This issue traces the history of koji (rice malt).
2021-09-29

The power of koji mold essential to producing sake

Koji (rice malt) consists of two types – “bara-koji,” prepared by growing mold onto grains such as rice (a kind of malt made of heated grains, such as rice); and “mochi-koji,” prepared by growing mold onto flour kneaded with water (a kind of malt fermented onto rice cake).
Bara-koji is more commonly used in Japan, while mochi-koji is more commonly used in China, Thailand, and the Philippines.
This difference is said to be largely due to food culture. Bara-koji was established in Japan, where rice is consumed as the main staple; while mochi-koji was established in some regions of China, where rice and grains are ground into powder as the main staple. Mochi-koji plays an important role to promote alcohol fermentation for production of Asian alcoholic beverages in high-temperature, high-humidity regions of Southeast Asia.

Sake Production using Koji (Rice Malt)
Sake production using the power of koji mold is said to have started during the Nara period (710-784 AD).
Once sake production using koji (rice malt) was established, sake shops and private vendors selling koji to sake shops increased in numbers during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), when the “Koji-za” (Koji Malt Producers Guild) was founded.
The Koji-za was authorized by the shogunate government to be the sole producer of koji.
In some sake shops however, koji production was undertaken as the job of sake producers, with some preparing their own koji.
During the Muromachi Period (1392-1573), a conflict gradually developed between sake shops and Koji-za over the right to produce koji.
Afterwards, the shogunate government disbanded the Koji-za and sake shops took on koji preparation.

それでは今回は麹の歴史をたどります。

酒に欠かせない麹菌の力
麹には、米などの穀物にカビを繁殖させる「ばら麹」と、小麦粉を水で練って小麦粉を水で練ったものにカビを繁殖させて作る「餅麹」の2種類がある。
日本ではばら麹が多く使われているが、中国やタイ、フィリピンなどでは餅麹が主に使用されてきた。
これは食文化が大きく関係していると言われており、日本では米を主食としたことから、ばら麹が中国の一部地域では麦や雑穀類を粉にして主食としたため、餅麹が定着したと言われている。
餅麹菌は高温多湿な東南アジアに主に生息するアジア圏の酒にとって麹はアルコール発酵を促す重要な存在であった。

麹による酒造り
麹菌の力によって酒が作られ始めたのは、奈良時代からとされる。
麹での酒造りが当たり前となると鎌倉時代には酒屋と酒屋に麹を売る民間業者が増え麹座と言う同業組合が作られた。
麹座は幕府により、麹を独占的に造ることを認められていた。
しかし、一部の酒屋では麹造りは酒造業者の範疇内であるとして自家製で麹を作る業者もあった。
室町時代になると徐々に酒屋と麹座との間で麹造りの利権をめぐる争いが起こる。
その後幕府によって麹座は解体され麹作り酒屋の仕事となっていた。


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