Ohio has plenty of soy. Drive a country road in the summertime and you’ll see it. Almost all domestic soy goes to animal feed, but that’s the same bean makes some of the world’s tastiest foods, including soy sauce and miso. Local artisans have connected the dots over the years, of course, but few have done much about it.
Enter Cincinnatian Sam Pellerito, a veteran of the eyewear industry who fell in love with soy sauce and miso on business trips to Asia. Back home, he looked out over those fields of soy and decided to try koji-based fermentation himself, using locally grown organic black soybeans. After experimenting in his basement for two years, he recently launched a line of Japanese-inspired, Ohio-made ferments under the name CinSoy Foods.
Almost all domestic soy goes to animal feed, but the same bean makes some of the world’s tastiest foods, including soy sauce and miso.
His first soy sauce was cloudy and bitter, he says, and even getting to that point took work. “The process started with me learning to inoculate koji onto soybeans and wheat,” he says. “Soy koji creates a massive amount of heat. Controlling that heat while making sure there was enough heat and moisture to keep the growth going was challenging. I killed several batches because I didn’t understand the timelines and ways to mitigate them.” Once he figured that out, he scaled up to a commissary kitchen.
He was well positioned to grow. Ohio exports food-grade soy, thanks in part to a pairing of fertile soil and mild climate that produces a higher-protein bean, better for food products. Exporters including KG Agri Products, Bluegrass Farms of Ohio, and Delong Company are already selling the high-quality black-seeded soybeans used to make soy milk, tofu, and more in Asia. Pellerito saves time and money by putting some of those beans to work in southern Ohio.
He’s now selling soy sauce, sendai miso, and soy sauce salt, a zero-waste product made from the leftovers of the soy sauce process. He ships everything nationwide. I like the soy sauce salt as a seasoning for soft scrambled eggs, steak, and baked potatoes. I even like it sprinkled on vanilla ice cream, for just a touch of umami contrast. And he offers a make-your-own-miso kit if you’re feeling ambitious, which includes Ohio-grown non-GMO soybeans and CinSoy’s own koji.