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Tuesday’s Tidbits (& Sips): I’m in a pickle…

So, it has been an extremely long time since I’ve done a Tidbits (& Sips) post here on marginalia.  In fact, the last one that I did was way back in November of 2009, with a recipe for my Curried Sweet Potato Soup.  Just writing that made me hungry for some…  Oh well.  That craving will have to wait for the fall; it’s already too hot for me to have the oven on and spend any prolonged amount of time over a soup pot!

Pickles, on the other hand, seem much more seasonally appropriate to me.  To boot, I love pickles!!  Not just kosher dill pickled cucumbers, the ubiquitous deli sandwich and burger accompaniment that most Americans think of when you mention the word pickle, but rather a whole host of pickled delights from many different culinary traditions.  In fact, some of my favorite pickles – like pickled ginger and kimchi – are patently not part of the traditional American repertoire.  All the more reason that I should learn to make my own…

While I adore pickles, I’ve never really tried my hand at producing them.  After watching an episode of Your Japanese Kitchen on my local NHK World broadcast channel last week, though, I was inspired to try my hand at pickling.  This particular episode featured a quick Japanese-style pickled cucumber.  The recipe was quick and easy, requiring very few ingredients and no special gadgets; so, I decided I would make some!  The results were delicious:

Japanese-style Quick Cucumber Pickles

The pickles have a softer outer layer but still retain their satisfyingly crunchy interior.  The ginger, uncooked as it is, still gives you that pleasant burn, which works really well as a contrast to the cool cucumbers.  This is definitely a very easy pickle to produce and one which I would love to have on hand all the time.  Even Andrew, who typically despises pickled things, seemed to like these, commenting that they taste similar to seaweed salad.  I suspect that this similarity comes from the inclusion of some toasted sesame oil, which Andrew loves!

Unfortunately, because these quick pickles are not canned or even meant to be canned, they really should not be kept around longer than a few days to a week.  I guess that means I’ll have to make them a lot…

I modified the original recipe a bit to suit the quantity of cucumber that I had on hand and my tastes; so, I thought I’d share:

Japanese-style Quick Cucumber Pickle

gathering the ingredients

Based on Quick Pickled Cucumber from the TV show Your Japanese Kitchen.

[Serves 6]

3/4 cup rice vinegar
4 tbs. soy sauce
5 tbs. sugar
1 tbs. toasted sesame oil
coarse salt
2 medium “seedless” or “English” cucumbers (roughly 750 gr.)
large knob ginger (roughly 50 gr.)

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil until the sugar is dissolved.  Set aside.
  2. Take a pinch of salt in the palm of one hand and rub this over the skin of the cucumbers.  Put a pinch of salt on the cutting board and rub the cucumbers in the salt, as if they were rolling pins.  Rinse the salt from the cucumbers.*
  3. Trim the ends of the cucumbers and peel away the skin at each end, creating about a 1 to 2 inch long piece of peeled cucumber at each end.  Removing this skin, which was likely not as thoroughly salt-rubbed will help cut down on the bitterness of the final pickle.
  4. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
  5. Place the cucumbers on a stable surface, cut side down, and hit them with a rolling pin or pestle until they flatten a bit, cracking down their length.
  6. Tear the cucumbers into bite-sized pieces and place these pieces in a gallon-sized resealable bag.
  7. Peel the ginger and julienne or cut into matchsticks.  Place the ginger into the bag with the cucumbers.**
  8. Pour the pickling liquid into the bag.  Seal the bag.  Mix up the ingredients.  Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.***

As mentioned earlier, these pickles will not keep for a long time.  They can last anywhere from a few days up to a week in the refrigerator.  So, enjoy them quickly!

As a bonus, here are some more shots from my Sunday prep session (click any photo to embiggen):

scoop! whack!
chop! combine!

Just so that you are aware, this is probably the beginning of a summer obsession with pickles…  I also made another type of pickle on Sunday that I’ll be sharing with you soon and I have some others in mind.  Beware!  Especially if you’re not fond of pickles…  Although, you could be surprised!  Homemade pickles are quite different and often much better than those mass produced ones you can pick up in a jar at the store.  You could end up falling in love…  I’m just saying.

* Salt-rubbing is one of a group of techniques that the Japanese culinary tradition terms aku nuki.  In Japanese, aku refers to the bitterness or harshness that many people find to be unpleasant in some foods, especially vegetables.  Aku nuki refers to the process of removing this bitterness along with excessive moisture or oil and can include a large number of techniques, including various varieties of rubbing, blanching and soaking.  As a bonus, these techniques also typically help to preserve the bright, vibrant colors of fresh vegetables.
**The choice of how small to make the pieces is really up to your taste preference if you plan on eating the ginger.  If you like a real punch of ginger, you may prefer larger matchsticks; if not, julienne.
***If possible, refrigerating overnight before serving is preferable.