a week - I will take some pictures then if the mold takes hold like it should.

The saltiness for the soy sauce will come later when the fremented disks are soaked in a brine that contains 8 oz of salt. It's funny - the salt water has been prepared for a few weeks now. Large containers sitting out in the sun (under plexiglass). I actually don't understand why this needs to be done - but my uncle says that my grandmother would always let the sun cook out the water - sometimes for a whole month. Perhaps this was a way to remove impurities - when tap water was not so safe - and nowadays, it may be good to let some of the chemicals used to treat water, evaporate off. Vancouver is notorious for its use of cholrine.

Hopefully the mold will take hold and I will have new pictures soon.

BTW - I have no idea what kind of mold takes hold and how my uncle ensures that it is not some killer strain. So - that's my attempt at a legal disclaimer. :laugh:

#2 Peter Green

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Posted 11 June 2007 - 11:11 AM

This looks like fun!

I'm waiting for what happens when you get to the pasteurization stage later on. Yoonhi remembers her family making their own soy sauce when they first emigrated, and the smell from the process would reach four blocks around.

And beware, it's short step from this to wanting to make your own fish sauce!

Cheers,

Peter

#3 michael_g

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Posted 11 June 2007 - 11:18 AM

Hopefully the mold will take hold and I will have new pictures soon.

BTW - I have no idea what kind of mold takes hold and how my uncle ensures that it is not some killer strain. So - that's my attempt at a legal disclaimer.  :laugh:

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Definitely follow up! This looks terrifically exciting.

Browsing from Wikipedia page on soy sauce, I was led to a Google Answers discussion about how soy sauce is made. They seem to think that you need specific molds and yeasts. I'm sure the first makers of soy sauce didn't have access to isolated start cultures, though, so I'm hopeful for you. Good luck!

#4 canucklehead

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Posted 11 June 2007 - 11:34 AM

About the pastuerization stage - I don't think that there is going to be one! Seriously - with the amount of salt in the brine - I think it will be safe.

The trick is what kind of mold or yeast takes hold. That will be in the interesting part. My grandmother never used a starter - just let it sit out and see what takes hold.

#5 djyee100

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Posted 11 June 2007 - 04:01 PM

And beware, it's short step from this to wanting to make your own fish sauce!


And in case you are thinking of making your own fish sauce, consider the experience of Francine Segan, as told in her cookbook, The Philosopher's Kitchen: Recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome for the Modern Cook. While researching her book, Segan experimented with an ancient recipe for fermented fish sauce. This was not much more than a pile of fish heads and carcasses left outside to rot. After a few days, her neighbor politely knocked on her door and asked if her cat had died. End of experiment.

#6 SheenaGreena

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 05:45 AM

wow that pictorial looks fascinating and reminds me of the method my grandmother uses to make dwaengjang paste (korean version of miso). I don't know or remember if she ever made homemade soy sauce though.

My mother drives an hour and pays about $50 for a gallon (possibly $50 for 2...can't remember) of homemade korean soy sauce. I wonder if I told her about your method that maybe she could make her own and sell it to other korean women?

Then again maybe I'll do that and sell it to every asian person within the area. There's a lot of chinese people in the area...........
BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

#7 takadi

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 04:12 PM

Wow, I actually went through a soy sauce phase and was trying to find a way to obtain the "most" organic soy sauce I could find. There is a small family in singapore that still produces home-made soy sauce from scratch. Tasters have described it as one of the most unique and delicious tastes ever. Unfortunately, that trend is phasing out for large scale production and short-cuts.

I went out on a hunt to find ways to actually make soy sauce, but I eventually gave up because I was told it was just too complicated and messy.

I figure this way is pretty simple. Alot of the methods I've heard of require efforts akin to producing some of the world's finest wines. I've heard that there are just some tamaris that can't be shipped because it's so "alive"...the bottle would explode during shipping!

I got even more interested in making my own soy sauce when I heard about the whole "human hair" incident in China. They take human hair, boil it down to make an amino acid slurry, and use it to make a soy sauce that is dirt cheap. Also with the carcinogenic chemicals present in soy sauces that take massive fermentation shortcuts (you can find that on wikipedia)

Edited by takadi, 13 June 2007 - 04:17 PM.


#8 takadi

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 04:26 PM

Here's a link if anyone's curious:

http://www.chubbyhub...-soy-sauce.html

#9 WHT

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 06:14 PM

BTW - I have no idea what kind of mold takes hold and how my uncle ensures that it is not some killer strain. So - that's my attempt at a legal disclaimer.  :laugh:

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The mold is an aspergillums variant according to a major producers web sit. It is highly toxic to parrots and some farm animals. The spores can survive extremes of cold and heat. Not something I would be playing with in my home.
Living hard will take its toll...

#10 canucklehead

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 11:12 PM

After about 10 days of resting in the baskets (layer of newspaper, two layers of very thin towels)

The Mold has taken Hold!

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I am amazed how wild spores have grown on the soybean cake medium. The dark mold seems benign to me - but the green stuff looks a little scary. My uncle said that this is what they looked like when they were being made when he was a kid. "People have been making this for thousands of years - and look it how big and strong I grew up to be".

At this point, they are ready for the next step in production. When sunny - the cakes will be laid out to dry out completely - and then they will be added to the brine to brew in the sun. I mentioned that they looked awfully pale to make a dark soy sauce - but he said that the brew will darken as it sits in the sun. "Just like how people get tanned." Huh? I don't understand how it can get darker - the brine is very salty - so I assumed that there would be no further fungal growth - but how can it get darker?

Takadi - you bring up a couple of intresting things.. My uncles and aunts also no longer trust the quality of many of the products from China. Weird shortcuts and poor controls have resulted in some nasty suprises.

Also, the article you posted discusses the 'first draw' of soy sauce from a batch of the brine. It is indeed the finest (drawing the comparision of the first pressing of olive oil) and it is much coveted. There is a restaurant in Vancouver which features first draw soy sauce in many of their foods - the best being dungeness crab stirred fried with first draw soy sauce. It is sweeter and more savory at the same time - a kind of heightened unami-ness.

I actually consulted a scientist about the dangers of the molds involved - and generally it is a very safe process and one would have consume ALOT of the dangerous strain to even get close to hurting yourself. So far so good - keep knocking on wood I guess.

Anyway - with the weather we are having (mostly cloudy) - the next steps may not occur for a little while. I will keep you guys posted.

#11 takadi

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 08:30 PM

That picture is SO COOL! I really wanna see how this turns out...

I don't have adequate knowledge, but to attempt to explain how soy sauce darkens, I would have to say because of some fermentation processes. Perhaps it gets darker in the same sense that our skin gets darker in that the cultures produce pigments as a response to the oxidation from the sun, in the same manner that apples darken when exposed to the air. But don't take my word for it...

Also, does your uncle have any information about tamari or soy sauce without wheat in it? I heard it's a byproduct of miso production, but is the process any different? Or do you just omit the flour?

Edited by takadi, 14 June 2007 - 08:33 PM.


#12 canucklehead

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Posted 11 August 2007 - 03:59 PM

Sorry to not post in a while

Here are the soybean cakes being soaked in the brine - these pictures were taken a few days after the soaking process. They have been sunning in the brine for a few weeks now and will continue to be set outside as long as the weather stays sunny.

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The cakes have since broken down into a mash and the soy is indeed much darker. I will post additional pictures shortly. Had a quick taste - and it was fantastic - very complex and fully of all sorts of unami-ness.

#13 Gabriel Lewis

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Posted 12 August 2007 - 10:58 PM

Thanks so much for sharing canucklehead, your soy sauce looks like its coming along nicely. This is something I definitely want to try my own someday, when I can get access to a spot to cure them in.

Oh and just to sate your curiosity about the color of soy sauces, that comes from a combination of things. Browning reactions are going on as the soy sauce ages, this is the work of both the high energy sunlight, time, and possibly some of the enzymes from the molds or other microorganisms. These are the same kind of reactions that turn bread into toast, or turn cut fruit brown; they just take a lot longer at lower temperatures.

#14 canucklehead

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Posted 31 August 2007 - 05:16 PM

Homemade Soy Sauce is done!

My uncle has removed the first draw - and the miso is being used for a second batch. He thinks that he will simply let the miso evaporate out and use the paste as a marinade for fish and seafood. The miso has a plum-like tartness that is particularly good with oily fish.

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The soy has an very interesting flavor - it is unlike any store bought soy. Less salty - more complexly savory - undercurrents of fermented flavors (like fish sauce). It's been boiled to sterlize it (which has killed off some of the more delicate nuances - but better than killing off me) - will keep in the fridge for a while. You can see that it is lighter and cloudier than commercial soy. It has not been filtered - and no coloring has been added.

Watching the process has been interesting - it is relatively easy, but time consuming. It would be interesting to see what would happen in a sunnier climate (say like - Sacremento) - if the soy would darken further.

Edited by canucklehead, 31 August 2007 - 05:18 PM.


#15 canucklehead

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Posted 31 August 2007 - 05:28 PM

Also, does your uncle have any information about tamari or soy sauce without wheat in it? I heard it's a byproduct of miso production, but is the process any different? Or do you just omit the flour?

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Sorry not to get back to you sooner - not sure about wheatless soy. I suspect that flour used as a medium to help mold take hold - and I am not sure what would happen if you ommitted. Perhaps I should suggest keeping one of the disks as a starter in a jar - then sprinkle it over a batch that had no flour to help the fermentation process.

That's the part of the process that amazed me - simply leaving out the soy disks to mold - all wild and by chance. Nature is wonderful.

Edited by canucklehead, 31 August 2007 - 05:28 PM.


#16 junehl

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Posted 31 August 2007 - 10:30 PM

Just a musing....

But I wonder what would happen if save some of the miso from the first time you make soysauce and mix it in w/ the soy cakes from the next batch. Wonder if it would give the soysauce a better/stronger (?) flavor? And if it would accelerate the process.

It would be equivalent of using a pate fermente when baking bread.

--
June

#17 canucklehead

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Posted 01 September 2007 - 01:16 AM

Just a musing....

But I wonder what would happen if save some of the miso from the first time you make soysauce and mix it in w/ the soy cakes from the next batch.  Wonder if it would give the soysauce a better/stronger (?) flavor?  And if it would accelerate the process.

It would be equivalent of using a pate fermente when baking bread.

--
June

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The miso itself is very salty - so I think it would inhibit further mold growth - but I think using one of the moldy disks would work.

#18 Macarons&Mozart

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Posted 05 September 2007 - 02:34 AM

My grandmother of 92 years still makes her own homemade soy sauce, and it's as a deep, rich ebony-black. I've only seen the finished product though. She ages soy sauce for many years...decades even...we have a small quantity of soy sauce approx. 35 years old. The most amazing soy sauce I've ever tasted.

#19 Seitch

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Posted 06 September 2007 - 12:12 AM

My grandmother of 92 years still makes her own homemade soy sauce, and it's as a deep, rich ebony-black.  I've only seen the finished product though.  She ages soy sauce for many years...decades even...we have a small quantity of soy sauce approx. 35 years old.  The most amazing soy sauce I've ever tasted.

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M&M, please find out from your grandmother how she makes it and post it here. Thanks.

#20 takadi

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Posted 08 September 2007 - 11:26 PM

THIS IS AMAZING! I love the way nature works and transforms. It's such a change to actually see your food in the process of transformation rather than just pick it up in a ready-made bottle at some store. There's a real spiritual connection you make with your food (as strange and hippie-ish as that sounds).

I'm a pretty sure there are many many different processes of fermentation, all with different results. I wonder if real organic soy sauces end up like yours...

#21 bvmisa

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Posted 25 March 2008 - 06:32 PM

Does anyone know if you can make soy sauce with rice flour?

:laugh:

#22 fmed

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Posted 25 March 2008 - 08:42 PM

Also, does your uncle have any information about tamari or soy sauce without wheat in it? I heard it's a byproduct of miso production, but is the process any different? Or do you just omit the flour?

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Sorry not to get back to you sooner - not sure about wheatless soy. I suspect that flour used as a medium to help mold take hold - and I am not sure what would happen if you ommitted. Perhaps I should suggest keeping one of the disks as a starter in a jar - then sprinkle it over a batch that had no flour to help the fermentation process.

That's the part of the process that amazed me - simply leaving out the soy disks to mold - all wild and by chance. Nature is wonderful.

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I'm glad this thread bumped up today. I missed it the first time around. Very cool canucklehead!

I have read that Koji is the mold culture that the Japanese use to make sake, miso, and shoyu (soy sauce). I know you can buy a culture of Koji (which I think is Aspergillus oryzae or A. sojae) in tubs (and for Vancouverites - Fujiya has Koji in the freezer section - I don't remember if it was the rice or soy version).

Using wild spores and mold is sort of like making Belgian lambic beer....which tastes more complex than regular beer.

Again thanks for this canucklehead.
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#23 jackal10

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 02:11 AM

When is the best time of year to make it, or can it be made anytime?
I noiced the original post was in June, so I guess some sun is needed.

You don't say how much water is in the brine,

#24 insomniac

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 02:41 AM

How could I have missed this thread? I make my own soy milk to make tofu and tofu fa.....will give this a go when (if) it warms up...

ps. remember with great nostalgia walking along the path by the sea at Yung Shue Wan village on Lamma island (HK) where the villagers were making fish sauce and paste out in the sun...alas no more...

#25 takadi

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 09:10 PM

Feel free to post more pictures up too!

I've researched a little more and sources tell me that I have to use koji, a special strain of yeast or bacteria, to create the proper soy sauce. Is this necessary, or do the cultures naturally appear just like they do in starters for bread?

Edited by takadi, 29 March 2008 - 09:12 PM.


#26 canucklehead

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 10:21 PM

When is the best time of year to make it, or can it be made anytime?
I noiced the original post was in June, so I guess some sun is needed.

You don't say how much water is in the brine,

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Making soy sauce definitely needs sun - the soybean brine needs to cook out in under hot sunny weather. In Vancouver, that means the window to make soy is pretty short.

Let me check the concentration of the brine for you.

fmed - thanks for the heads up on the spores at Fujiya - your food knowledge is genuinely impressive. So far - my uncle has just let wild molds take hold - so it would be intresting to see what a proper culture would produce. Not sure how to incorporate it into the soybean disks. Perhaps at the same time flour is kneaded into the soy. I suspect using a true culture would allow you to not have to use wheat flour - thus resulting in a truly wheat free product.

Cool!

And I'll second the hope that there are other home soy brewer's out there who will share some more pictures.

Edited by canucklehead, 29 March 2008 - 10:23 PM.


#27 fmed

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 12:02 AM

I'm thinking that simulating a sunny climate using fluorescent lights and an aquarium heater will help. Not very eco-friendly, though :hmmm:
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#28 canucklehead

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 01:57 PM

I'm thinking that simulating a sunny climate using fluorescent lights and an aquarium heater will help. Not very eco-friendly, though  :hmmm:

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Would you need a sun lamp (for UV rays?) - That's a lot of engineering for home made soy sauce.

#29 takadi

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 03:19 PM

I really want to try to make this during the summer. What type of climate/weather is ideal? Also, how much salt was in your brine?

#30 canucklehead

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Posted 02 April 2008 - 03:30 PM

I really want to try to make this during the summer. What type of climate/weather is ideal? Also, how much salt was in your brine?

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You need warm sunny weather to cook out the soybean miso.

Start out with 4lbs of water with 4 oz of salt to the above the proportions. But this is up to your taste - obviously, it should be quite salty. The water will evaporate as the soy sits out in the sun (in a container protected by a mesh cover - you don't wan things falling in, I think traditionally, it was bamboo lids that covered the containers) - add cold boiled water to loosen the mixture. Again - this is up to you, how salty and rich do you want the soy sauce?

Sorry to be so vague - one of the pit falls af trying to translate home cooking into a usable recipe.

Edited by canucklehead, 02 April 2008 - 03:32 PM.






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