RUTHERFORDTON, N.C. -- At a facility in Rutherfordton, an American miso makes a traditional Japanese product. A miso that Joe Kato, who owns American Miso, calls the best.
Miso is used primarily as a seasoning or flavoring agent. Kato describes it as a fermented soybean paste.
Traditional miso is made of soybeans, sea salt and koji, a fermented rice.
"Here, we only use those three natural ingredients," said Kato.
American Miso operates seven days a week to make a lot of miso.
"Every week we produce 20,000 pounds of miso," said Kato.
This place is all organic too, and it is actually the largest organic miso producer in the world.
The local workforce makes miso the same way it has been made for hundred of years.
"We still keep doing old traditional way to make a more quality, high quality miso," said Kato.
Western North Carolina was chosen as the site for American Miso in 1979 because the water source was so good, the land was inexpensive and the climate was right.
"This temperature movement, that's very important," said Kato.
Making miso is labor intensive and care must be taken, especially with the fermented rice, or koji.
"If too low, it's not gonna grow. If, if it's too high, it's gonna destroy," said Kato.
Miso made in Rutherfordton is sold under the name, Miso Master Organic, and is available in stores such as Whole Foods and Earth Fare.
The main types are red and mellow white with a miso made from chickpeas gaining in popularity.
Red miso is aged in vats for at least a year. American Miso opened in 1979 with eight vats.
"After 35 years later, 55, it's really big," said Kato.
Most people have heard of miso’s most typical use, soup.
"We eat miso soup almost every day," said Kato.
It is becoming more widely used now through items such as salad dressing and barbecue sauce.
"Many big companies, buying our miso to create more, their own sauce," said Kato.
American Miso has operated pretty quietly here for 35 years.
"Even local people, they don't really know what we are do, doing here," said Kato.
It is becoming more well known and expansion will also take place soon.
The hope is American, Europeans and the rest of the world will continue to discover miso.
"It's good for you. Please try," said Kato.