A deep dive into the world of tsukemono

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JAPANESE PICKLED VEGETABLES: 129 HOMESTYLE RECIPES FOR TRADITIONAL BRINED, VINEGARED AND FERMENTED PICKLES

By Machiko Tateno (North Clarendon, Vt.: Tuttle Publishing, 2019, 144 pp., $16.99, paperback)

There are many reasons why pickles are the “in” food, so it’s with great excitement that I review this new book that is sure to attract the attention of those opting for dietary options that are free of lactose, fat, gluten and carbs, but filled with probiotics.

For many, pickles satisfy that salty and sometimes sweet craving with just a few calories. “Japanese Pickled Vegetables: 129 Homestyle Recipes for Traditional Brined, Vinegared and Fermented Pickles” is written by Chef Machiko Tateno who is a registered dietitian and author of several Japanese cookbooks. She also hosts and leads fermented food cooking classes. Tateno has done a fabulous job compiling 129 unique pickle recipes.

The book is well organized, with the first few sections introducing the reader to the preparation involved. She guides the reader through preparation, timing, aging, storage, and containers and equipment. The author provides a glossary of ingredients and where to obtain them, including bonito flakes, okara soy pulp, konbu (seaweed) and miso. The book is then divided into three sections, with the first section featuring the basics, the second section focusing on traditional recipes and the third section on instant pickles.

In the first section, she details a fermented rice bran that can be used to ferment pickles. The details look a bit daunting, but the pictures guide the reader. Once this refrigerated rice bran is made, various vegetables like eggplants, carrots, cucumbers and celery can be stored in the rice bran mush. They are then fermented for the next one to three days. Throughout, Takeno is inventive with the pickle she is introducing. For example, she shares with the reader condiment recipes, including yuzu chili pastes and peppercorns in shoyu and miso that will surely delight the taste buds.

However, a limitation of these select recipes is the use of sugar in some of the pickles. I would have appreciated the use of more traditional sweeteners, which are lower on the glycemic index, such as brown rice syrup. Another limitation throughout the book is the use of a plastic bag for mixing and storing. I would appreciate a more sustainable way of mixing and storing. I appreciated the Cabbage Pickles and Kimchi section. I have always tried to create other kinds of kimchi and failed. However, the author provides pictures and detailed descriptions of how to complete a vast, diverse set of kimchi recipes. She also shows the reader how to create the “master” kimchi seasoning paste that can be used on other vegetables such as daikon, mustard spinach and bell peppers. I liked the author’s use of enamel pots to ferment the kimchi. In the second chapter, Takeno reviews and describes traditional recipes. I appreciated the detailed descriptions of the cucumber plank pickles.

The third and final section focuses on instant pickles. This section is especially useful for individuals who do not have enough time to prepare and wait for a pickle to ferment. These pickles can be eaten in one hour and require just two to four ingredients. I loved seeing the recipes for the salted cabbage pickle, umami cabbage and crunchy cucumber pickles. Overall, this cookbook is a welcome read for anyone wanting to advance their skills at making pickles. Pickles are the “in” food and anyone apt at making them will be the hostess with the “mostess.”

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