Nigari. What? Are you speaking Japanese?
Well, yes I am. It’s one of 3 Japanese words I know. I learned it recently actually. When researching salt making I discovered this by-product of the process. Silly me! I thought you evaporated brine and salt was all that was left. When you do those experiments as kids at the beach and let a little ocean water evaporate in a dish you get salt and not much more. But when you start making salt on a larger scale you notice that there is a liquid that doesn’t evaporate. It is perfectly clear and viscous. This is nigari. Nigari is made up of the minerals in the brine that do not become part of the salt crystals. Our brine is very, very rich in minerals. When the sodium and chlorides come together to form our beautiful, white salt some of the minerals cling to these crystals, but much becomes nigari.
So what are these minerals? Calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, boron, iron, copper, zinc, selenium, chromium, chlorides….. All things that are good for you, and in liquid form, our bodies easily absorb.
Now, what do we do with this nigari? Traditionally it is used to make tofu.
Soy beans + nigari = tofu.
That is all well and good if you like to make your own tofu. I had fun making a few batches but I wanted more. Then I had one of those “aha” moments. If nigari coagulates soy milk into tofu then maybe it would coagulate cow, goat or sheep’s milk into cheese. I rushed to get some cow’s milk, heated it to 185-190 degrees, added a little nigari and voila, fresh whole milk ricotta cheese! Smooth, creamy and delicious in under 30 minutes. I then went on a search for goat’s milk. It worked too! Amazing! Easy! Scrumptious cheese!
Nigari has many other uses. We didn’t want to venture into the health supplement world, as that is another kettle of fish, but look at this website and you’ll learn all about nigari and its many benefits.
I have posted recipes here on our site for your reference. You can now make your own tofu and fresh ricotta cheese.
Let me know how you like it. Nigari should be in everyone’s pantry.