Miso Master® Miso Soup



Miso Master® Organic Miso continues a venerable food culture

RUTHERFORDTON, N.C. – In a rural mountain setting, a North Carolina company carries on the age-old Japanese art of miso making, a handcrafted food tradition that is now nearly extinct in its country of origin.

The American Miso Company has been in operation for more than three decades, quietly growing its business under the Miso Master® Organic Miso brand. Today, the company is the largest producer in the world of organic miso made the traditional way, with products available in major natural food stores nationwide.

A staple for centuries in Chinese and Japanese pantries, miso is a fermented soy paste with a buttery texture and rich flavor profile. Traditionally used as a base for soups, its reputation as a versatile and healthy ingredient in cuisines of all types – from rustic and earthy, to refined and modern — is expanding exponentially as innovative chefs, home cooks, food-product manufacturers and those who simply want to eat well are discovering its inherent potential.

Yet, for all its current recognition, Miso Master® Organic Miso is rooted in an ancient heritage.

In the Japanese tradition American Miso Company was founded in 1979 by business partners John and Jan Belleme, and Barry Evans. They were seeking to build on their interests in macrobiotics and Japanese foodways, and to bring to the U.S. the art of making miso in the centuries-old traditional Japanese way.

Belleme, along with his wife, Jan, travelled to Tochigi-ken, Japan, to learn the process of making miso the way it had been done for centuries. For nine months, they lived with and worked alongside Mr. Takamichi Onozaki, one of Japan’s few remaining traditional miso-makers, at his family’s small factory located in a remote village two hours north of Tokyo. There, the Bellemes soaked up all the wisdom Onozaki had gathered over a lifetime of miso making.

Back in the States, Evans was looking for a location where he and his partners could establish their own miso factory. They settled on an area in rural Rutherford County, about an hour east of Asheville. The site, nestled in an isothermal region surrounded by mountains, was chosen because it was at the same latitude as the area of Japan where the Onozaki factory was located. Traditionally made miso matures without temperature control, so it was important that the factory be located in a climate similar to where the Bellemes had studied, insuring that Miso Master® Organic Miso was of the same quality as the miso made by Mr. Onozaki.

By fall 1980, AMC was producing its first batches of miso. Originally selling in bulk only, the company was packaging its miso in eight-ounce and one-pound tubs under the Miso Master label by the third year of production. Today, AMC produces more than 400,000 pounds of miso a year, selling it in major natural food stores and health food stores nationwide, including Whole Foods, Fairway and Earth Fare, and it is widely considered to be the finest traditional organic miso on the market.

The Art of Making Miso

Miso is made from three ingredients of the highest quality – rice or barley, soybeans, and sea salt. Although the ingredients may be simple, the process to make miso is precise and cannot be rushed.

First, certified organic whole grain (barley or rice) is washed, soaked overnight and steamed. The grain is then inoculated with Aspergillus oryzae spores, the same family of spores used to make yogurt, and left overnight to incubate.

Next, the inoculated grain is formed into wooden trays and stacked in a temperature-controlled room to incubate for a second night. During this crucial period, a highly experienced miso master nurses the inoculated grain, altering the temperature, humidity and airflow, watching to make sure the development of the spores is perfect. This is one of the most critical steps in the miso-making process, and is the hallmark of authentic, traditionally made, high-quality miso.

This mold-impregnated grain, known as koji, is the source of the enzymes which will break down the complex structure of the beans and grains into readily digestible amino acids, fatty acids and simple sugars.

“Koji is the most important ingredient in miso. Very specific attention is needed to create a good koji,” said Yoshihiro “Joe” Kato, miso master at The American Miso Company for 20 years.

Kato’s role is similar to a vintner in winemaking. He oversees production at the 13,000-square-foot factory and trains workers there in the art of making miso.

Once the koji is ready, it’s mixed with cooked crushed soybeans and sea salt, and placed in huge cypress, fir or redwood vats to age. These 8-foot-wide, 7-foot-deep barrels are credited with imparting to miso a depth of character and complexity impossible to achieve otherwise. Stone-weighted lids press down on the raw miso and the slow process of natural fermentation begins almost immediately. When the miso master determines it is ready, the ripened miso is removed from the barrels and packaged into cups for consumer sale and bulk pails for food service. The longer the miso ages, the richer, deeper and more robust the flavor will be.

From Sweet to Savory

Miso Master® Organic Miso is available in six varieties. The lightly aged misos, Organic Mellow White, Organic Sweet White and Organic Chickpea, have a sweet, delicate and sometimes nutty taste. The darker varieties, Organic Brown Rice, Organic Country Barley and Organic Traditional Red, are aged for up to two years and are robust and hearty.

With such a wide range of flavors, miso is an ideal addition to a well-stocked pantry, as versatile as olive oil or butter. Historically thought of only as a soup ingredient, miso can do so much more – from adding depth to savory sauces, marinades and dressings, to punching up dips and rubs, to brightening sweet dishes and desserts.

Much like chefs are adding Miso Master® Organic Miso to their menu items, a growing number of manufacturers are using Miso Master® miso as an ingredient in their food products, including Cindy’s Kitchen, maker of all-natural dressings, gourmet dips and cooking sauces, and Brad’s Raw Foods chips and snacks.

To learn more about Miso Master® Organic Miso, visit the website of product distributor, Great Eastern Sun, at www.great-eastern-sun.com/.


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Why Miso Master® Organic Miso?


• An unpasteurized “live food,” providing antioxidants, isoflavones and probiotic lactobacillus culture

• Certified Organic, Verified Non-GMO, Certified Gluten-Free and Certified Kosher

• Made using domestically grown organic beans and organic grain

• Naturally aged in wood without preservatives

• No yeast or other accelerants added to speed fermentation

• Made in Western North Carolina since 1979 using ancient traditional Japanese techniques

• Low carbon footprint: not imported