Nukazuke Pickling: A How-To Guide

Pickles are an essential part of any traditional Japanese meal spread. Called “tsukemono”, pickles made from many different types of vegetables are eaten with most, if not all meals in Japan. Served in a small dish, pickles are as much a cornerstone of Japanese home cooking as rice and miso soup. The ubiquity of Japanese pickles is only complemented by its diversity. From simple salt-based quick-pickling to the long and involved process of creating ume-boshi, there are as many different ways to make pickles as there are types of pickles in Japan. Today, we’ll take a look at one fairly traditional and enduring method: nukazuke. Nukazuke pickles can be made from a variety of vegetables, including cucumbers, radishes, carrots, eggplants and tomatoes to name a few, and usually possess a salty, slightly tangy flavor while maintaining a degree of fidelity to the vegetables’ original texture. In other words, veggies that are crunchy stay that way.

Nukazuke pickles are made by allowing vegetables to ferment in a bed of specially prepared rice bran, called a nukadoko. Keeping a nukadoko is somewhat similar in concept to cultivating a sourdough starter. Ingredients are combined by weight in specific portions, maintained at a specific temperature and then fed and watered on a schedule to encourage the growth of lactobacillus cultures, which then act as an agent for fermentation for any vegetables buried within it. To start your own nukadoko you’ll need a few ingredients, a suitable container, and about 2 weeks of time.