Saturday, August 17, 2013

Japanese Pickles

I've been pickling all summer. More accurately: I've been fermenting things. So far, nothing has been ruined and it has all been tasty.

But in the past couple of days, I've tried a pickling technique that may become my next obsession because it is just that good.

Let me tell you about Japanese miso pickles.

I heard about this when I was catching up on Splendid Table podcasts during a long car ride from Montreal to Traverse City. Karen Solomon described the method enough to pique my interest, and after the CSA box arrived on Tuesday with another large patch of pickling cucumbers, I mixed up the miso paste and tried it out.

Because I'm always eager to minimize waste, I immediately decided to go with the pickling bed technique. It sounded strange: how would the cucumber slices pickle if they not only were not submerged in brine but were separated from this miso paste by a layer of cloth? I couldn't imagine, but I followed her instructions to see what would happen.

First, I cut two rectangles of cloth from an old (clean) thin dishcloth:

I mixed the miso with mirin and sake. I tossed the cucumber slices with a little kosher salt and set them in a strainer for about an hour:

I spread half of the miso mixture on the bottom of a small pyrex dish, covered it with one layer of cloth, arranged the cucumber slices in a single layer on top of the cloth, covered those with the other cloth, spread the rest of the miso on top of that, and waited.

I didn't wait very long because I was eager to find out what would happen. After the minimum recommended time (an hour), I peeled back the top cloth and pulled out one of the pickles.

Oh, yum! These may be my favorite pickles ever.

As I discovered, a brine seeps from the miso paste so the cucumbers are basically submerged in it. And removing them is as easy as rolling up the top cloth and lifting them out with a fork. Add more sliced cucumbers, roll the cloth back down and re-spread the top paste, and make another batch. This is awesome!

If you try this, you'll have to keep making more because each batch will disappear almost immediately.

After one batch, I sliced a baby eggplant and tried it in the pickling bed, but I didn't like it as much as the cucumbers. I plan to try carrots next.

I was so excited about this method that I downloaded the e-book so I can try other Japanese pickles. I'll report back on future experiments.

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