Hello! Max here! Sorry for a slight break in the updates again! I’m going to try a new pattern from next week that might make it easier for me to keep on schedule! Look forward to it! Anyway, let’s get into the theme of this week! What am I doing in this peaceful picture? Well, I might be calming my heart and mind to prepare for the fight of a lifetime… If some of you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you might remember me sharing my miserable failure of an attempt to make pickles some time back? If not! Here is a reminder…
So as you can see I tried making pickles using salt, chili and the leaves from turnip greens in a plastic bag. But since I didn’t know the right amount of chili I used the entire pack which turned out to be about 10 times the normal amount… Generating in the worlds spiciest pickles!!… That being said, they never even saw the light of day. Usually, when you make pickles you need to put weight on the vegetables to extract stored up water. I failed at this as well and more or less just left the bag in the refrigerator so the leaves didn’t release any liquid at all. Well, in short, I got beaten to a pulp in the first round against pickles… But never give up! A new chance came around igniting hope into my broken heart!
This is Takana! Also known in English as Mustard leaf. Takana, especially pickled Takana known as Takana-zuke, makes appearances in many different Japanese dishes. One of the most famous ones is as topping for the globally popular dish Ramen! Takana is also used widely in Kumamoto where ‘Takana meshi’, a rice dish with pickled vegetables, is a local specialty!
The best season for Takana is from December to March and as you can see in the picture above, a mountain of Takana arrived at my workplace Kiyora Kaasa in Minamioguni. Finally, I thought! This is a sign from the heavens, time to take my revenge and make some edible pickles!!
This time I abandoned the plastic bag method and bought a proper pickle-bucket, specialized for making pickles. All you need is a plastic bucket, salt, and chili. Oh, and some kind of vegetables of course! Let’s get started!
Disclaimer! This is not a recipe, this is only a beginner recording his struggles as he tries to overcome the mountain known as “pickle making”.
I started by cutting off the leaves using my beloved kitchen knife made by true swordsmiths from the fantastic smithy Moritaka Hamono with a history of over 700 years. Oh sorry, I’m bragging〜! 😀 But seriously, anyone passionate about kitchen tools should check them out! They deliver abroad and the prices are reasonable! Anyway! What we will use here is the stem of the leaves!
After this, I washed the Takana closely and then left it in water for about 30 minutes!
Then you simply start to layer Takana, salt, and chili until you fill the bucket. The chili should be cut a few times if you want some nice spicey flavors. But be careful not to use too much salt! I probably used a bit too much! Obviously, the amount of chili depends on the amount of vegetables. For 4 kg of Takana I used about 8 dried chilis!
Here we have the bucket filled with Takana, salt and, chili! Everything is going smoothly! Or at least so I thought… As I mentioned earlier the last and most important step is to put weight on the Takana, or whatever vegetable you are using, to press it together and force out the stored liquid inside. And that is when I remembered… I have nothing heavy enough to use as a weight!! Often you can buy weights especially for making pickles at stores selling home products here in Japan but since the time was late (countryside-late: 20:00 o’clock) all stores had closed looong ago.
Would I give up once again? Would round 2 go to pickles as well? Beaten twice by petty vegetables? Hell no!
Only one thing left to do, grab my flashlight, pull on some sweet wellingtons and head out into the dark cold night of rural Japan to search for something heavy that could help me take revenge on pickles! After 30 minutes of fumbling in the dark, this is what I found by the river bank…
It might not look like much but this is actually pretty heavy! At least 10 kilos! But more than anything, this is my savior! Without you, my dreams of pickles would have crashed and burned once more! Thank you random weirdly cylinder-shaped rock!
Here I have more or less passed the baton to my new found partner in crime that will spend a good week putting weight on the Takana until it magically transforms into nice and edible pickles! My role from this point on is mostly supportive by pouring out the water that collects in the bucket and mixing and stirring its contents. After doing that for a week, supposedly, edible and hopefully delicious pickles are what will be left in the bucket!
One week later…This is what it looks like after a week! Hard to judge I guess but I think it looks pretty good! Time for tasting!
VERY SALTY!!!! 😀 But edible! And apparently, you can wash it in water before eating to rid some of the salty taste. Or store it in the fridge for a month and the taste should settle. At least it’s major process from my first plastic-bag-30-chilis-catastrophe!
Oh, and the most fun part of this entire thing was this last step to conserve all these pickles that I obviously can’t eat by myself! How did I do that you might ask?
By using the vacuum packaging machine at work!!! Oh, I could spend all day everyday vacuum packaging things! To be honest, I heard that I could use this if I made Takana pickles and it would be a lie to say that it wasn’t a big part of my decision to re-challenge my archnemesis, pickles.
But on a more serious note, it’s really fun to learn about all the different traditional dishes of the area and challenging new things that I would never have tried if I didn’t live here. And everyone around me is so nice and gives advice and take an interest in my different endeavors. Thank you so much!
As I mentioned in the beginning. Next week I will try something new and present my entire week in one picture and a corresponding text for each day. So there will be seven pictures in one post at the end of the week that will present things that stood out to me during the week! It will probably be a variation between high and low but I think it can be a good format that will be easier to keep up! Look forward to it and see you next week!