The sophisticated Japanese Tsukemono

January 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Leave it to the Japanese to turn something as simple as the pickle into an art form.  I suppose they have had a few centuries to master not only the taste but the presentation as well.

I had to do a little more research into this since I wasn’t sure my standard pickling book would lead me in the right direction.  There are so many different varieties of Tsukemono that you can make that involve different methods, supplies and ingredients, so I wanted to make sure to make the right thing.

Luckily my Tokyo-based friend, Go, sent me a great link to a guide for Nukamiso (in English).  Nukamiso is a rice brand based mash in which you ferment just about any kind of small vegetable.  As many families have pickling recipes that get passed down through the generations, the nukamiso fermentation mash itself is passed down and around (much in the same way as bread starter). As you can read in the guide, the author has 4 different kinds as part of his that are 25-50 years old from Kyoto and Tokyo!

There were a few challenges with taking on making a nukamiso mash.  I would have loved to have gotten a bit of starter from someone but in asking around at different restaurants, it doesn’t seem to be a common practice.  I also was unable to obtain the traditional cedar container (pictured above), so instead had to use a Le Creuset pot. This isn’t ideal because it doesn’t breathe.  I’m hoping when I finally get to Japan I’ll be able to find one there!  I guess the FDA is not a big fan of them here.

Finding the ingredients proved a lot easier.  I mad another trip back to the Pacific Mercantile in Denver and Jolie patiently helped me pick out all of the right ingredients (all of which they had).

It will take a few weeks for the nukamiso to be ready for fermenting, but it will be nice to have around, especially in the Summer and Fall with garden vegetables.

In making this I also found a good book on Tsukemono that has a nukamiso recipe as well as other great Japanese pickle recipes.

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