Sunday, July 20, 2008

Quick Pickles

I ended up having a glut of onions and cucumbers last week, thanks in part to a miscommunication with sous-chef Peter, who is responsible for ingredient sourcing each week at Ofuna market. Since daytime temperatures are hovering above the 30 degree mark in my kitchen, and I'm dealing with a ridiculously small bar fridge, something had to be done. I got this idea from the cucumber thread over at

My mother used to make cucumber pickles every year, along with jam, jellies, relishes and chutneys. When I mention to my Japanese friends that I make tsukemono (Japanese-style pickles), they're often surprised that a foreigner a) knows how to make them, and b) enjoys eating them. When I mention I grew up on home-made pickles, albeit of a different style, their eyes really bug out. Unlike my mother, however, I don't have an array of canning equipment and a large basement to store things in, so I'm limiting myself to quick pickles - lightly salted vegetables, kept in the fridge in a sweet vinegar bath. I think it's a fast way to use up a glut, and they're a great addition to my lunch box.

If you'd like to play along, just slice some onions and cucumbers, then toss them in a few spoons of coarse salt. Put them in a bowl with a weight on them - like another bowl filled with water, for example. In fifteen or twenty minutes, rinse them off, and squeeze out any extra liquid, and put them into a non-reactive container, like a glass jar or tupperware. In a pot, dissolve sugar in vinegar in a 1:1 ratio - I used 2/3 cup rice vinegar to 2/3 cup white sugar. When the sugar has fully dissolved, pour the liquid over your cucumbers and onions, cover and refrigerate. Add garlic or dill, if you like. Or not. They should keep for about a week, but we're eating them so fast, they're hardly making it that long.

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