Nukazuke (Rice Bran) Pickle Recipe

By Joyce

There are some foods that are just too damn exciting, and not just to the palate.  Nukazuke, rice bran pickles, fall into the “I wish I would have done this sooner” category.  Not only are they crisp, their flavor is subtle, but with a complexity unique to each vegetable’s qualities. And, just as significant, the fermentation process for making them is very simple and downright entertaining.  My own definition of what cures me is any activity or experience, which engages, vitalizes, and catalyzes healing.  It might be hard to imagine that a traditional Japanese pickling process could elicit such fizz in me. But it does. I always pay attention when any food processing activity excites, or as my friend Danny says, gives me juice. We all know this…if what we do gives us energy then we must be on the right track.

I found out about nukazuke pickles in the most traditional way — from my neighbor, Stewart.  He borrowed one of my most cherished books, The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz, made a batch of the nukazuke pickles, and then gave me some samples. In due time, he offered me a lesson on how to ferment vegetables using this method.  Because Stewart has spent significant time in Southeast Asia and had previously tasted these pickles at their source, he was drawn to making them.

Stewart warned me that recipes for making these pickles vary widely, but since it’s a no-fail kind of process, he advised doing my own research and experimenting since ingredients were cheap.  That’s exactly what I did so the recipe that follows is a composite recipe based on The Art of Fermentation’s instructions, Stewart’s recommendations and my own google searches. I offer it as a guide, and like Stewart, encourage readers to try out their own versions, becoming their own resident authority on a method that they can share with neighbors.  One reason I love live culture foods is they survive because they are passed from organism-to-organism, household-to-household, and generation-to-generation.

In this fermentation method, we bury any and all types of vegetables in a rice bran and salt paste with a consistency like wet sand.  Depending on the ambient temperature, vegetables can pickle in a matter of hours or overnight, retraining their crispness. If you like a stronger, more sour taste and softer texture, the vegetables can be left in the rice bran for a few days or even months. This method of fermentation is reliant on a continuous supply of lactic-acid producing bacteria colonies, which comes from the surface of our bare hands and the skin of fruits and vegetables.

It is important to stir the nuka pot (crock if you have one) everyday with your hands to keep the healthy bacteria alive and to prevent mold.  Since this is a live culture, it emits an earthy almost nutty scent.  It can also be refrigerated if ambient summer temperatures become too warm (which might sour your nuka-bed), or if you go away for any length of time.

The reward for getting
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