Kasuzuke Pickles

imageKasuzuke are pickles preserved in a mixture of sake lees (a yeast mash by-product that is left over after making sake), salt, sugar and sake or sweet cooking wine (mirin). They are allowed to cure for anywhere from several days to several years, and the resulting pickles may be slightly alcoholic with flavors that vary from sweet and mild to strong and pungent depending on how long they were cured for.

These are some jars of pickles I bought at a recent Arts & Crafts fair.  The elderly gentlemen selling these pickles proudly told me that it took him two years to make them.

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He said to just take out of the jar what I wanted to eat and wash it thoroughly in water.

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Which I did and these were some of the best pickles I have had in a long time, very savory or umami.  The flavor of these pickles exactly explains the word umami or the  “fifth taste” after salt, sweet, sour and bitter.

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Kasuzuke is made with cucumbers, eggplants, uri (a cucumber-like gourd), daikon (radishes) and pickling melons. Carrots, eggplants, watermelon rind, and ginger can also be pickled in this way. It was made as a way to preserve vegetables for a wintertime food.

There is also a fish kasuzuke, where the sugar is sometimes omitted, and sake, shoyu (soy sauce), pepper and/or ginger may be added. Typical fish include cod, salmon, butterfish, and tai snapper.  (This may be the fermented fish that I remember from my dads pickling refrigerator http://wp.me/P4KYq6-b  from the Recipe page)

Small cucumbers or other vegetables equivalent to 6 or 8 small cucumbers

  • 3 cups of sake lees
  • 3 tbsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • Splash of sake or mirin

Salt vegetables with 2 tbsp of the salt. Place in a container with a weight on the mix overnight.  The weight can be a small plate with a jar of water or some other weight.

In a separate bowl combine sake lees, 1 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp sugar. Mix well. If you are using dry (it will be crumbly) add the sake or mirin to moisten.  It should be the consistency of a thick paste now.

Use two identical shallow containers.  Spread part of the sake lees mixture on the bottom of the first (small bowl or crock or similar) container.  Layer the vegetables that you have squeezed and drained the water from next and then alternate layers of sake lees with the rest the vegetables.  The vegetables should be completely covered.  Top with second container and a weight on top of that the desired length of time.

Some of the recipes I read said you could use the paste up to three times so scrape off the paste and save to reuse in the next batch!  You will have to be patient as these two year pickles were worth the wait!

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