Homemade natto?

beach
Bento-ing from: › Georgia › USA
Joined: 3 Feb 2011
User offline. Last seen 1 year 33 weeks ago.

I was wondering if anyone's ever made their own natto? How easy is it? I actually haven't tried natto yet, but I do have dried soybeans on hand. I know I'd probably have to scrounge around for the active ingredients, which might be even harder to find than prepared natto... but I'm scared of buying something only to have to throw it away; at least if I made it myself, I could make a very small batch, and disguise it.

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Loretta
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Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
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Re: Homemade natto?

Natto is so very cheap that I can't imagine ever attempting to make it for myself.
The soy beans in all the natto I've eaten are much muh smaller than the dried soya beans I can easily buy. I think special ones are used and these are probably harder to get hold of than ready made natto. This means that you may not have any of the basic ingredients needed to begin your natto growing adventure.

Usually natto comes in tiny portions. If you find you don't like it there are a few ways you can cook it where the taste is barely noticeable (I have a couple of recipes I can share if you need any). The portions will keep in the freezer for a few months.

maki
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Re: Homemade natto?

(raises hand) I've tried making natto, since natto used to be, for me, a luxury item.

I asked my mother how my oba-chan (grandma) used to make it. I'd never seen her making it myself, but apparently there were some periods when my mother was growing up when times were tough, and oba-chan grew vegetables and made natto and stuff to get by. My mother told me that oba-chan just cooked some soybeans until soft, added a little pre-existing natto to it, wrapped it up warm and then stuck it in a warm place, such as a switched-off kotatsu (a heated table covered with a warm comforter...a fixture of Japanese homes until recently (well it still is in older homes, but I digress...)). In the morning the natto-kinase (the natto bacteria) would have spread all around the soy beans, making them pleasantly pungent and sticky.

So, with this knowledge I tried cooking beans, adding natto, and incubating it in an oven that had been switched on for about half an hour at minimum temperature (about 50 degrees C) then switched off. Result: the natto developed an odd sour flavor, and didn't get that sticky. The temperature could have been too high.

So, next I tried a yogurt maker. Result: the natto had the right taste, but there was not enough stickiness.

So then, I got some dried nattokinase powder from a mailorder place in Germany. (In the US you can try Gem Cultures; otherwise try googling for nattokinase). That was a bit more potent than using previous natto. The beans got sticky in the yogurt maker. But the flavor was not quite there. I tried the oven again, and got a trayful of natto/beans with *pink* stuff growing on it. Ew. I threw it out.

So that's when I decided that natto making was not working out for me, and abandoned the project. That was about 4 years ago.

I do think that the critical points are the incubation temperature, sterility of your instruments (the tray or container you're using, your utensils, etc) and the quality of nattokinase you're starting out with. I suspect that the natto Iwas using (frozen supermarket quality stuff) was not potent enough, and possibly got a not-that-good strain of nattokinase in that powder.

Not sure I'll try natto making again though, since I've found a local natto maker who makes really delicious natto. ^_^;

____________________________________

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beach
Bento-ing from: › Georgia › USA
Joined: 3 Feb 2011
User offline. Last seen 1 year 33 weeks ago.
Re: Homemade natto?

Thanks for the responses. I guess I'll just have to pick up some natto the next time I trek out to the local Asian store (which probably won't be for quite a while). If I like it, I probably will try making natto using a little of the purchased natto, just for kicks.

Loretta, thanks for the recipe offers. If I really can't stand it, I'll probably try Maki's natto-fried rice recipe (and then I won't try to make any). The only thing I've ever bought that I couldn't find some way to eat was smoked sardines. Just the smell was overwhelming to me, and not even my cat would go near them. But I like somewhat pungent cheeses, so I'm hoping I'll like natto (in some disguised form or another).

Loretta
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Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 12 weeks ago.
Re: Homemade natto?

Thanks also,
Although I have no plans to make natto in the forseeable future, I am considering making tempeh at some point and I'm sure Maki's comments will prove useful when I finally get the starter and give it a try.

I seem to be one of those rare people who neither love nor hate natto, I end up eating it because it's a favourite of my husband, a true Tokyoite.

I've flicked through a few blogs in the past of people documenting their first encounter with natto. Most of them just try it neat and unadorned before proclaiming it to be revolting. Maki's rice and natto recipe seems to be an excellent way to start!

It is worth persevering with as an ingredient as it's so good for you.
My favourite way to have it is added to a rich 'bolognese' style sauce with a dollop of mascerpone and some parmesan with spaghetti. My husband got the idea from a pasta restaurant in Komagome
(there's a photo of a similar offering from another Tokyo pasta restaurant here: http://www.blownstack.com/twoate/2006/06/sticky_foods_matsuri_part_2_ha.... in this place they use cream instead of mascarpone, the parmesan will be provided separately at the table)

Katy
Bento-ing from: › Florida › USA
Joined: 17 Feb 2011
User offline. Last seen 3 years 34 weeks ago.
Re: Homemade natto?

Haven't made natto, but from the description it sounds a heck of a lot like making your own yogurt or cheese, which I HAVE done! Or making beer or wine, which the husband does. We're a fermentation-friendly household.

For an aged cheese, sterility of everything the milk comes into contact with is paramount. Good milk to start with is important. For each culture/variety of cheese, there is also a path of temperatures for the milk to go through before being separated and pressed. After being molded, a lot of cheeses need other checkups (the cheddar I made last year needed to be washed and dried for a few weeks before I waxed it.. I didn't do this with one of them to see what happened, and it was Not Pretty). I suspect natto might be the same - there might be something important to do with the beans before you process them with the nattokinase? Perhaps they need to be very fresh?

____________________________________

~~~~~
Greetings from the panhandle of Florida!

bronwyncarlisle
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Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
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Re: Homemade natto?

Sterility is actually vastly overrated when it comes to making cheese, so I wouldn't stress too much about it with natto either. When you think about it, nearly all of the delicious cheeses (and other fermented foods) we have were invented long before the concept of sterility, or for that matter cleanliness, came in to being. I don't take any huge precautions when I make cheese (I just use ordinarily clean utensils), I use unpasteurised milk from a local farmer, and I've never had a bad one. I've had one or two that I was rather nervous about tasting because they looked so bad, but they turned out to be the most delicious ones I've made.

It always makes me giggle to see cheese-making instructions telling you to wash your hands thoroughly so as not to contaminate the cheese, then they want you to buy B. linens to put on your washed rind cheeses. B. linens is the bacterium that makes your feet smelly! The easiest and cheapest way to get it on your cheese is the old-fashioned way; from unwashed skin.

Likewise temperature and timing - these things are only really important if you want your cheese to be completely consistent from batch to batch. Change things around a bit and you still get cheese, just a slightly different cheese. Our problem these days is that we've lost the folk knowledge our ancestors had about these things and most of our actual knowledge has come to us via industry, where consistency is vital, and the financial risks of a not-so-good batch are huge. Even the modern artisan cheese-maker usually has a background in industry somewhere, and aims for more consistency than the home cheese-maker needs to.

I work on the principle that unwashed peasants in extremely unsanitary conditions, with no clocks and no way to influence the temperature around them, have been making great cheese for centuries, so there's no reason I can't do the same. Although I don't do it very often, because if you make it you have to eat it, and it's soooo fattening.

____________________________________

Bronwyn

My blog is Food and Shoes

Katy
Bento-ing from: › Florida › USA
Joined: 17 Feb 2011
User offline. Last seen 3 years 34 weeks ago.
Re: Homemade natto?

Well of course, you don't need to do much of anything to make something like cheese.. its going to ferment one way or another. If, however, you are trying to make a fermented product come out in a predictable way, its best to control what is happening with it :) For a cheddar to be a cheddar.. you have to cheddar it ;) And that process isn't going to work right if you don't monitor your temperatures. If you want to make mozzarella, you want to make the conditions best for the right sort of milk chewers so they outcompete all the other stuff, and you want to stretch it at the right temperature, etc. Or its not going to come out the way you expect.

On the alcohol side, we've found cider is pretty whatever-proof.. its a good idea to sanitize your container, but that's about it. On the other hand, beer and wine benefit /greatly/ from good technique.

You can test out what your local environment is like, microbe-wise, just by making some sourdough in open air and without a starter. Not everyone inhabits a place with tasty germs, though...

So all these people making icky pink natto are making natto... just not the natto they want to eat :) So my suggestion is that maybe there is a factor in the natto they expect that they are not doing.. perhaps temperature, or fresh beans :)

bronwyncarlisle
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Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
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Re: Homemade natto?

That might be exactly the problem- if their local microflora are inimical to the proper natto bugs they may never be able to make it well. Kitchens not being generally equipped with laminar flow hoods, there's not a lot they could do about that.
My yoghurt changes over a period of a few weeks after I have had to restart it, it has a predictable series of changes it goes through before it settles down to what is obviously my local variety of bacteria.

Leo
Re: Homemade natto?

I have another reason to try to make natto at home, and I'm sharing it here because perhaps someone else can benefit from it as well. According to TCM - Traditional Chinese Medicine, BLACK soybeans are excellent kidney tonics that will work wonders if consumed daily after being processed as follows:
1. Get a fistful of black soybeans.
2. Rinse under running water
3. Put in a pot together with roughly 1.5 cups of water.
4. Heat the pot, and JUST when the water starts to boil (when you see the first bubbles), turn of the heat. The water should be pretty dark by now. Make sure you don't overheat the beans; the heat must be turned off before the beans' sacs begin breaking or peeling. They say that overcooking the beans will cause undesired properties of the beans to enter the broth and bring some side effects - high uric acid being the most noticeable one.
5. Remove the soybeans and consume the liquid.

A friend of mine swore that he was saved from kidney damage and regular dialysis using this recipe. Of course, medical success rate is yet to be determined through controlled studies, but for those of you open-minded enough, this is a classical TCM regiment that has very good rapport among practitioners. If you're familiar with TCM, kidney health is associated with sexual potency, so even if you don't have any kidney problem, you'll still benefit from the black soybean broth one way or another.

In order for this regiment to deliver the best result, you have to do it EVERY DAY for about a year or two. And that means LOTS of soybeans to consume everyday. My friend who advocated this regiment advised to simply throw away the beans after using them for the broth because consuming so much black soybeans everyday would upset your digestion system and elevate the uric acid blood count. This is where my conscience comes: THROWING AWAY precious beans while some parts of the world starve?? I can do better than that, if only I knew how to turn these beans into tasty and healthy natto!!!

So here I am, embarking in a quest to learn to make natto properly from soybeans. I hope someone can point me to the right direction sometime soon.

Leo @ Bali, Indonesia

John
Re: Homemade natto?

I just made a first batch of natto yesterday, using store-bought natto as an infector. Basic steps are: get dry soybeans, soak overnight, boil or pressure/steam cook them until they will squish between your thumb and finger - soft, drain water (if boiled), mix in starter (the store-bought natto), cover but not airtight, and incubate for 24 hours at about 41 degrees Celcius until the strings form, then put them in the refrigerator. Start eating after they have cured in the fridge for a day. There are several videos on You-tube that show you how to do it.

Now, although those are the basic steps, the incubation seems to be a challenge for many of us. Some use stoves, some converted ice chests, some kotatsu, some heating pads with hots of blankets - all these methods are shown on you-tube videos. Mine turned out nice and natto-smelling, but not much string. I am curing it in the fridge tonight. I think I didn't maintain the right temperature, as mine fluctuated from about 37 degrees to 55 degrees. I really like natto and am thinking about buying a reptile egg incubator that I can use rather than trying the home-made things that are on the you-tube. What I am looking at costs about $150, and with buying the soy beans, it would take a year of eating natto every morning until I break even (instead of buying the natto at the Japanese or Korean supermarkets in my area).

I see that natto can be made with black or white soy beans. Some web sites say you can make it out of other beans (azuki, black, pinto). There is little written in English that I have found about making natto. And, I came to this website whilst looking to see if anyone has gotten sick from making their own natto and having it ferment wrong. After all, who wants to get bad bacteria in their system? Who knows what else will grow if you incubate the wrong stuff? But all I see on the Internet is cautions about making sure all your equipment is sterile so you don't introduce any other bacteria in your beans.

I'd love to see some decent discussion on how to make natto, including precautions and what substitutes you can use for soy beans - the natto bacteria, after all, is naturally found on rice straw, not soy beans.

John
Re: Homemade natto?

My natto turned out all right, even though I fermented it for 48 hours at fluctuating temperatures above and below the best temperature. I put it in the fridge last night, and pulled some out to eat with my brown rice this morning. It was nice and stringy. Last night I ordered a Yolife yogurt maker for about $45. The Yolife website has a natto recipe and shows natto being made in the yogurt maker. I can't wait to try it.

maki
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Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
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Re: Homemade natto?

Thanks for posting your natto making experiences John! Sounds very good!

Mike
Re: Homemade natto?

Started with one pound of dry soy beans soaked overnight and cooked till soft. I incubated my soy beans in a camping cooler with a pyrex bread tray filled with boiling water. I used a commercially bought package of natto as a starter and added to the beans while they were still warm. The soy beans were placed in 9x12 pyrex tray 3 to 4 beans high and covered with tin foil that I poked holes in to allow circulation. Every six to eight hours I dumped the old tray of water out and replaced with new boiling water, closed the lid and repeated this about 4 times. Every time I replaced the boiling water I took the opportunity to stir the beans with a spoon sterilized in the boiling water. Each time I stirred I noticed that the beans became stringier and in the end they came out perfect. Cured them in the fridge for 24 hours and then I placed in small portion sized containers and froze them. It was super easy and I had success on my first attempt! I am assuming that the hot and damp environment created by the tray of boiling water made the fermentation a success.

BTW... I heard you can use any kind of bean or peas ... you are not just limited to soy beans. On my next attempt I will try making some with chick peas. I love chick peas. : )

I'm not a huge fan of the beans but I consume them because I want to clean out my arteries. To disguise the flavour I use my hand blender in a vessel containing vegetable juice, cayenne, ginger and garlic.

I have also made an oriental soup with them using miso, cayenne pepper, a dash of tumeric, chopped red bell peppers, shitake mushrooms and fresh chopped cilantro and green onions added just before serving. It was delicious.

Lyman
Re: Homemade natto?

Has anyone tried using a new box of Natto to culture other types of soaked beans other than soy?

I note that in Africa Bacillus subtilis is used in primitive villages to ferment other things too and make them more healthy and nourishing.

Interesting information on Natto here

http://www.soyinfocenter.com/HSS/natto1.php

Dave
Re: Homemade natto?

I am embarking on my second attempt at making natto, primarily for my wife, but also because we are country people that like to grow and make much of our own stuff. The mistake I made (and this was actually in the instructions I had) was that I sealed the lids of the containers. I never understood why they said to put cheescloth over the container, then the lid, but this thread explained it is to keep the beans from getting wet from condensation. I have also purchased a youlife yogurt maker to maintain the correct temperature. As an American, the smell of natto is similar to my recollection of leaving my lunch box at school for 3 days then opening it up! :) I know it is a food held dear by Japanese folks (like my wife!) and I got brave enough to try it. The good taste is there if you can get past the sight, and smell. Of course, many foods benefit from fermentation, so I think enjoying natto is an issue of mind of matter until I gain an appreciation for the taste. Thank you for all this good information. i think you helped me so I can make good natto!

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