Japanese pickles are a snap to make.
Pickles and Kim Chi recipe, and much much more, are in my New Cookbook, The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen.
We grew up eating pickles and all fermented foods:
Not just what we in the US call pickles, but all things pickled: All vegetables, olives, lemons, apples, watermelon rind, butter, cheese, you name it. Pickles are not the only thing we grew up eating: Sun-dried meats and vegetables, preserves and jams. All homemade. There was always something brined, or fermented, or cured, or preserved on our kitchen counter.
Since refrigeration came to us in Morocco relatively recently, only about sixty years ago, the delicious and healthy solution to food storage was fermenting and preserving, and we still carry on this treasured tradition, long after we acquired all our modern kitchen amenities.
You’ll love my Japanese pickles:
They have a small fraction of the salt and the vinegar of their commercial counterparts, and ten times the flavor.
Crunchy and pungent with just a hint of sweetness, and really good for you too, like all fermented foods. I whip my Japanese pickles out anytime I need a quick fix but can’t afford anything too caloric. The simple secret here is to force the mixture into a wide-mouth glass jar or a pickle press (see below) so it disgorges its juices and you are left with a reduced and powerfully condensed bowl of pickles.
Scroll down for a Kim Chi Variation and regular pickles variation.
The following ingredient list is just a suggestion: Mix and match some of your favorites: add to your selection cauliflower florets, red cabbage, jicama, kohlrabi, daikon, radishes, even green apples and green tomatoes etc…. Same goes for seasonings. All suggestions are below.
- ½ small head green cabbage, or 1 medium nappa cabbage, diced about 1 inch
- 2 large carrots, diced about 1 inch
- 1 medium purple onion, diced small
- 4 Kirby cucumbers, or one long seedless cucumber, unpeeled, diced about 1 inch
- 1 large turnip, diced about 1 inch
- 6 ribs celery, peeled and sliced about 1/2 inch
- ½ cup brown rice vinegar, or unfiltered apple cider vinegar (optional: if you do use it, the mixture will pickle faster)
- 3 tablespoons salt
- 3 tablespoons wasabi powder (For Passover: grated fresh horseradish)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
Place all the vegetables in a glass or stainless steel bowl.
Whisk the vinegar, salt, wasabi, and sugar in a cup. Pour over the vegetables and toss thoroughly. Force the mixture, pressing hard with your hands, into clean glass jars or in a pickle press (see below). Pretty soon the vegetables will get covered with their own juices. Make sure there is no air space left in the jar, fill all the way up. Allow a few hours to pickle, but for thorough pickling, leave the jars out 4-5 days, then store refrigerated up to two weeks, even longer.. Yields about 3 quarts.
Variation: Kim Chi:
Kim Chi, like all fermented foods, is an ancient food making a great comeback. Kim Chi is exactly our condiment above, with one added step: toss the cabbage with the salt and place in a colander overnight over a tray. Then rinse and squeeze dry, then proceed just as above. Season with some added sliced garlic cloves and red pepper flakes or Sriracha sauce, and some sliced fresh or pickled ginger (sushi ginger) if desired. Proceed just as above. Allow 3 to 5 days to pickle at room temperature, then store in the refrigerator.
For Regular Pickles:
This is the way we eat them in Morocco. No forcing the vegetables down. Place all ingredients in a large jar, add your favorite spices in a small cheesecloth bag securely tied (peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, garlic slices etc), 2-3 teaspoons turmeric powder if desired, add water to cover, and shake vigorously to combine. Allow 3 to 5 days to pickle at room temperature, then store in the refrigerator.
Japanese Pickles Press:
This nifty, inexpensive round or square box is the secret of professional-tasting pickles and kim chi easily made in your own kitchen. Mine is 3½ quarts and is easy to order online. It is equipped with a vise that comes down on the seasoned vegetables you are pickling. Place your seasoned vegetables in the press, press down hard to lock the press, and turn the vise down as low as it will come. You will be amazed how the vise will compress the veggies, separating the liquids from the solids. After a couple hours, the pickles are ready: You are left with a fabulous handful of pickles. Transfer the pickles to a glass jar with only enough of the pickling liquid to cover them completely, discarding the rest of the liquids. Or simply leave them in the pickle press, liquid and all.