is there a meal in Japan where tsukemono
(pickles) are not served. The simplest and most basic
meal is nothing more than a bowl of rice and umeboshi
(pickled plum), but tsukemono are also served at the
most sophisticated and complex feasts. Japanese pickles
are not at all like the pickles found in Western cooking.
Tsukemono are prepared in a number of ways with many
different types of foods being pickled, fruit, vegetables,
eggs, seeds, even fish!
varieties of tsukemono are endless, with literally thousands
of types to choose from and hundreds of techniques for
making them! Popular pickled vegetables include Chinese
cabbage, daikon radish, carrots, bamboo, turnips, gobo
(burdock root), ginger, Japanese cucumbers, and Japanese
offer color, texture and aroma to a meal, the earliest
known tsukemono were called konomono or "fragrant things".
Vegetable tsukemono are crisp and always fresh, with small
amounts of several varieties usually served in individual
petite dishes. All types of tsukemono are available commercially
but many people make pickles at home because it's so inexpensive
and easy. Here are recipes for just some of the pickles
I have enjoyed making in my own kitchen.
method used to make shio-zuke
(salt pickles) is an easy one. Pressure is placed upon
vegetables that are salted, causing them to release their
liquids. The resulting brine
then pickles the vegetables.
foods were salted and placed in tubs that were then covered
by lids weighed down with large stones. Today, many modern
Japanese kitchens use a plastic pickle press.
TRY PICKLING THESE!
3 kyuri (Japanese cucumbers), unpeeled and cut into 1/2
three teaspoons of salt.
or perhaps you'd prefer...
3 nasu (Japanese eggplants), unpeeled
and cut into 1/2 inch rounds,
three teaspoons of salt.
the cucumber or eggplant slices into the pickle press (or
jar) and add one teaspoon of salt, mix well by stirring
with your hands. Add the second teaspoon of salt and mix
again. Add the final tablespoon of salt and mix well. Clamp
on the top of the pickle press and screw down the lid until
it pushes down tightly on the top layer of vegetables to
be pickled. Leave under pressure overnight or for at least
10 hours. Remove the pickles from the press and place in
a colander, wash well to remove salt, pat dry and serve.
Salt pickles like these should last a week or more when
refrigerated, but they're so delicious you'll probably eat
them all before you have any left to store!
TO NINJIN NO ASAZUKE (pickled cabbage and carrot)
small head of regular cabbage (3/4 pound),
the leaves cut into pieces about an inch square
1 medium sized carrot, cut into matchstick slices about
an inch long
1 Japanese cucumber, unpeeled and cut into matchstick
slices about an inch long
4 tablespoons of salt
Place vegetable slices into the pickle press (or jar) and
add one teaspoon of salt, mix well by stirring with your
hands. Add the second teaspoon of salt and mix again. Add
the final tablespoon of salt and mix well. Clamp on the
top of the pickle press and screw down the lid until it
pushes down tightly on the top layer of vegetables. Leave
under pressure overnight or for at least 10 hours. Remove
the pickles from the press and place them in a colander,
wash them well to remove salt, pat them dry and serve.
made from rice bran... nuka-zuke, are delicious
and easy to make. They have a pungent aroma, a tangy flavor,
and are very nutritious since they harbor vitamins and minerals
from the rice bran. Unlike salt pickles, nuka-zuke last
for only a few days once removed from the pickling medium.
It is best to pluck them fresh from the pickling medium,
wash them, pat them dry and then immediately eat them. Like
all Japanese pickles, these are particularly tasty with
sake or beer!
order to make nuka-zuke you will need a large wide mouthed
glass jar or ceramic pot with a tight fitting lid, I use
a large glass jar with a lid that clamps shut (plastic,
wood, or metal containers won't work for this pickling method).
A jar with at least a quart capacity is required. Begin
by purchasing a package of nuka (rice bran)
from an Asian food store. Some brands already have salt
and other agents mixed into the bran, I like doing this
myself so I purchase plain dry roasted rice bran.
6 cups of rice bran and 1 tablespoon of salt in a bowl and
add 1 3/4 to 2 cups of water. Mix together with your hands
until the bran has the consistency of slightly moist sand.
Place some of the moist bran in your jar and then add a
small 2 inch strip of konbu seaweed (this helps maintain
the moisture balance in your pickling medium), add more
bran to cover and then add 2 cloves of peeled but uncut
garlic (this adds much flavor to the final pickles, you
can also use a small knob of fresh ginger). Continue to
fill the jar with bran and then add 2 dried red peppers
(this adds flavor to the pickles but also discourages bugs
from entering the rice bran mix.
filling the jar with bran, making sure that the konbu, peppers,
and garlic are completely buried. It will take at least
a week for the rice bran medium to ripen and be ready for
use. You can speed up this process by adding vegetable scraps
(peels from cucumbers, wilted cabbage leaves), to the bran
but remove the scraps after a day or two. After a week or
so the pickling medium should have a heady aroma and look
like damp sand. It will then be ready to use.
nice batch of rice bran medium can last for years, if it
becomes too wet after much use just add a little bit of
dry rice bran. A good trick to prevent your rice bran bed
from getting too soggy is to ad a handful of dried soybeans
to the mix! The beans absorb excess moisture and also impart
a mild flavor. It's also a good idea to "air out" the mix
on occasion, stirring it up with your hands or a spoon.
Vegetables to be pickled should be completely embedded in
the rice bran and left in the pickling medium for no more
than two days. The finished pickles should be bright in
color, limp but crunchy, and possess a subtle aroma and
earthy aftertaste. Good pickles are only slightly salty
and have a delightful tangy flavor to them. It takes some
effort to keep the pickling bed in good shape, for instance,
in summer your bed can sprout white mold... if that happens
just pluck out the mold, air out the bed, and add a bit
of fresh rice bran. Tending your pickling bed takes work...
but the delicious pickles are well worth the effort!
TO PICKLE IN RICE BRAN
cut into spears about an inch long
eggplants (nasu), unpeeled, pierced with a knife, and cut
into segments about one inch long
cucumbers (kyuri), pierced with a knifeand cut into segments
about an inch long
cut off excess stem and imbed small flowerets
cut into rounds about 1/4 inch thick (you can also cut them
into half moon shapes)
turnips (kabu), slice off the greens and cut a deep X into
the stem area before embedding in the rice bran. You can
also embed the turnip greens to be pickled
oldest known variety of Japanese pickle was made using miso.
Miso imparts it's flavor to whatever vegetable you're pickling,
with red or white miso giving different results. Miso pickles
take a long time to mature and many types are allowed to
cure for years before eating. Parboiling the vegetables
for a few minutes allows for a shorter pickling time, but
remember, the longer the pickles are allowed to rest in
the miso, the more fragrant and flavorful the pickle. Here
are a few choices for making miso-zuke using this quick
TO PICKLE IN MISO
cut into spears about an inch long, parboil and pat dry
before embedding in red miso for at least 3 months (preferably
root (gobo), cut into spears about an inch long, parboil
and pat dry before embedding in red miso for at least 3
months (preferably longer)
parboil and pat dry before embedding in white miso overnight
beefsteak leaves (shiso), embed in
red or white miso for at least 1 month. Use chopped as a
filling for rice balls!
cut into rounds about 1/4 inch thick (you can also cut them
into half moon shapes). embed in red miso for at least 3
cucumbers (kyuri), cut into rounds about 1/2 inch thick,
salt press, then embed in red or white miso for at least
MISO-ZUKE (garlic pickled in miso)
cloves of garlic
1 cup of red miso
the outer skin from the garlic and then parboil the cloves
for about 3 minutes. Pat dry and then cut the garlic lengthwise
into halves. Fill a small glass jar (or small lidded tupperware)
with about one cup of red miso. Embed the garlic in the
miso, making certain that the garlic is completely covered
(add more miso if necessary). Cover the container and refrigerate,
after 3 months you can remove the garlic from the miso.
Pluck just the amount you will use for the meal, leaving
the rest of the garlic to continue pickling. Wash and pat
dry before serving. Once you've eaten all of the delicious
garlic pickles, the miso used in the pickling can then be
used to make a delectable miso soup!
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