Bertyn starts with Finnish and Italian organic spelt, or organic Manitoba wheat. The type and quality of the organic spelt or wheat is of key importance to Bertyn seitan’s unique flavour. Bertyn seitan producers are professionals who aim at retaining maximum energy and flavour in the Finnish or Italian spelt or Manitoba wheat during the entire manufacturing process. First, the spelt or wheat flour is kneaded into a dough and subsequently rinsed for about an hour, alternating cold and mildly warm water. The rinsing process eliminates many of the carbohydrates (sugars), leaving a high-protein dough. The organic seitan is then portioned into ball-shape pieces and cooked for about one hour to become Bertyn seitan. The result forms the basis of the various seitan preparations in the Bertyn range. Bertyn doesn’t start from wheat or spelt gluten, but instead is made of organic wheat or spelt flour. That is one of the characteristics of Bertyn seitan and the reason why connoisseurs call Bertyn seitan the “filet mignon among seitans”. Additionally, we don’t use any ordinary wheat flour; we deliberately opted for organic Manitoba wheat and an organic spelt originating from Italy or Finland.
We distinguish three qualities of soy sauce. Bertyn uses the highest quality for its bio seitan: a traditionally brewed soy sauce prepared with craftsmanship. The second quality is naturally brewed soy sauce and the third is the totally inferior non-brewed soy sauce which is often found in supermarkets at a very low price.
Bertyn uses two varieties for its soy sauce: shoyu (soy sauce with rye) and tamari (soy sauce without rye). The tamari used by Bertyn is a rare rye-free soy sauce brewed according to a 500 year old recipe. Yoshio Aoki, the current 4th generation tamari brewer, takes pride in his traditional recipe and the techniques of his ancestors: fully organic ingredients, hand-made soy bean koji, a high proportion of soy beans vs. water and a long maturing process in cedar casks.
The shoyu sauce is prepared following an ancient Japanese recipe. Whole soy beans are cooked and mixed with broken rye. The mixture is then enriched with Koji, a culture of fungi mould spores of the Aspergillus Oryzae. This process takes three days, after which the mixture is set to ripen in cedar casks or ‘kegs’ at surroundings’ temperature during 15 months. The sap is manually pressed from the cloths that contain the brew. (dixit Serge)
This process does not involve chemistry or chemicals; nature can have its course. Less than 1% of all soy sauce manufactured in Japan today, is produced in this artisanal way.
The long ripening process – via fermentation – in wooden casks creates the natural protein “glutamic acid”, ensuring a rich and delicious aroma. A complex of sweet and umami (typical of glutamic acid) is the end result of this traditionally brewed, artisanal soy sauce, highly appreciated by connoisseurs.
Umami: during an investigation into the strong flavour and smell of seaweed bouillon in 1908, Kikunae Ikeda discovered the umami flavour. He was the inventor of the flavour imitator and enhancer ‘monosodium glutamate’ (MSG), developed via a chemical process and later patented. In a chemical form it is often used in yeast extracts, soy extracts, protein isolates, hydrolysed vegetable proteins, hydrolysed yeast and autolysed yeast.
Around 1500 (the Muromachi period), mirin was used as a type of enriched wine; it would become sour very quickly as a result of the yeast in the liquid. Using shochu, traditionally distilled liquor, as a base for mirin eliminated the problem: the flavour lasted and the mirin no longer turned sour. This is how mirin could become a common product in the traditional Japanese cuisine during the Edo period (1603-1868), and it also became a fixed part of the Kyoto multiple course meal ‘kaiseki ryori’.
The mirin used in Bertyn soy sauce ripens for 12 months; its quality is based on the koji culture and the brewing process. The koji enhances the flavour of the gluey, sweet rice. Rice is washed, rinsed, steamed and cooled to exact temperatures. Next, koji is added to the rice and the shochu. This ‘mirin moromi’ mixture is then pumped into enamel casks for fermentation. After three months of fermentation and regular stirring, the mirin is poured into bags and wrung out. The mirin then matures for 150-200 more days before the sediment is removed. The result is a sweet, amber coloured dressing which adds a delicate flavour to even the simplest recipe.