Tsukemono is a type of pickle. There are lots of different ways of pickling in Japan, including using salt, vinegar, nuka (the bran – shells and seeds etc – left over after grain (rice) has been polished), lees, soy sauce, and so on. We pickle vegetables, fish, meat – anything really!
Until recently there was usually at least one older woman who lived nearby who was known to be fantastic at pickling, but I suppose in the cities nowadays most people buy their pickles at the supermarket.
But here in the countryside it’s still quite common to see grandmas huffing and puffing as they work at pickling the left-overs from their vegetable patch.
I love it chatting to my elderly neighbour as she makes buckets of all kinds of different pickles each season.
“Ain’t no-one’ll eat these things no more,” she’ll say, in her coarse country dialect. “You want some, d’you?”
Here she is last autumn, preparing persimmon before hanging them out to dry in the sun.
I often make asa-zuke pickles, which are quick and very easy. You can eat them instead of a salad.
This time I made two types of asa-zuke pickles, from celery, and from kumquats from my garden, using shio-koji.
You can buy shio-koji from a Japanese supermarket, and if you can get hold of koji it’s easy to make your own, too.
Celery pickles and kumquat pickles are great individually, but they’re even better if you eat them together!
This is one of the kumquat trees in my garden. I have two, and even though we eat lots and I made marmalade too, there are still plenty of fruit on them.
Kumquats pickled in shio-koji
- 4 kumquats
- 1 teaspoon shio-koji
1. Cut the kumquats in half lengthwise, remove the pips and thinly slice.
2. Put the sliced kumquats and shio-koji into a ziplock bag or similar airtight bag, give them a good kneed, then seal the bag, removing as much air as you can. Leave in the fridge for an hour, and they’re done.
Celery pickled in shio-koji
- 1 celery stalk
- 1 teaspoon shio-koji
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
1. Remove the stringy bits of the celery, cut into 3 cm lengths, then slice thinly lengthwise.
2. Put the sliced celery with the shio-koji and vinegar into a ziplock bag or similar airtight bag, kneed well, then seal the bag removing as much air as you can. leave in the fridge for an hour, and your pickles are ready.