Sunday, October 17, 2021

Nukadoko Progress Report: The Forgotten Pickle or Beyond Furuzuke

Nukadoko Cucumber Furuzuke Joan Bailey Japan Farmers Markets
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 remembered and then promptly forgot it as the day went along. 'Oh yes, I need to mix the pickle pot,' I'd think as I passed through the kitchen from my office and back again to check the weather for signs of the approaching typhoon/get a glass of water/make lunch/find a book for a quote I needed/stop the cat from trying to open the front door AGAIN/feed our semi-feral cat, Mr. B/type just one more paragraph/answer just one more email.

"I'll be there in a minute," I said to the Pickle Pot each time.

I went to bed.

The Dream

That night, I dreamed about my Pickle Pot. In the dream, I approached the pot, sensing something was wrong but not sure what the problem might be. When I took the lid off, cobwebs draped across the interior, and a musty smell filled the kitchen.

My eyes snapped open, and I ran to the kitchen. It was 3:15am.

The Pickles

I admit I was scared, but I was also curious. Elizabeth writes in Kansha that her mother-in-law made the most of these furuzuke or old pickles by serving them thinly sliced and sprinkled with roasted sesame. They would, I thought, be strong-flavored but edible. Elizabeth also writes that it's good to get to know pickles at all stages, and I wanted to know what was happening. In short, I needed to analyze my crime. The next morning after I woke up, I cut off a slice each for R and me.

"That's good," said R. "It's sour, like American sour pickle sour."

I nibbled my bite and agreed. The resulting pickle was not overwhelmingly attractive - a bit yellow green with an interior well worked over by the bacteria living in the pot - but it was definitely sour. It would, we mused, be good on a hamburger.

The Lesson

Two more cucumbers went in at 10:40am on a bright sunny post-typhoon day. The temperature was 88°F (31°C) with 56% humidity. My device told me it felt more like 95°F (95°C), which I found believable. I also set an alarm to remind me to take them out by dinner time. 

I cannot say this is a practice I recommend, but it did work out. I'm also glad that I tried the results. I fell like I have a better understanding of the process and its power, especially in hot and humid weather.

The paste, interestingly enough, is much wetter, and the smell remains very sour. I assume the fluid drawn out by the extended pickling process is what I'm encountering. There is no standing liquid yet, but I sense it will happen soon.

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