Quick & Easy Tsukemono - Japanese Pickling Recipes
By Ikuko Hisamatsu
In traditional Japanese cuisine, no meal is complete without tsukemono, or pickled vegetables. Although they were first created out of necessity - as a way to preserve fruits and vegetables in the days before refrigeration so that people could eat these nutri-tious ingredients out of season - they're still consumed today because they taste good.
Japanese pickles are something I've only recently started to make and they're a fascinating dish to create because of the sheer variety.
As with pickles of other cultures, many of the recipes in this book start with salt, which adds flavour and also helps to preserve the vegetables and fruit. But there are other preserving methods that are used on their own, such as burying the produce in a bed of rice bran, air-drying, salting the vegetables and putting them under weights (to press out the moisture), or salting them and let-ting them ferment at room temperature.
Hisamatsu does a good job of explaining the ingredients and illustrating the tech-niques - each recipe has photographs of the steps required.
There are sweet and savoury recipes, including nukamiso-zuke (rice bran pickles), young ginger in sweet vinegar, stuffed eggplant, garlic in miso, marinated smelt and preserved kumquats.
I do have one quibble about the book: while the recipes are quite easy, as long as you know how to cook, some of them could in no way be described as "quick" - with the takuan-zuke, for instance, the radishes need to be air-dried for two to three weeks, then buried in the rice bran pickling bed and left for at least a month.