Ogasawara Mirin Brewery runs a mirin (sweet sake for cooking) brewery operation in Hekinan, Aichi Prefecture. The brewery takes an extremely straightforward method of making mirin, using only selected domestic mochi (glutinous) rice, kome-koji (malted rice), and shochu (or distilled alcohol). In this article, we will introduce Ogasawara Mirin Brewery’s signature product, Isshisouden, which is an aged mirin prepared with shochu.
Let’s see why Ogasawara Mirin Brewery’s Isshisouden makes a wonderful gift.
100% domestic ingredients for a mirin product that offers a rich shochu fragrance
Ogasawara Mirin Brewery uses only selected domestic ingredients. Their Isshisouden mirin product uses domestic shochu for brewing to create a highly fragrant, sweet and elegant mirin like Shaoxing rice wine.
Brewing a small quantity by hand to create a delicate taste
The mirin is manufactured by hand in a traditional way, with the utmost care and subtle adjustments made according to the day’s temperature and humidity. The delicate and simple taste of the product holds a depth that is only possible by manual processes.
A bottle label that communicates a handmade type of warmth
It is said that each bottle label used to be stamped by hand. Currently, bottle labels are printed, but the design maintains a handmade type of warmth to it. The charming phrase Sono umakikoto, ten nimo noboru mononari (The taste is heavenly good) in katakana characters also express the warmth of the brewery.
Live bottled mirin manufactured entirely by hand
Mirin brewing has been one of the trades Hekinan, Aichi Prefecture has engaged in since the late 1700s, but only four breweries now remain. Ogasawara Mirin Brewery is one of them and despite having only two workers—Kazuya Ogasawara and his wife—the brewery continues to manufacture authentic mirin painstakingly made by hand.
The Ogasawara Mirin Brewery manufactures “live bottled mirin,” which has less live bacteria making heat sterilization unnecessary. The mirin features a mild taste and elegant sweetness, and is said to retain the enzyme activity of the koji ingredient because it has not been heat treated.
This live bottled mirin is only possible because of the impeccable sanitary control, 100% domestic ingredients and careful work by hand at the Ogasawara Mirin Brewery, but Kazuya Ogasawara states that he is, “only doing what is expected of mirin brewing.”
Unlike sake, which is brewed during the cold season, mirin needs to be brewed in a temperature of approximately 20 degrees Celsius. Because of this, mirin is brewed in the spring and autumn. The Ogasawara Mirin Brewery starts their annual brewing in spring, but only produces enough for six 5,000-liter tanks. As the quantity brewed is limited, the mirin is not seen on the market as much as other products. Some customers travel a great distance to purchase the mirin here, saying that “this is the only mirin for us”.
Isshisouden is an especially fragrant, live bottled mirin brewed with domestic shochu. The flavor is powerfully sweet with the fragrance of shochu, like a mild, elegant version of Shaoxing rice wine. Only a little is needed to accentuate the taste of various dishes.
It’s not only for simmered dishes—various uses for mirin
Mirin has a strong presence as a seasoning used in Japanese food, often combined with soup stock, soy sauce and cooking sake. The other half of the Ogasawara Mirin Brewery couple, Yoko Ogasawara, taught us some delicious ways to use mirin in cooking.
“Isshisouden uses domestic shochu, so it has a powerful flavor and is capable of suppressing fishy odors more than other mirin products. The traditional Ogasawara recipe when simmering fish is ‘Three parts mirin, one part soy sauce and a dash of cooking sake.’”
The alcohol percentage of authentic mirin is comparatively high, and Isshisouden is at 14 percent. The sugar content and higher alcohol percentage work together to prevent fish meat and vegetables from falling apart when cooking, so adding mirin and other seasonings before heating is recommended. For meat dishes, this may cause the meat to firm and become tough, so it is recommended to boil down the mirin beforehand to reduce the alcohol content.
According to Yoko, noodle soup made from “four parts soup stock, one part mirin and one part soy sauce,” along with syrup made by boiling down mirin to half its original quantity, in a heat-safe container using a microwave, is also highly recommended.
“Syrup created from mirin can be used in coffee, or drizzled on pudding or pancakes. It would be wonderful if everyone could let their imagination go wild with mirin, without getting too caught up in traditional image, and benefit from the alcohol it contains when cooking or boil away its alcohol for use in sweets,” states Yoko.
Isshisouden is a live bottled mirin that has been handed down over the ages. How about selecting it as a gift for someone who loves cooking?
Writer : YOKO AOYAGI / Photographer : CHIE MARUYAMA / SATOSHI TACHIBANA
Ogasawara Mirin Brewery
|Address||4-21 Yayoi Town, Hekinan, Aichi Prefecture|
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