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Making Soy Sauce At Home


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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:

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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

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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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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.

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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.

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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
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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 (log)
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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:

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...
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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.

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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 (log)
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  • 1 month later...

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.

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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.

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  • 3 weeks later...

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 (log)
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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?

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 (log)
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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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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

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.

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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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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.

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

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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...

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  • 6 months later...
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?

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.

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.

fmed

de gustibus non est disputandum

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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...

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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 (log)
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      Then we have these fellows – tea tree mushrooms (茶树菇 chá shù gū). These I like. They take a bit of cooking as the stems are quite tough, so they are mainly used in stews and soups. But their meaty texture and distinct taste is excellent. These are also available dried.
       

       
      Then there are the delightfully named 鸡腿菇 jī tuǐ gū or “chicken leg mushrooms”. These are known in English as "shaggy ink caps". Only the very young, still white mushrooms are eaten, as mature specimens have a tendency to auto-deliquesce very rapidly, turning to black ‘ink’, hence the English name.
       

       
      Not in season now, but while I’m here, let me mention a couple of other mushrooms often found in the supermarkets. First, straw mushrooms (草菇 cǎo gū). Usually only found canned in western countries, they are available here fresh in the summer months. These are another favourite – usually braised with soy sauce – delicious! When out of season, they are also available canned here.
       

       
      Then there are the curiously named Pig Stomach Mushrooms (猪肚菇 zhū dù gū, Infundibulicybe gibba. These are another favourite. They make a lovely mushroom omelette. Also, a summer find.
       

       
      And finally, not a mushroom, but certainly a fungus and available fresh is the wood ear (木耳 mù ěr). It tastes of almost nothing, but is prized in Chinese cuisine for its crunchy texture. More usually sold dried, it is available fresh in the supermarkets now.
       

       
      Please note that where I have given Chinese names, these are the names most commonly around this part of China, but many variations do exist.
       
      Coming up next - the dried varieties available.
    • By liuzhou
      According to the 2010 census, there were officially 1,830,929 ethnic Koreans living in China and recognised as one of China’s 56 ethnic groups. The largest concentration is in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Jilin Province, in the north-east bordering - guess where – North Korea. They have been there for centuries. The actual number today is widely believed to be higher, with some 4 to 5 thousand recent refugees living there illegally.
       
      Anyway, what I have just taken delivery of is this Korean blood and glutinous rice sausage from Yanbian. I am an inveterate blood sausage fiend and always eager to try new examples from as many places as possible. I'll cook some tomorrow morning for breakfast and report back.
       

       

    • By liuzhou
      Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
       
      The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and lead us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is  a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
       
      We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
       
      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
       
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.
       

       

       
      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
       
      Then into lunch:
       

       

      Chicken Soup
       

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato
       

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.
       

      Stir fried lotus root
       

      Daikon Radish
       

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.
       

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable
       

      Fried Beans
       

      Steamed Pumpkin
       

      Chicken
       

      Beef with Bitter Melon
       

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice
       

      Oranges
       

      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known for the quality of its pomelos.
       
      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
       

       

       

       

       
      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
       

       
      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
       

       
      And here they are:
       
       
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
       
       
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