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Showing posts from 2021

Sourdough Starter and Nukadoko: Musings and Metaphors

  A toasted slice of homemade sourdough bread with pickled Kanazawa carrot. Photo of rectangular bread with green carrot and thick piece of butter on wood. The nukadoko and my sourdough starter both spent the vacation tucked away in the refrigerator. I worried about them, but I also imagined them hibernating and dreaming of vegetables, loaves of bread. However, I also liked to think the two of them had plenty to discuss during their stay. I wonder now, of course, if they did converse, would it be small talk like two strangers waiting at a bus stop or would it be like two big wedding parties in separate halls at the same hotel suddenly realizing how much they have in common? Each is, after all, made up of the wild yeasts that live in my house, my kitchen, and even on my hands.  Kanazawa heirloom carrot and regular cucumber after vacation. Photo of fat green carrot halves and cucumber halves on the brown lid. Would some of the guests meet in the hallway, admiring outfits, wondering what

Nukadoko Progress Report: A Refrigerator Stay

Ready to go into the refrigerator! Beige nuka paste in a rectangular, plastic container. We decided to take a trip. I'd been home to see my family, but Mr. JFM had not been anywhere. This, my friends, presented a problem. Mr. JFM is nothing if not social. A global pandemic that kept him indoors, away from people, and not talking very much when he was able to be out and about pushed him, perhaps, to his limit. Fully vaccinated, we donned our masks and headed to Kanazawa. However, before we left, there were a few things to do, not least of which was decide what to do with the nukadoko. Because this trip would be considerably shorter than my autumn trip home, I opted for the refrigerator. What I Did Using my bare hands, of course, I transferred the paste to a freshly washed and dried plastic container. The paste felt pleasantly wet but not mud-pie-goopy, and I gently pressed on it to remove any air pockets. The pieces of konbu I'd recently added were still visible, but the togaras

Nukadoko Progress Report: Draining Excess Liquid

The moisture in the nukadoko glistens off the paste. Photo of nuka paste in brown pot. Upon seeing the pH test results , Elizabeth encouraged me to go ahead and drain some of the liquid. This was a big moment, and I was super excited. She talked me through the process, and I took copious notes, and she also sent a series of photos of the draining process so I could have some visual support of this process, too.  The sake cup I used to drain liquid from my nuka paste. Photo of blue, black, and white cup held between thumb and forfinger. I patted down the nuka paste so that it was flat in the nukadoko. I then inserted a small sake cup, pressing firmly as it went straight down to the bottom. I chose a wide, low cup that I thought would accommodate the depth of my paste at the time (about three inches or so).  Sake cup immersed in nuka paste with sides sloped toward it. Photo of black, blue, and white cup in nuka paste. Per Elizabeth's advice, I then "banked" the sides around

Nukadoko Progress Report: pH Test Results

The garlic was blue, but the ginger looked like...ginger. Thumb and finger holding a piece of blue garlic.   As advised, I tested the pH of my nukadoko. A garlic clove and a chunk of ginger went in, and persimmon peels were set to dry soon after.  I checked the garlic and ginger chunks the next day, and there had not been much change. I did find a clove that had turned blue, but I am deeply suspicious it was one that had been loitering there for some time. The ginger, as Elizabeth wrote, looked like...ginger. This could mean the pH was off, which would account for the extreme sourness. Next steps were in order! Meanwhile, I prepared  a hearty skillet of The McFerrin in preparation!

Nukadoko Progress Report: Super Sour with Excess Liquid

Standing liquid in the nukadoko! Photo of a finger pointing at liquid on surface of nuka paste in brown pot. I was worried. I'd seen some liquid in my nukadoko, which I knew was normal based on my near constant perusal of the recipe in  Kansha , but the pickles were coming out sour. I mean the kind of sour that makes you scrunch up your face and go "Whew!"   I was worried that perhaps the pot had gone acidic or that some other issue might be at play. Live bacteria are very much like having a pet in the house. There is joy, delight, and wonder, but there is also a need to monitor behavior to understand its 'normal' state of health and well-being.  Over time, liquid accumulates in the nukadoko as you pickle ingredients in it. Vegetables are salt-rubbed before pickling, which initiates the drawing out of fluid. More fluid is drawn out as the lactobacillus present in the nukadoko set to work transforming these vegetables into tangy treats. Eventually, the fluid builds

Nukadoko Progress Report: Green Eggplant Meets Pickle Pot

Green Eggplant Meet Pickle Pot. Photo of green eggplant on wooden cutting board. After The Return of the Pickle Pot, pickling resumed as usual. It was good to be home again, my hands at work in the kitchen and at my desk. There is nothing so refreshing and orienting for me as these kinds of tasks, and invariably they are what I gravitate to if I need to recenter or settle my mind. However, since I'd left nearly twenty days prior, something had changed: the weather. Autumn was in the air. Temperatures were still rather warm (70° to 80° F/21° to 26° C), but they began dipping into the 50°F (10°C) range at night. Days were getting blessedly shorter. The Pickle Pot slowed down. A nearly 24-hour pickled cucumber came out greener, firmer, and crunchier than it did when Summer was a capital 'S' presence. (FYI, I still pickle the occasional cucumber so I can gauge how the pot changes.) Sweat still appeared on the inside of the lid, and I found some standing liquid now and again an

November Tokyo and Yokohama Farmers Regional Markets

Me staring in adoration at a display of local veg in Kanawa's Omicho Market. November is a month of bright skies, vivid leaves, and cooler temperatures. As farmers markets open again, get out and enjoy the community, the fresh produce, and the fun. Do pay attention, though, to posted precautions, and take care of yourself and your loved ones by wearing your mask (nose and mouth, thanks!), washing your hands, and being aware of social distancing protocols.  Market of the Sun A lovely and absolutely hopping market in the heart of Tokyo. Held the second weekend of each month, the Market of the Sun offers a range of fresh and prepared foods from near and far(ish). Do check their Facebook page before heading out to make sure it is still on and plan to wear a mask over your nose and mouth while there.  Saturday, November 13 and Sunday, November 14 10am - 4pm Nearest Station: Kachidoki, Exit 4a, 4b Shishimai Marche A new-to-me market in Oiso, the Shishimai Marche is held in front of a r

Nukadoko Progress Report: The Pickle Pot Goes on Vacation

Hot weather pickling in the nukadoko! The ginger in the back is for freshening the pot.  The onion is for aesthetic purposes only, btw. In August, I decided to head home for a visit. Like many, the pandemic kept me rooted in place, and like many, I could only attend funerals, greet new babies, or fret over family members from very far away. Once I hit full immunity after my second vaccination, I donned my N95 mask and boarded a plane for home to belatedly tend to some of that in person. However, there was the Pickle Pot to consider. What to do with my little friend? Summer's heat was still well and truly with us in late August, and my partner is no pickler. He's a pickle eater but not a pickler. I considered tucking it in the refrigerator, but our refrigerator freezes things on a whim. This was not a fate I wished for my nukadoko paste. I needed to arrange orusuban , the term Elizabeth Andoh introduces in Kansha , a.k.a. a pickle pot babysitter. I messaged a friend who lives up

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: October Update

  A colorful selection of kabu (turnips) at the Farmers Market at UNU. It has been some time, to say the least, since I have ventured out to a farmers market. Some, like the Kamakura market, have been running steadily, and others, like the Aoyama Marche, scaled back and ran in other places or shifted online as much as possible. Now that the State of Emergency (SOE) is over, the number of cases down, and the number of vaccinations up, markets opening up again bit by bit. Below is what I have thus far. If you notice something missing or that needs updating, get in touch! Market of the Sun This market remains closed. It is wonderful when it's open, so be sure to check their Facebook page for updates.  Koenji Farmers Market Saturday, October 16* This market is open! Held the third Saturday of the month in front of the Za-Koenji Public Theatre , this market is a charming mix of local fare and nearby growers. Check out the website for vendor details. 11am - 5pm Map Oiso Farmers Market T

Nukadoko Progress Report: The Forgotten Pickle or Beyond Furuzuke

Nukazuke well done and then some. A cucumber left a bit too long in the nukadoko pickle pot.  It was bound to happen. This is not one of my prouder moments, but a diary is a place of truth and learning. Here is my truth: I did not check or mix my nuka paste one day. The Scenario Right after the carrot halves, I decided to do up some cucumbers for friends. The nukadoko has become something of a communal resource, and I regularly supply my landlord neighbor and a handful of other friends with nukazuke . I am happy to do it as we can't eat everything the pot produces, and it gives me even more excuses to experiment and play. So, I dutifully washed, dried, salt rubbed, sweated, and rinsed some of the season's last cucumbers and put them in the pot around 1pm. I planned to take them out that evening and box them up for delivery the next day. The Crime I did not return that evening. I did not return the next day. It isn't so much that I forgot the pickle pot, but that I remember

Nukadoko Progress Report: The First Carrot

The first carrot to emerge from the nukadoko. A conversation with a local farmer at their farm stand informed me that cucumber season was over. To be honest, I was only a little bit sad at this news. Because of the nukadoko , we've eaten more cucumbers than ever before. It's been great and delicious fun, but I'm ready for something new. As the farmer and I continued chatting, I noticed a selection of bright orange carrots. Like many times found at farm stands, these vivid specimens were most likely the wrong size, wrong shape, etc. Even though they looked perfectly fine to me, they didn't meet the strict standards set by distributors and supermarkets for produce. The quality, though, is the same, so some farmers sell these castoffs from small stands just outside the farm gate. Carrots, then, were up next for the nukadoko . Preparing the Carrot I trimmed off the top, peeled, cut the carrot in half as it was quite long, and salt-rubbed each half and set them to the side t

Nukadoko Progress Report: Adding the Infusion

Nukazuke fresh from the newly infused pickle pot. From the very first time I mentioned an interest in starting my own nukadoko, Elizabeth Andoh offered to send some of her nuka paste for what she called an 'infusion.' She explained that the older, mature nuka paste gets added to the newer pot to lend a boost of energy, flavor, stability, and character or personality. Elizabeth also explained that while her infusion will sort of 'take over' the flavor of my pot the two will eventually meld. An infusion isn't necessary by any means, as my pot would have continued to develop on its own, but it is nice as my paste gains a sense of maturity it would otherwise take an extended period of time to develop. It's also a way for experienced picklers to lend a hand to those starting out.  As Elizabeth mentions in Kansha , pickle pots were once a common feature of Japanese kitchens, and it is not unusual to learn that a pot and its paste have existed for generations, most oft

Nukadoko Progress Report: First Pickles and Infusion Prep

First nukazuke on the plate! The Pickle Pot has offered up its first pickles! I'm going to say right now that this is somewhat addictive. I haven't been able to stop making and experimenting with the nukadoko. I believe has become something of an obsession. Everything I look at these days is assessed for its pickle potential.  As Elizabeth was packing up the infusion of paste from her pot for mine, I was preparing to do up the first pickle. I opted for cucumbers as they are in season at the moment and my landlord neighbor had just dropped some off on our doorstep. It was a bit too long to lie flat in my pot, so I cut it in half, and as recommended in Kansha , I salt-rubbed the washed and smoothed halves and left to sweat for a bit while I removed the veg scraps. I also took this opportunity to add some kombu, togarashi (Japanese hot pepper), and a whole clove of peeled garlic followed by the requisite flipping, digging, and flopping to mix everything together. I rinsed the exce

Nukadoko Progress Report: First checks

  Dry nuka was not what I had in mind. My first check on my nukadoko revealed...not very much. There was a warm nutty smell with a bit of spice; however, the vegetables hadn't broken down very much, and the texture didn't seem quite right. It wasn't the "coarse, wet sand" described in Kansha . A consult with Elizabeth, a.k.a. my Pickle Pot Advisor, confirmed that more beer was needed and to rebury the vegetable scraps to see what would happen. Other recommendations she had: add more nuka to increase volume; letting the veg "sweat" after being salt-rubbed before immersion in the pot. This draws out moisture locked in the vegetables, which in turn enriches and moistens the pot, and it makes room for the microbe-rich liquid that will be drawn into the vegetables. She also recommended keeping the liquid drawn out and add it, too, to the pot with the veg.  I added more beer directly to the pot to adjust the texture and reburied the veg. A check on Day Three r

Nukadoko is Underway!

Nukadoko, diary and ingredients  My nukadoko is underway! Pictured above are the ingredients recommended by Elizabeth Andoh as well as the pot she helped choose and the diary where I'm keeping notes. (I totally recommend this as it is easy to keep a small notebook near the pot, and it doesn't matter if I get a few bits of nukadoko paste on the paper.) There are a couple of things Elizabeth recommended in a Zoom chat we had, which I'll include here, but the recipe in Kansha is super comprehensive and clear. I could definitely do this with only that book if I didn't have Elizabeth an email away. One ingredient not listed in the Kansha recipe is the nukamisokarashi in the small green bag in the photo. The mixture contains a variety of items such as eggshells, karashi (mustard), dried citrus peel, togarashi (capsicum), and sanshou (Japanese pepper of the Sichuan pepper clan). Together, these add flavor, help stabilize the nuka paste, and repel insects. The kombu, ginger,

Farm to Door: Organic Vegetable Delivery in Japan

Pre-pandemic photo of Ome Farm at the UNU Market! The pandemic has had a wide variety of effects, and one of these is that people have taken a greater interest in their food. Some of that interest sprang out of supply chain breakdowns and some of it sprang from the fact that going to the grocery store or farmers market felt risky. Farmers found themselves receiving an increased number of requests for their produce and CSA memberships. A number of folks expressed a desire to keep up these new connections even after the pandemic abated. Good stuff, if you ask me. Here in Japan, farmer's markets have been canceled since April 2020 or so, and I'm avoiding travel as much as possible until I'm fully vaccinated. So, I thought it might be helpful to put together a list of these farms in one place so people could peruse as they wished and find what they wanted.   Following is an alphabetical list of farms and farmers, their products, primary language, and links to their websites whe

Nukadoko Adventures Begin!

  The nukadoko Elizabeth Andoh helped me choose. Introducing my nukadoko or pickle pot! I've decided to take the plunge and start my own nukadoko or rice bran pickle pot at long last. Vegetables ferment in a bed of nuka or rice bran, a leftover of the rice polishing process that brims with nutrition and flavor. The resulting pickles, known as nukazuke , are tart and flavorful as well as packed with B1 and E. I'm using Elizabeth Andoh's detailed recipe and instructions in Kansha: Celebrating Japan's Vegan and Vegetarian Traditions  to get me going, which has also resulted in the two of us making my nukadoko adventure into a project. I'll be documenting the process and sharing the wise words of my self-described Pickle Pot Advisor, Elizabeth Andoh , as we go along!