Fermented Pepper with Yuzu
Located in Niigata prefecture, family business Kanzuri has been specialized in making beautiful spice combinations since 1966. Their trademarked product with the same name, “kanzuri”, is a pepper paste mix with red peppers and yuzu, has been recognized nationally and internationally for its unique flavor.
Niigata prefecture, famous for its heavy snowfall, has overtime produced many interesting foods and flavor combinations. Due to the severe weather conditions, people were limited in their movements, their access to market places and import items from other prefectures, and the ability to preserve their food. Storing their food under the layers of snow to keep them fresh and lasting longer, in combination with the usage of rice koji (fermented rice and soy beans, used as a kind of yeast), started as a necessary measure, but has over time become a distinct Niigata prefecture- flavor, that started to gain demand all over Japan.
Niigata prefecture is famous for the high quality of its rice, which also is used as ingredients for some of Japan's best sake brands and rice yeasts. It is the high quality of the koji yeast used to make Kanzuri that creates to ferment and preserve it for many years to generate the deep and unique flavor.
Over the years, Kanzuri has been discovered abroad as well and is often used for Western dishes, such as steaks, burgers and noodles. The well-rounded, unique flavor lets you add a bit of heat, but also a very well-balanced, salty aftertaste, similar to that of other umami-rich dishes.
Kanzuri is now run by the third generation. Their signature product is a simple blend of togarashi chili peppers, salt, rice koji and yuzu (Japanese citrus peel).
About 400 years ago many families prepared spicy pastes using their own recipe. Nowadays almost no household takes this effort and Kanzuri is keeps this local unique culture alive through its products.
The signature Kanzuri spices take from 3 up to six years to produce! It is made from carefully selected base ingredients sourced from local farmers that the family has worked with for many years.
Between August ~ November the plants are harvested. Any imperfection can cause the plant to rot faster, so all of them are inspected and carefully harvested by hand, and thoroughly washed to remove any insects or impurifications.
Afterwards they are laid in salt to keep them fresh. Here they are kept until the very coolest days, named "Daikan" in January. Then they are covered in the heavy layers snow, for about 3 to 4 days. The snow actually not only removes the salt, but also some of the natural heat of the plant, making them more palatable and giving them a softer flavor.
After being bleached by the snow and washed in well water, the kouji, yuzu and salt are added and the chili plants enter a long maturing/fermentation process. While closely monitoring it every year to ensure a unified end-flavor, the plants are matured of three whole years; Four even, for a more matured version!
During the summer of the second year, the barrels are carefully inspected and rearranged if needed. The placement of the barrel impacts the maturation process, so the barrels are constantly moved around when needed, and once a year, air is let in to stimulate the fermentation. With Niigata’s icy cold winters and cooking hot summers, care is needed to ensure optimal settings regardless of the weather.
In the final year, during the first snowfall, the heavy barrels are carried outside, where the snow works their final magic to turn the plants into a final product. Not only does it function as a natural refrigerator; but the exposition to the natural, cold weather, “tightens” the flavor and pepper of the spice and creates the unique, final Kanzuri flavor.