Whatever it is, give it to me brewed, yeasted, cured, affinaged, pickled, brined, vinificated, fermented in rice bran, wrapped in banana leaves, and buried in mud for the winter.
Meanwhile, my sauerkraut attempts continue to fall flat. I just can’t get the right temperature and salinity. I think the size and shape of the cabbage pieces are working against me, too. And my fermentation rig may be a little too janky.
But after one attempt that didn’t cut it, I managed to made a delicious batch of mustard. Mellowed for a couple weeks on the counter, it came out really well. So my spirits were lifted by that success.
And by this colorful burst of inspiration:
Clockwise from left: kaboucha squash pickled in sake lees (kasu-zuke); sea vegetable kraut (cabbage, ginger, arame, dulse, hijiki); nukka radish (fermented in rice bran); celery with spring onion, cumin, and oregano; Tokyo turnips with spring onion, turmeric, and coriander. And in the center, beet and diakon kimchi.
All are from Cultured Pickle Shop, and all are wild fermented. The nukka radish is a totally new flavor for me. Pickled in rice bran for six months to a year, the flavor is transformed — it’s deep, crunchy, and cheesy, bursting with umami and totally addictive. The kaboucha squash, pickled in dregs from the local sake factory, has an amazing miso flavor. And the simple kraut is just so clean and delicious, I could easily eat a jar of it as a salad.
So I now have a baseline for how great pickles could taste if I learned how to make them properly at home.
And in addition to Wild Fermentation, I found an inspiring manual that may help along the way:
Lots of amazing Japanese techniques in here, but many of them, like the nukka, are very time consuming or require obscure ingredients. So this is one of those books I’ll need to stare at for a while before I actually make anything.
Which is probably good. I need to really nail the kraut before I attempt anything more exotic.