I’m a big fan of tsukemono, or Japanese pickles. Actually, I’m a fan of pretty much anything pickles. But particularly Japanese pickles because they are often quick to make and quite tasty. I have a couple of tsukemono books and this recipe, from Quick and Easy Tsukemono, called Kyuri Amazu-ae, or Sweet Cucumber Pickles, is purported to be “a Japanese version of Western dill pickles”. It also says it reduces “spices and sourness”, although in my opinion, though it doesn’t contain dill, it tastes very much like an American pickle. And therefore happens to taste awesome.
I tripled the original recipe. If you want to just try it out before making a large batch, feel free to halve or third it.
American-Style Japanese Cucumber Pickle (Kyuri Amazu-ae)
15 Japanese-style cucumbers (small, thin ones with few seeds)
5 Tbsp salt (or 5% the weight of the cucumbers)
4 1/2 cups rice vinegar (I just used one bottle)
3/4 cup sugar
4 pods dried chili pepper
3 bay leaves
2 small sticks cinnamon
handful black peppercorns
If you have a scale, weigh the cucumbers. When I’m gathering weights for salt percentages for fermentation, I tend to use grams, although it doesn’t really matter what scale you use.
Measure salt in the amount of 5% of the weight of the cucumbers. (If you don’t have a scale, use the volume measurement above.)
Slice a sliver off the end of each cucumber. I did this on both ends, but mainly you’re concerned about the blossom end, which contains enzymes that can cause softening.
Slice each cucumber in half lengthwise.
Place the cucumbers in a pickle press if you have one, or a crock into which you can fit a plate and a weight.
Stir the salt into a cup of water.
Pour the water over the cucumbers.
Apply the lid of the pickle press and screw as tightly as you can. Alternatively, place a plate on top of the pickles and add a weight to press them down.
Let sit for 12 to 24 hours. The water level is higher because water has been extracted from the cucumbers.
Drain the cucumbers and rinse well to reduce saltiness.
Let the cucumbers dry.
Place all of the remaining ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved and then allow to cool.
Place the cucumbers into sterile jars and pour the marinade over them. Top off with water if necessary.
Refrigerate. The pickles will be ready the next day and keep for several months. The book says they keep several months at room temperature, but I would and do refrigerate them. The Japanese are fond of eating pickles with both rice and beer, and I can attest both are fine choices. I always add a tsukemono or two to my Japanese-themed meals. This particular pickle, however, is particularly fine with just about any meal and is shown here with the rather American veggie burger.
Now I’d like to share with you a great feature of the tsukemono book from whence this recipe originated:
I love their description of their German-style sauerkraut: “Versatile pickle you can fix with in ‘emergency’”. It’s hilarious on so many levels. First off, what exactly constitutes a pickle “emergency”? I’d imagine it involves a friend unexpectedly showing up at your doorstep in dire need of a beer and pickle. What’s strange about this, though, is the books contains many – in fact, mostly – so-called “instant” pickles: those that are ready within an hour or so, all of which would be much more effective at relieving a pickle emergency than sauerkraut, which according to the book takes at least a week and according to me takes at least three weeks. Second of all, what does “fix with” mean? And thirdly, why is “emergency” in quotes? Mostly, though, I love this quote for introducing me to the concept of a pickle emergency, which is something I encounter a lot around here because we’re always running out of them.
In other news, Brachtune saw the vet today and I was extremely pleased to learn she’s gained half a pound. She still weighs half as much as she used to, but when you are six pounds, gaining half a pound in two months is GREAT, so I am very, very happy. For a kitty who is very close to or possibly more than 17 years old, and who might have cancer, The Toonse is doing very well. And therefore, here is a picture of her enjoying great dinner party conversation the other night, when I served an Ethiopian feast and managed to not take any pictures other than of the cat and my friends wearing tiny top hats.