Tucking fresh cloves of garlic into miso is all you need to do to preserve the fresh batch of local garlic from your farmers market!
I made a mistake earlier this year and ordered a 2.5-kilo pail of miso. Most people buy miso in small jars because most people only use a teaspoon or tablespoon in a recipe. I am trying to reframe it as being a happy mistake. The miso I ordered is from a small local producer (Artisal Traditions Miso) and is of a high quality since they produce it in small batches in a traditional Japanese fashion. It’s a barley miso that has been aged for a minium of two years. The flavor is bold, yet slightly sweet. A little goes a long way, and a 2.5-kilo pail is going to last me a long long time.
I had been in search of new ways to use miso when I discovered Nancy Singleton Hachisu‘s trove of knowledge in Preserving the Japanese Way and in her newest cookbook Japan. Mrs. Singleton Hachisu grew up in the States but traveled to Japan to teach where she met her future husband and settled down with him on a traditional country farm. Her books are both inspiring and overwhelming with some passages making you feel like throwing up your arms declaring the recipes to be too absurd for your North American city dwelling lifestyle. But then the moment passes, and you think maybe you could start a fermentation of persimmon vinegar because why not?
Mrs. Singleton Hachisu does give many great uses for miso that go beyond flavoring soups, marinades, and dressings. I love this recipe because it helps quite that silly voice in my head that tells me to save the fresh local garlic for something special. That voice leads me astray, as weeks will go by before I deem a recipe to be ‘special’ enough and the fresh garlic is no longer fresh by then. Fermenting the garlic in the miso preserves the flesh and increases the fresh flavoring of the garlic. Some of the miso gets garlic-y, which is useful when you are looking to mix things up a bit with your favorite miso marinade.
This garlic keeps in the refrigerator for months, just make sure the cloves are covered with a thick layer of miso after each use.
Nancy Singleton Hachisu declares that the garlic is great as an accompaniment to a pickling plate or with drinks before dinner once the miso is all scraped off. I think this depends entirely on the flavor and intensity of the garlic. I ate one tiny clove and had an intense garlic aroma that lasted into the next morning. I prefer to instead blend the garlic into the miso in the food processor and use as a marinade.
Try it out for yourself! Use the miso and garlic in this recipe from Bon Appetite that roasts eggplant with a healthy smear of miso. Just be sure to have plenty of fresh basil, since it carries the dish and brings a brightness that is sorely missed if you run out.
Fermented Garlic in Miso
- 2 cups Miso (Red or White works best)
- 3 heads of Fresh Garlic
- Using a small paring knife, peel the skins off the garlic cloves and cut away any bruised or damaged flesh.
- Select your fermenting vessel, for this recipe I used a wide mouth mason jar. Clean the jar and it's lid well, rinsing with white vinegar if you are worried about contamination from its previous contents. Cut a piece of parchment paper out the size of the inside of the jar. This will be used to help the miso from oxidizing while it's stored.
- Pack the miso in the container, filling it about an inch. Place the peeled garlic cloves in a layer on the miso. Continue packing and layering the miso until the container is almost filled. You want the top layer to be only miso, with a depth of at least a half an inch.
- Once filled, place the parchment on the top and gently press down to remove any air pockets. Let the lid sit slightly ajar, and place it all on a small plate in your fridge as the miso might ooze out some liquid as it ferments the garlic. Start checking the garlic after a week, it should look fresh and still firm. Garlic can be kept in the miso for several weeks.