Written and illustrated by Misa Ono
People used to make mirin at home. It takes a long time but not too hard to make it. However, you can’t make alcohol at home under The Liquor Tax Act in Japan today. I only tell you how mirin is made but you can’t try to make it, okay?
The ingredients are rice koji, glutinous rice and rice shochu. The portion is 1:1:2. Start with steaming the glutinous rice, cool it down to below 60 degrees and mix it with rice koji. Place it into a clean container, pour the rice shochu over it, let it rest and age for a year and then filter it to complete. Oh? Doesn’t this process sound familiar? Yes, it is very similar to the amazake making process. Just change the ingredients from water to shochu and rice to glutinous rice. Mirin is also very nutritious like amazake.
Mirin’s health benefits are mostly coming from koji. The main benefits are controlling the blood pressure, antiaging and improving the immune system. Mirin is a healthy all-purpose liquid as a seasoning and a drink. Then how about the mirin lees after filtering?
When I travelled in Kansai area, I found “kobore ume” in a shop on the street to a shrine. It was white crumbles like cottage cheese. It tasted slightly sweet, pulpy and alcohol like a moist snack. I found it delicious but my friend who doesn’t drink much alcohol felt tipsy. This “kobore ume” is mirin lees. “Kobore ume” literally means falling plum, as the white crumbles resemble white plum flowers blooming. It is a very typical Japanese way to compare food to flowers. Mirin lees can be picked like sakekasu, or used in cookies and cakes as it is sweet.
Mirin has over 500 year history. People in Edo period had a drink called “Hon naoshi”or “Yanagikage”, mixture of the same amount of mirin and shochu. They expected that the mirin’s rich nutrition would help recover the exhausted body from the heat in summer. It is quite high in alcohol so I recommend to mix it with soda water or hot water when you drink it.