Video: Making mochi is a rite with rice

LIVINGSTON -- Members of the Livingston United Methodist Church continued the New Year's tradition of pounding out mochi, an important part of the Japanese New Year's celebrations.

To make mochi, cooked rice is tapped into a grinder, which is then squeezed out in a long, smooth white tube. Then the gooey substance is rushed off to be pounded.

Most mochi nowadays is made by machine, according to Rev. Bob Kuyper, pastor of the church. People usually just buy it -- not make it -- for New Year's.

But participants at this annual Livingston event make their mochi the traditional way.

The result is round, smooth rice balls as plain mochi, or a sweet mochi called ahn. The ahn mochi, which has a sweet bean center, often serves as a dessert, Kuyper said.

Mochi can be topped with soy sauce, sugar, ginger or other flavors and eaten alone. Or it is added to a Japanese breakfast soup called ozoni.

The church usually sells about 700 pieces of ahn mochi and 750 pounds of plain mochi a year -- raising about $2,000.

But this event primarily is about keeping tradition alive, participants say. People travel from all over to make mochi with relatives they haven't seen all year.