Using salt to preserve food spans millenia. The earliest known records span back to 6000BC in an area around the Nile valley and Mesopotamia known as the fertile cresecent. Japan, however, has turned this process into the artform known as tsukemono
Tsukemono or pickled thing in Japan accompanies literally every meal, can be served over a bowl of rice and even forms part of the tea ceremony.
The simplest of tsukemonos is salt pickle (shiozuke) and includes fermented and non-fermented varieties. The lactofermented plums in the previous post are in this category.
Vegetables with a high water content such as cucumber are best just lightly and briefly salted just to extract water and concentrate their flavour without fermentation
- salt can be added directly to the vegetable
- the vegetables are steeped in a 5 – 10% slat-to-water brine with the help of weights. You can buy special fermentation weights or just use suitable crockery to keep the vegetables fully submerged in the pickling brine
- 5% brine requires 8 hours pickling and will last for 2-3 days
- 10% brine requires 5 hours of pickling and will keep closer to a week
You can pickle vegetables with or witout extra condiments. This recipe uses kombu (sea kelp) and dried chilli with whole coriander seeds. The flavour combination is potentially endless: for cucumbers try dill with sumak, or preserved lemon with black pepper. Experiment to your heart’s content
Salted Cucumber With Kombu And Chilli
- 1 cucumber thickly sliced
- 1/2 tsp non-iodized salt
- a few thin strips of kombu (dried sea kelp)
- a few thin strips of dried chilli
- 1 tsp whole coriander seeds
- put the sliced cucumber in a bowl with the salt and toss with your fingers to disperse the salt evenly. Add the coriander, kombu and chilli.
- Rest, covered at least an hour and preferably 5 hours in the regrigerator. Set a timer so you don;t end up with overly salty vegetables
- Before serving squeeze firmly with your hands to extraxt and discard the salty water
- serve in a clean bowl with the kelp and chilli. Try garnishing with a few black sesame seeds