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Only recently did I realize that miso is a living fermented food, like yogurt or sauerkraut. I had observed for many years that recipes usually warn you to add the miso last to soups and not to boil it, but no recipe ever said why, and it had not occurred to me to wonder. I figured it was just one of those things that recipes thoughtlessly repeat though no one knows a reason for it, like not lifting the lid on rice while it’s cooking.

But now I know. Miso is a living fermented food, therefore we must eat it, even if it is salty. But eating miso is not a chore. It makes a great stock for soups. It also enables quick winter soups, because you don’t have to simmer all day to get a proper stock. A friend recommends borscht made with miso. I will try that later today. Miso also makes a great little cup of hot broth. Just add a teaspoon or so to hot water.

The stuff is pricey. I paid more than $9 for a pound of miso yesterday at Whole Foods. Partly I think this is Whole Foods’ high markup. A friend gets the same brand in Asheville for between $6 and $7 a pound. But a little miso goes a long way, and it will keep in the refrigerator for half of eternity. Whole Foods carries about four varieties of miso, I believe, made by Miso Master in Asheville.

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