Monday, September 5, 2011

How I Came to Love Tsukemono and Nukamiso Zuke

I should talk a little about my cooking experience.  My mother was an excellent Japanese cook.  Her Japanese foods always tasted the best to me and I try to remember what her foods tasted whenever I cook Japanese foods. My mother's tsukemono (pickled veggies) was food made in heaven.  My relatives and long time family friends in Japan are all what I consider excellent traditional cooks.  That is, they make many things most Japanese women no longer make such as umeboshi, rakkyo, tsukemono, jams, jellies, sesame tofu, tofu, etc.  My grandmother was apparently known for her udon making skill and I grew up listening to many interesting stories of her kitchen skills.

My mother considered her kitchen her own domain and did not like me hanging around which was ok when I was small since I would rather be anywhere else than in her hot kitchen. This slowly started to change in my last year in high school.  She let me fix salads.  As I sliced and cut the vegetables, she would watch my knife skill intently and correct it.  She was a harsh critic!!  She told me how to hold the knife, how to pull or push the knife depending on what was being sliced or cut.  Did you know that you can tell if you are Japanese or Western trained cook/chef by how you hold your knife or which way you pull or push with a knife? 

Then same year, I learned to make tacos from our next door neighbor on military housing we lived on Okinawa.  I fell in love with spicy foods and to me, very exotic taste of Mexico.  So, my mother would let me make tacos for the family.  That was the extent of my cooking in my teen years.  But, throughout the high school years, I always liked to look at food magazines.  Whereas my contemporaries were looking at fashion mags, I looked at food mags and started writing down all the recipes in a notebook I always carried around.  I also started buying food mags and cutting recipe clippings.  I still have my recipe notes and clippings from those times in a huge box under my computer table.  Do I look at them?  Not really, but I keep them just in case I need to find "that" particular dish.  It's like a security blanket for me I think.

I'll stop here about my awakening to food world and will continue at later times.  As you can see when I start talking about food it's hard for me to stop.  Back to Tsukemono and nukamiso before you fall asleep.  This is my mother's nukamiso or rice bran mash most treasured in Japan.  She made this in 1973 when she returned to the US from Okinawa.  Our second time in the US.  So, it would make this nukamiso almost 40 years old.  I've heard of 100 year old nukamiso in Japan that is past from one generation to the next. As you add vegetables, the mash get watery and liquid needs to be removed periodically and new rice bran mash added.



I placed Japanese cucumbers and Japanese turnips yesterday in  the mash.  It's ready in a day.  Best in two days.  Here it is.


Nukamiso Zuke - 


4 1/2 lb (2 kg) rice bran - nuka
10 oz salt, 300 gram
15 C water
8 " kombu (dried sea kelp), dusted off with a wet tissue
6 red chili peppers, preferably Japanese
2 oz ginger root, sliced
2 slices white bread, optional, torn in pieces
1/3 C dried soy beans, optional
6-8 garlic cloves, optional
1/2 - 1 C yellow mustard powder, optional
1 - 2 handful of vegetable scraps such as cabbage, carrots, any greens

1.  Heat salt and water in a pot and dissolve salt.  In a large pickling container (I use plastic container that fits into refrigerator), combine all ingredients including the water/salt mixture.  Vegetable scraps are used to flavor the mash in the initial phase and will be removed after 3 weeks.

2.  Mix well and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 3 weeks before removing the vegetable scraps and adding fresh vegetables for pickling.   Every day mix the mash to get the air into the mash. 

3.  Nukamiso will be ready in 3 weeks and you can add whatever vegetables you like.  I like mine pickled between 1-4 days only.  Some people prefer longer pickling period. 

You can keep the mash going forever.  Japanese method is mixing the mash every day.  I don't.  I mix whenever I remember but when I go on trips, I cover the mash with more salt and let it wait until I return. 

Several days ago I made Japanese sesame sauce.  I used some to dress steamed soy beans.  For lunch today, I will use some to make a dipping sauce along with mentsuyu (noodle dipping sauce) I've already made and keep in refrigerator.  Look how sesame sauce has separated after several days.
I used 1 part Japanese sesame sauce, 1 part my own mentsuyu or Japanese noodle sauce (you can buy) and 1 part water to make the dipping sauce.  I'll post my mentsuyu recipe at later time.  I boiled some yuzu flavored somen which is thin Japanese wheat based noodle and just dressed very simply with shiso leaf from my garden and a bit of flavored miso paste I made earlier (I'll post the recipe at a later time).


Itadakimasu!!





3 comments:

Judy King said...

I just finished making my first nukamiso starter mash, but I followed a recipe out of "Japanese Cooking: A simple art" by Tsuji, Shizuo. I don't know if it is going to work. This is what I used:
4 lb rice bran
1 lb course sea salt
2 tbsp dry mustard
1/2 Cup beer
3 cups water, boiled and cooled
3 small dried red peppers, seeded
4 inch square konbu
peel of 2 apples

This recipe didn't say to dissolve the salt in water, but to add the ingredients one by one as you knead it.
I am wondering if it is going to work...!
If not, I will try your recipe!

Judy King said...

I just finished making my first nukamiso starter mash, but I followed a recipe out of "Japanese Cooking: A simple art" by Tsuji, Shizuo. I don't know if it is going to work. This is what I used:
4 lb rice bran
1 lb course sea salt
2 tbsp dry mustard
1/2 Cup beer
3 cups water, boiled and cooled
3 small dried red peppers, seeded
4 inch square konbu
peel of 2 apples

This recipe didn't say to dissolve the salt in water, but to add the ingredients one by one as you knead it.
I am wondering if it is going to work...!
If not, I will try your recipe!

Judy King said...

I just finished making my first nukamiso starter mash, but I followed a recipe out of "Japanese Cooking: A simple art" by Tsuji, Shizuo. I don't know if it is going to work. This is what I used:
4 lb rice bran
1 lb course sea salt
2 tbsp dry mustard
1/2 Cup beer
3 cups water, boiled and cooled
3 small dried red peppers, seeded
4 inch square konbu
peel of 2 apples

This recipe didn't say to dissolve the salt in water, but to add the ingredients one by one as you knead it.
I am wondering if it is going to work...!
If not, I will try your recipe!