I have not blogged too much about Japanese pickles, Tsukemono, but I have them almost everyday with my meals - breakfast, lunch, dinner and even as a snack with tea. It is one of my favorite ways to eat vegetables because they are light, delicious and balances out the meal nutritiously. During the course of a meal, Tsukemono is usually served at the end to clear the palate, and gives the bowl of rice a zing. Since Tsukemono can be strong in flavor and salty, it is eaten in small quantities. One outstanding character of Tsukemono is its seasonality. If you visit the Tsukemono section of a Depachika,(Japanese department store's food shop in the basement), you can always see what vegetables are in peak season.Winter vegetables such as napa cabbage, carrots, Mizuna, daikon radish, komatsuna, turnips make great winter pickles. I make Asazuke, a quick Tsukemono that is put together by rubbing salt on the vegetables, adding kombu seaweed for flavor, a spice such as red chili pepper, and applying some pressure to the vegetables with a Japanese pickle press. (see pictures below - my pickle device is very old!). The Napa cabbage and Apple pickles were made in just three hours. All I used was salt and pepper. The salt extracts the excess liquid from the napa cabbage, intensifying the flavor and improving the texture. Asazuke can be served in the place of a salad. Since it contains no oil or creams, it is light and very refreshing. The leaves of napa cabbage become sweeter and denser when they are in season. The apple adds a nice crispy texture and tart flavor
8 oz napa cabbage, ends cut and leaves washed
1/2 apple - apple of your choice such as Fuji, Gala, Honey Crisp
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper or sansho pepper
Soysauce for the table (optional)
Cut the white part of the napa cabbage into 2.5 inch wide pieces. Cut the leafy part
of the napa cabbage into bite size pieces. Put the napa cabbage into the empty pickling container. Rub salt on the napa cabbage, making sure that the salt is distributed evenly
and massanged into all the leaves. Put weight on the vegetables, using a pickle device. Let stand in the fridge for about 3 hours.
After 3 hours, unscrew the press or remove the weight. Squeeze out the brine. If the Napa cabbage is too salty for your palate, you can give it a quick rinse under water. Gently squeeze out excess brine but the napa cabbage should not be dry. Slice the apples into 1/4 inch wedges, and the slice them crosswise into smaller pieces, about 1/4 thick. Combine with the napa cabbage. Serve with pepper. You can also put serve some soysauce on the side.
Put the cut white and green Napa cabbage into the pickling press. Rubb with salt until water is extracted. About 1 minute.
Put the weight on top to press the pickles. This pickle press is more than 20 years old.
It comes with a lid, and goes straight into my fridge. It's not the prettiest piece of
kitchen equipment but I can't live without it.
If you have a pickling press with a screw top (See picture below). Rotate the screw until the press is in contact with the vegetables. Apply weight to press down on the vegetables.