Friday, July 23, 2021

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 excess salt from the cucumber halves, put them in the pot, covered them with paste, and pressed it flat. I also wiped down the interior, rinsed and dried the lid, wished it luck, and returned it to its spot to see what would happen. 

This occurred around 11am at 83°F (28°C) with 65% humidity with both forecast to increase over the course of the day. It was time for all of us to rest in a cool, shaded location. 

First pickles fresh out of the nukadoko!

That same evening, around 8pm, I fished out the cucumber. It was definitely more flexible, and the taste was noticeably more sour on the ends that had been exposed. It was also clear that the bacteria had been at work on the inside of the cucumber as some spots appeared more 'watery' than others. At that point, it was 74°F (23°C) with 81% humidity. (See top photo.)

I have to say that I was terribly excited and immediately sent off photos to Elizabeth. There was a part of me that felt sure it wasn't going to work for some reason, that when I took off the lid the cucumber emerge the same as it had gone in, and that there would have to be a whole lot of troubleshooting, possibly even a hard reset, i.e. starting over from the beginning. The fact that I had real nukazuke in my kitchen felt fantastic.

Batch number two freshly emerged.
Kombu, garlic, and ginger alongside.

I immediately prepped another half cucumber from the landlord batch, trimming off some of the peel that was a bit scabby. What this meant, though, was that not only did I have an 'open' end on the cucumber half, but there were also some exposed places lengthwise on the cucumber. It was a recommended procedure on one of the websites I'd been reading about nukazuke, so I was curious to see how this might affect the flavor and pickling process. 

Batch number two of nukazuke!

The next morning, I found that the places directly exposed to the nuka paste - the open ends of the halves and the peeled places along the sides - were slightly more sour, but the taste remained mild. The garlic, ginger, and kombu were still present and not really changed. The garlic, in particular, looked as fresh as it had the night before. 

The nuka is definitely moving more toward paste, which is good news. It is wetter and has an increasingly pleasant sour smell. I am looking forward to experimenting with different amounts of time in the paste. Elizabeth doesn't recommend longer than 24 hours in Kansha, but I'd like to try something close to that maximum. I've got all sorts of ideas, but meanwhile, I feel like things are headed in the right direction. Soon the inusion!

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