Japanese pickles are well known for their deliciousness. You can find them as side dishes at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or even packed in delicious rice balls.
Have you ever been munching on some delicious Japanese pickles and thought, I wish I could make these at home! Well, you can! You just need a few veggies, some pickle base, and a few minutes.
There are a lot of brands out there, from name to generic, but my personal favourite is Ebara’s ‘Tsukemono No Moto’. There are a few different flavours from sweet to a little spicy, and you can find pickle base in liquid or powdered form.
I prefer the liquid (it is much easier to use) and the standard regular flavour (レギュラー). Maybe I am just too conservative. Prices range from brand name to generic but expect to spend about 200 yen on a 500ml bottle depending on where you buy it.
The most common veggies to pickle are Japanese radish, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, cabbage, and Chinese cabbage. I have also tried zucchini, bell peppers, and baby radishes with great results. Of the standard options, I love the Japanese radish. It absorbs the pickle taste well but retains a great crunchy texture.
First, prepare the veggies. Wash and peel them, and cut them or slice them up into 1 to 2 centimeter pieces. Cutting them up smaller allows them to become pickled more evenly.
Place the veggies in a ziplock-style plastic bag, add the pickle base to cover the veggies, and massage the whole lot to ensure even pickle base distribution.
Depending on the directions of the brand and flavour, you have to let the veggies and pickle base set for 20 to 30 minutes, preferably in the fridge, or on the counter if it is winter.
You can also place them in a pickle jar, as shown below, which has to a have a lid to keep the pickles in the base, or a plastic one that has a screw down lid to keep the veggies compact and is perfect for absorbing the base, or even just tupperware. I prefer the baggie method. Simple and no washing up!
After the pickling time, strain the pickles in a strainer (especially for thinly sliced ones) or leave them in the pickle base in a jar (especially for bigger or thicker sliced ones). Either way, store them in the fridge. They are good for about 1 week in the fridge but are better the sooner they are eaten. As time passes and the vegetables continue to sit in the pickle base, they become saltier and less firm. Place them on a plate in a pretty fashion, and munch away! Or, just eat them like a caveman right from the bag with your hand. Oh. That may be just me…
You can also add other things to give your pickles an original spin, such as spices, sesame seeds, citrus peel, or even dried seaweed. See what works best for you!
In general, the firmer the vegetable, the firmer the pickle. Things like Japanese radish and carrots produce firmer pickles, while softer veggies like eggplant or cucumber provide an equally delicious, but more squishy pickle.
I have pickled a ton of things, from bitter gourd to hot peppers, and have never really had a major failure. The closest thing to a failure I have had is Japanese turnip (kabu). The taste was fine, but they came out all slimy and limp. Not the crunch I was looking for.
There you have it! Why buy more expensive pre-packaged pickles, when you can have fun and make your own? Now you can impress your houseguests with your pickling prowess!