Tsukemono : the beautiful art of Japanese pickles

I just adore the range of pickled veg I’ve had in Japan. Being a fan of preserving and pickling generally, I really appreciate the care and thought behind even a tiny plate of 2 or 3 varieties presented with a bowl of rice. Pickles are an important part of Japanese cuisine, and particularly of the rice element of a keiseki meal, also. ???????????????????????????????

They range from the simple, lightly vinegared cucumber slices, as above, and the pink ginger familiar from our sushi trays, the wonderfully sour umeboshi, to elaborate, delicately fragrant varieties and even – to my delight – pickled blossom. Read more….

Souvenier Cabbage

One of the things I love the most about travelling around the state is visiting the many farm shops that line the highways. Whether they be fully fledged veg stalls the size of small supermarkets (the one outside Bellingen has it’s own petrol pumps so as to maximise drop bys), to a cardboard sign outside someone’s house, flogging excess garden produce, I love them all.

So it was no surprise to Mr C that our trip back from Bellingen recently took hours longer than it should have, mainly because I was slowly filling the back seat of the car with locally grown produce.

Any visit to the banana coast of course cannot be complete without a stash of beautiful yellow ‘nanas. But this time my eye was also caught by pineapples (not that local as they almost certainly came from Queensland, but hey! it was closer than it would have been….) – two different varieties – and many different varieties of avocado. Or snot pears, as my inlaws so charmingly describe them. Peppers, aubergines, nuts (local pecans), onions…into my basket they went. It doesn’t have to be exotic, as long as there’s the whiff of just-picked about it.???????????????????????????????

So it was that we reached Gladstone, NSW, a tiny place north of Kempsey just off the Pacific Highway. Really, there’s not a lot there. But what there is, is a small shop run by a lovely lady who sells her own produce from her farm, supplemented by her own chutneys and jams. IMG_6095She’d just picked a small box of broad beans and was anxious to show me how to pod them – and was delighted when I told her I usually grow my own; though hadn’t had the space this year. We bought a half kilo (I do get bored of double podding after a half kilo or so), some of her chilli mustard pickles, and half a freshly caught cabbage. We ate the broad beans in a simple pasta/olive oil & herbs combo with lots of parmesan that night; but what to do with that lovely cabbage?

Having BBQ pork belly in mind for dinner this week I immediately thought of a semi pickled cabbage accompaniment to cut through some of the fattiness. So it was only one small step beyond that to actually preserving my lovely cabbage for future enjoyment…

Pickled White Cabbage

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 large, firm headed white cabbage
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 litre cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon each black peppercorns, fennel seeds and coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons each salt, sugar
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely sliced
  • 2 large jars, sterilised. You’ll need to judge how many/what size according to the size of your cabbage.

Finely shred the carrot and cabbage. As this was a ‘homegrown’ cabbage, I washed the shreds. Even though the leaves of the cabbage were fairly close-knit, there was a bit of grit in between the leaves.

Place all the other ingredients in a non stick or stainless steel pan, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes to infuse flavours. ???????????????????????????????Meanwhile, carefully layer the carrot and cabbage into the jars, squashing them down as much as possible. When full, pour over the spiced vinegar. Leave for a few minutes for the vegetables to soften a little; you’ll find they will squash down further at this point and you can cram in even more. Really push them down, so as to leave as few airpockets as possible. Top with more vinegar if needed until all the vegetables are submerged.???????????????????????????????

Seal carefully and refrigerate. You’ll need to leave this for at least a week or two for the vinegar to mellow.???????????????????????????????