KCRW Good Food - Umeboshi

Posted on July 11, 2015 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I was on KCRW GOOD FOOD talking with Evan Kleiman about Umeboshi.  

Umeboshi Pickling Workshop

Posted on May 27, 2015 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Japanese Umeboshi (Salted Plum) Pickles

This is one of the classic pickles of Japan made from a type of green sour apricots (ume). My summer memories of growing up in Kamakura centers around making umebosh (salted plums)i and umeshu (plum wine) with my grandmother in June. Umeboshi is  an ancient medicinal food to aid digestion. I can't think of another Japanese food that is revered as much as umeboshi.  Here is a story I wrote years ago for Saveur about

Umeboshi makes a delicious filling in rice balls. It is also used to season meats, fish and vegetables. You can also have it with green tea. Since umeboshi is a pickle, it is naturally salty, so you should eat it in moderation.

In the umeboshi making class class last sunday, we used our hands extensively.  Our finger tips turned he color of berries or fushia. Liisa, one of the students wanted to take home the leftover juice of the shiso leaves that is used to dye the plums.  She wanted to dye her pjs into that fucia pink.

Local ume is expensive but the fact that they are available is better than nothing. At 50 cents a ume, you can't make too many mistakes.  I am hoping that the ume go down in price, as more people discover the wonders of umeboshi. Otherwise, I have to plant my own ume tree soo.

I did the class so students can see umeboshi in different stages pickling stages - soaking the plums in water, brining the plum sto extract the vinegar, and how to dry them in the sun to further tenderize and deepen the flavors.  

We tasted commercial and homemade umeboshi. Everyone liked my homemade better because you could taste the fruit and homemade doesn't contain all the chemical preservatives like food coloring and MSG. I couldn't recommend a single umeboshi from the market, except what you can get on line - Ozuke and Eden's umeboshi which are organic and don't contain any chemical preservatives.  

Japanese Pickle Workshop: Koji and Nuka

Posted on May 8, 2015 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

I am very happy to work with Arroyo General, a beautiful shop in Highland Park.  They are promoting my upcoming classes, so be sure to check this for details about my Pickle class and Soba class in May.

Quick Radish Pickled Onigiri

Hakusai Pickles in the making

Kimchi Workshop April 25 10 am -1pm

Posted on April 6, 2015 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

This is the first Asian pickling class I will be offering.  My friend Sonya Chun has been treating me to her mother's delicious kimchi for sometime, so one day, I asked her if I can learn how to make that kimchi. She said, of course, let's do a workshop.  That conversation took place last year. I have made kimchi on my own but you really need to work with someone who grew up with it, to understand the depth of flavors.  My research and trial workshop with Sonya started wth a trip to the Korean market and going through the produce section and spice section - you get a whole new perspective on what these ingredients mean to Korean people.  Fascinating. We spent the entire rest of the afternoon and evening making kimchi. It's quite laborious but well worth the trouble. Even the lightly pickled kimchi tastes delicious. Wait till the fermented ones. In our Kimchi workshop, we will try to give you as much information as possible, so you can incorporate what I learned from Sonya.

Class description:

KImchi & Beyond... If you love Korean food but have been timid about cooking it at home, the best place to start is by learning how to make kimchi. Kimchi is rich in vitamins and minerals and fiber. This “soul food” of Korea often appears on “super food” lists. There are over 200 different kinds of kimchi. Sonya Chun, Sonya's mother, and Sonoko Sakai will guide you through three types of kimchi including the classic whole cabbage kimchi, delicious citrus “water” kimchi, and a fresh seasoned kimchi. You will learn to prep, taste, and understand the fermentation time. Your class will be followed by a delicious lunch of Pa-Joen (Korean Chive Pancake with shrimp & pork),Citrus “Water” Kimchi, Nyeng Myun (Cold Korean Buck Wheat Noodle Soup), Freshly Seasoned Kimchi, & Classic Napa Cabbage Kimchi. Dessert of Homemade dried Persimmon, in a ginger and Cinnamon soup. April 25 from 10 -2 pm. $95. You will take home the classic Cabbage Kimchi to complete the fermentation.  To register E mail [email protected]

JCCNC Rice Workshop March 21, 2015

Posted on March 12, 2015 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)





I am heading to the Bay Area to teach a class on rice, one of my favorite topics. At this workshop, I will be featuring rice in all forms: Fresh and Fermented, Sweet and Savory. Come join me at JCCNC. This place has become my community away from Los Angeles.




Seasoned rice dish with sukiyaki beef, shirataki and pickled ginger

Chirashi Sushi with Seasfood, sesame and shiso

Miso Soup with Fava, tofu and herbs

Fermented Nuka pickles from scratch

Shitarama with Adzuki bean paaste

wuith Okinawa brown sugar syrup




For more information visit


Fee: $100


You will take home Nuka for your pickles


Jcccnc 1840 Sutter Street, San Francisco Tel 415-567-5505




Something Pickled

Posted on November 14, 2013 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Pickles are like the period of a sentence.  It  has a way of finishing a meal to clear the palate. Some Japanese pickles are lightly salted and quick to make and others go through fermentation and can take months.  Pickles are enjoyed for their flavors and aid in digestion.  Eating them in moderation is a good thing.

Shio-Koji - Cooking with Koji

Posted on October 31, 2013 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Dashi - The essence of Japan

Posted on February 10, 2012 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (1)

Jubei Yagi - Proprietor of Yaghi-cho - Katsuobushi shop

The Common Grains project has finally arrived at the final destination - Soba-ya in Torrance. Doing event after event is like running a long distance marathon with pots on my back. I have a dent in hub cap and a scratch on my new Prius, not to mention the car has not been washed in weeks; I got one traffic ticket, and lost my I-phone.   Otherwise,we've been sailing smoothly, and the people have responded very well to our soba.  This makes me very happy, and there are a few more events before we wrap at the end of the month.

Common Grians is offering its final  at Soba-ya until Feb 21, featuring handmilled soba. One of the highlights here is the upcoming dashi workshop, probably the first comprehensive dashi workshop to be held in LA, or maybe in the country!  

Karebushi (katuobushi) blocks on display at Yagicho 

Yagi-cho, a specialty dashi shop's owner, Mamiko Nishiyama, daughter of Chobei Yagi (picture above) will join us from Tokyo to do a with me.  I wrote about Dashi and the shop in the I have two big boxes plus what Nishiyama stuffed in her suitcase ful of bonito blocks, bonito flakes, dried sardines, a variety of konbu and wakame seaweed, donko shitake mushrooms, sesame seeds, soybeans. Nishiyama was so thrilled she passed through customs safely. If I had a way,  I would have moved their entire store here.  I wish Chobei Yagi would join us too but he is holding the fort. It turns out that Nishiyama went to grade school with me. I didn't remember until my sister reintroduced me to her 40 something years later.  Mamiko and I hit it off like old girlfriends. What fun.

Here are two pieces of mature Karebushi - katsuobushi blocks. The upper part and lower part of the fish. 4 blocks makes a whole. 
Jubei Yagi taps two karebushis together. He can tell by the sound how good the karebushi is.

He takes a sip of freshly brewed dashi. It's delicious.

Asazuke Cucumbers Pickles with Ginger

Posted on August 29, 2011 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)

My favorite way of eating fresh vegetables is raw. These persian cucumbers had shinny skin and firm meat - perfect for a lightly seasoned pickle - Asazuke. I ruibbed the bite size pieces of cucumbers with some salt and put them in a to apply  pressure. The weight of the pickling device extracts the excess water in the cucumbers and instensifies their flavors. My pickling device is about 25 years old. If you don't have one, to extract the excess water. That's how it was done traditionally.  With a little sesame oil, sliced ginger and a dash of shichimi peppers, these cucumbers make a nice palate cleansers.

Recipe: Asazuke cucumbers with ginger
Makes 2-3 servings

2-3 Persian or Japanese cucumbers
1.5-2 tsp of salt (kosher or amashio salt)
2 tsp roasted sesame oil
1 tbls ginger, sliced very thinly
or roasted sesame seeds 

Wash and peel the cucumbers and slice vertically in halves.
Rub salt on the cucumbers.  
Put them in a pickling jar or cover with plate and apply pressure with something heavy like a stone (1kg) and let it rest in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. 

Peel the ginger and soak in water for about 10 minutes.  Slice the root thinly as possible. Soak again in water
to make them crisp.  Drain and serve with the cucumbers.

To serve, discard excess water.  Pour the sesame seed oil and toss lightly. 
Serve with sliced ginger and a dash of shichimi pepper or sesame seeds.

Umeboshi - A Century of Plums

Posted on February 11, 2011 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (1)


I wrote a story about my grandmother, Hatsuko Ishikawa's 100th birthday for some years ago.  I pitched it to the magazine a year before grandmother's  big birthday to see if they would be interested, and while I got their enthusiastic support, I wasn't sure when the story will come out.  I wanted it to come out while grandmother was alive.  I  flew to Japan with a photographer friend, Marissa Roth to see my grandmother in Kamakura.  Our visit got some opposition from my relatives who thought we we were shortening grandmother's life by bringing a stranger into the house and disturbing her peace and quiet.  But I made the bold decision to go ahead and write the story and take as many pictures as possible.  When we got there, grandmother welcomed us.  She couldn't do too much at her old age except to talk story. But I didn't ask for anything more.  Grandmother showed Marissa the old plum tree, which was the subject of the story.  Marissa took pictures of grandmother standing by her favorite tree, from which she made pickled plums, umeboshi, every year. Grandmother was happy we came. That evening, I cooked sukiyaki for us. I don't want to brag but it was the best sukiyaki I ever had. Grandmother and Marissa thought so too.

The plum story was published but sadly my grandmother did not live to see it. Nevertheless, she lived to a ripe age of 102. I loved her dearly.  I still have some of grandmother's umeboshi left in a jar.  They are crystallized like the legacy grandmother left behind. i recently got a copy of the story from Marissa, so I decided to post it on the website. Here is the  

Quick Napa Cabbage and Apple Pickles with Yuzu

Posted on November 17, 2010 at 11:16 PM Comments comments (0)

This pickle is mentioned in the Zester Daily story. ()  Here is the recipe for the Quick Napa Cabbage and Apple Pickles with Yuzu.  I like it when it's freshly made that day.  The napa cabbage gets wilted and saltier the next day. If you like a milder flavor, give it a rinse under water and squeeze out the excess brine before you serve it. The Yuzu rinds gives the pickles a bright citrus accent.

Napa cabbage is now in season.  They are plump and crisp.

Use Ara-jio (Japanese salt)

Any red apple will add a pretty color and sweetness to the pickle.

Add the apples, thirty minutes before serving the pickles.

Serves 4

1 medium size whole Napa Cabbage (1.5 lbs)
1 red apple, sliced into 8 wedges
3 tsp Ara-jio (Japanese salt)
1 Japanese pickling device or plate with 5 lbs stone to press down the pickles
1/2 tsp yuzu or lemon rind, optional

Cut the root end off the napa cabbage.  Separate the leaves and wash off the dirt.
Cut the leaves into bite size pieces, about 2 inches in width.
Rub the leaves with salt. Massage the leaves for about a minute.

Add the leaves to the pickling device, cover with plate and press down with weight (or put in a pickling device) for
2-3 hours.  

Sliced the apple wedges into 1/4 inch pieces.

Add the sliced apples about 30 minutes before serving and press down again.

Squeeze out excess brine and serve with Yuzu rind.

Quince Jelly - In Caroline's kitchen-London

Posted on November 12, 2010 at 10:02 AM Comments comments (0)
A wedding in Sicily brings me to Paris and London for a few days.  This is what I love about traveling in Europe. Everything is close.  I took the Eurostar from Paris to London, then a tube ride to Baron's Court where my friend Caroline Lives.

I was in London in less than 3 hours despite warnings of a tube strike, which was due to start in London that evening.  My big suitcase stayed in Paris. I love traveling light for a change.   

Caroline's kitchen shelf.  A cook's collection of kitchen essentials

When I am London I find myself hanging out in Caroline's kitchen for hours at a time, catching up with Caroline and Tyler, her son, my step son, and watching her cook. She updates me on their lives, her travels, and the latest cookbook she is working from.  She is a wonderful cook. Her cookbook collection is so large, it's like being in a library.  This time, Tyler was away in Turkey working so I didn't see him but I got to meet his girlfriend Emmalina. That was a treat.  


Hazelnuts from Becavin hanging on the wall

Even though Baron's Court is in London, I feel like I can be in the country when I am at Caroline's house.  It is very rustic -  like an extension of  her country house in Brittany.  In the hallway leading to the kitchen, there is a row of  jars full jams that Caroline made with Quince, Medlar, and Plum trees from her garden.  "I have so many I don't know what to do with them. "Take some home," Caroline offers. I am eyeing for the quince.  My favorite. We had the quince jam with cheeses I brought back from Sicily, and again with toast the next morning. I have never cooked with Quince before but when I get home, I am going to try this Quince jelly recipe that Caroline gave me. 

Caroline's homemade bread. Our mutual friend, Fred, called it Hippie bread. It's whole grain.

Recipe for Quince Jelly:


* 2 lbs of quinces

* 1 lemon (just the juice, sieved)

* white granulated sugar

* water to cover Method:

1. Wash and roughly chop the quinces (no need to peel, decore or depip) and place in a heavy bottomed saucepan.

2. Barely cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently with a lid on until soft. If the quinces are very firm this could take several hours. Check it every now and then and add more water if necessary.

3. Pour the cooked fruit through sterilised muslin into a large clean bucket or bowl The muslin is often referred to as a “jelly bag”. We use tall buckets to catch the drips from the jelly bags. Rather than hang the bags (conventional method-between the legs of an upturned stool) I find it easier to line a large plastic sieve with the muslin. This clips neatly onto the top of a clean bucket. The sieve is covered with a clean tea cloth to protect against flies.

4. Leave the jelly bag to drip overnight (or about 12 hours).

5. Measure the juice the next day.

6. Pour the juice into a deep heavy bottomed saucepan and add 1lb/454g of white granulated sugar for each 1pt/570ml of juice.

7. Add the lemon juice.

8. Heat the juice and sugar gently stirring from time to time, so as to make sure that that all the sugar has dissolved before bringing the liquid slowly to the boil.

9. Continue to boil for about 10 minutes before testing for a set. This is called a rolling boil. Test every 3 to 5 minutes until setting point is reached. (What is testing for a set? See tips and tricks below). Tossing in a nugget of butter towards the end will reduce the frothing that can occur.

Pink pickled radish on a pink dish

Posted on December 24, 2009 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)
Kabu no Asazuke

Watermelon radishes pickled Asazuke style

Christmas Eve dinner this year was a potluck.  It was my friend Annie's idea. This worked out better for me because my big oven and dishwasher were both broken.  I managed to make do with my little oven and got a new dishwasher just in time.  

Everyone asked for turkey, so that's what I made. Finding a small one to fit my litlte oven was the only challenge. Most turkeys start at 12 lbs but I found a smaller bird, about 10 lbs in size.  I also made some sides - stir fried brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce, and the dessert - a tart tatin, which came out perfectly caramelized. One friend was too busy to cook so she picked up sweet potatoes, cream corn and cream spinach at Honey Baked. But she didn't want the others to know they were store bought, so we quickly hid the plastic HB containers under the sink and served everything in my good china. Noone noticed. Pot lucks can be a luck of the draw but we did alright, given the circumstances. The turkey came out nice and moist. I had no leftover turkey meat.  

As far as presents go, one present worth mentioning is the one Joe got from Edward. It was a disc shaped metal sculpture - a full moon and two waning moons welded together to look like a  gong. Can you picture that?  What was Edward, thinking? was Joe's polite question after Edward left.  Maybe Edward liked its karmic qualities. Sakai thought it was the best gift because it was unquestionably the tackiest.  Edward takes pride in finding such unique things at garage sales and discount stores. One year he gave me a I kept it for a few years and then gave it back to him as a Christmas present. We keep our presents light and humorous.

After stuffing myself with all this food, I realized I forgot to serve one plate: the pickles. Japanese and pickles. They are inseparable.  I needed them to clear my palate and help digest the heavy food. After the guests left, I ate the pickles - the whole plate.  My tummy thanked me for it.  

I made these pickles with watermelon radishes. Everything about these radishes are beautiful - their blushed outer skin.  Their inner pink hue  - the young ones are only partially pink.  Their flavor is juicy and sweet.  

I did a quick pickle - Asazuke style pickle which I blogged about last summer. There isn't much of a recipe for this one. There were four radishes in this bunch.  I washed the dirt off and sliced the root into 1/8 inch thick slices and the leaves into 1/4 -thick pieces.  I sprinkled a half a teaspoon of salt and gave the radishes a good massage. Then I put them into the with a piece of dried kombu, about 3 inches long, and let them pickle for a day.  

You can garnish the radishes with some yuzu or lemon rind but these pickles are delicious plain too.  The kombu gives the radishes a good savory flavor and a slightly slimy texture.  I served the pickles on my favorite dish by   The dish is pink and oval, and reminds me of the delicate seashells I used to collect with my grandmother at the beach in Kamakura when I was a little girl. I still have the shells.


Quick Napa Cabbage and Apple Pickles - Asazuke

Posted on December 1, 2009 at 12:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Napa cabbage and apple pickles

I have not blogged too much about Japanese pickles, Tsukemono, but I have them almost everyday with my meals -  breakfast, lunch, dinner and even as a snack with tea.  It is one of my favorite ways to eat vegetables because they are light, delicious and balances out the meal nutritiously. During the course of a meal, Tsukemono is usually served at the end to clear the palate, and gives the bowl of rice a zing.  Since Tsukemono can be strong in flavor and salty, it is eaten in small quantities. One outstanding character of Tsukemono is its seasonality.  If you visit the Tsukemono section of a (Japanese department store's food shop in the basement), you can always see what vegetables are in peak season. Winter vegetables such as napa cabbage, carrots, Mizuna, daikon radish, komatsuna, turnips make great winter pickles. I make Asazuke, a quick Tsukemono that is put together by rubbing salt on the vegetables, adding kombu seaweed for flavor, a spice such as red chili pepper, and applying some pressure to the vegetables with a Japanese pickle press. (see pictures below - my pickle device is very old!). The Napa cabbage and Apple pickles were made in just three hours. All I used was salt and pepper. The salt extracts the excess liquid from the napa cabbage, intensifying the flavor and improving the texture. Asazuke can be served in the place of a salad.  Since it contains no oil or creams, it is light and very refreshing. The leaves of napa cabbage become sweeter and denser when they are in season.  The apple adds a nice crispy texture and tart  flavor
Serves 2-4

8 oz napa cabbage, ends cut and leaves washed
1/2 apple - apple of your choice such as Fuji, Gala, Honey Crisp
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper or sansho pepper
Soysauce for the table (optional)

Cut the white part of the napa cabbage into 2.5 inch wide pieces.  Cut the leafy part
of the napa cabbage into bite size pieces.  Put the napa cabbage into the empty pickling container.  Rub salt on the napa cabbage, making sure that the salt is distributed evenly
and massanged into all the leaves.  Put weight on the vegetables, using a pickle device. Let stand in the fridge for about 3 hours.

After 3 hours, unscrew the press or remove the weight. Squeeze out the brine.  If the Napa cabbage is too salty for your palate, you can give it a quick rinse under water.  Gently squeeze out excess brine but the napa cabbage should not be dry.  Slice the apples into 1/4 inch wedges, and the slice them crosswise into smaller pieces, about 1/4 thick.  Combine with the napa cabbage.  Serve with pepper.   You can also put serve some soysauce on the side.

Put the cut white and green Napa cabbage into the pickling press.  Rubb with  salt until water is extracted.  About 1 minute.

Put the weight on top to press the pickles. This pickle press is more than 20 years old.
It comes with a lid, and goes straight into my fridge.  It's not the prettiest piece of 
kitchen equipment but I can't live without it.

If you have a pickling press with a screw top (See picture below).  Rotate the screw until the press is in contact with the vegetables.  Apply weight to press down on the vegetables.
 Here is a that has a screw top. 

In the Mood to Peel -Sushi Ginger

Posted on August 28, 2009 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (1)

Sushi Ginger - Gari 

I am in the mood to peel today.  It's the new ginger I found at the Asian market that got me thinking about making Gari, Sushi Ginger.  I have a lot of ginger to peel but new ginger, shin shoga, is as easy to peel as potatoes. 

        I saw this young ginger at the Tsukiji market in Tokyo this

summer.  What you can find in the Asian markets are similar

in quality.

I have another reason why I am in the mood to peel.   I just got this new peeler. A good kitchen tool is the cook's best friend.  This peeler comes from The peeler is light and handy but most of all, Incredibly sharp. I can shred cabbage at nearly the speed of lightening.  It comes with two other blades for making matchsticks in different sizes.  How I got to buying this peeler is my usual story. I was watching a salesman at Tokyu Hands do a demonstration with the peeler. If you go to any department store in Japan, you will always find a salesman in the household department trying to sell you something you probably already have but better. He was talking about liberating you from the toils of kitchen serfdom. He showed all sorts of tricks using the peeler to cut daikon, tomato, onion, cabbage.  I am a sucker for good performance artists. You don't know how many peelers, grinders, knives, pots I was fooled into buying based on a ively pitch.  So far, this peeler is for real. I love it.

  I peeled all this ginger in a matter of minutes.

Sushi Ginger is easy to make at home and much better for you because it doesn't contain any food colorings or additives like the commercial ones often do. Sushi ginger also goes well with grilled fish and cold Chinese noodles (Hiyashi Chuka). You can make a batch and find good use for it.  

Sushi Ginger - Gari

Makes 3/4 cup of pickled ginger

12 oz Fresh ginger, peeled

1/3 tsp salt

Sweet vinegar (Amasu)  dressing

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup rice vinegar

In a medium saucepan, bring the salt, sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Turn off heat.  Add the vinegar.  

Peel the ginger to make long and thin wide shavings, about 1/8 inch thick and 2 to 3 inches long. I use a Japanese peeler that makes this step very easy.  (see picture above)  You can also use a knife to slice the ginger.

Bring a medium sauce pan with water to a boil.  Add the sliced ginger.   Drain.  While the ginger is still hot, add 1/3 tsp of salt and toss together. 

Transfer the sliced ginger into a glass container or jar and pour the Amasu, Sweet vinegar dressing.  Cover tightly.  Marinate the ginger for 3-4 hours.  

Best eaten after 2--3 days in the pickling jar but you can start eating it in a half a day.

Keeps for a couple weeks.

The blade is slanted, can you see?


Quick Summer Pickles - Asazuke

Posted on August 27, 2009 at 2:31 AM Comments comments (0)


  Cucumber, turnip and carrots take a plunge into the ice water

It's been just too hot and dry in Southern California. I miss the rain and pray for clouds everyday.  Even my vegetables in the garden could use a little cooler weather.  In the late afternoons, the cucumbers look a bit limp from the heat.  So today, I decided to give them an ice break.  They went for a plunge in a bowl of ice water.  I'd like to take a plunge myself.

I made quick pickles, Asazuke, (it is the Japanese word for lightly pickled) with basically what I found in the fridge and garden - one carrot, 3 turnips and 2 Japanese cucumbers. You can also use cabbage, radishes, celery and peppers too.  I thought these pickles will last over two or three days.  But we ate most of  it  in one evening. They were good.  I have to make some more.

You can use the leaves of the turnips, too.

There is no need to peel the turnips.

Cut the turnip and cucumbers thin but not too thin.  

The carrots are cut in match sticks.

Sprinkle some chopped shiso as a garnish for extra flavor.

Quick Cucumber, Carrots and Turnip Pickles

3 turnips

2 Japanese cucumbers

1 medium size carrot

2 shiso leaves, sliced thinly (optional)

2 tsp salt



1 tsp salt

2 inch piece konbu seaweed, sliced, 1/4-inch wide

1 cup water (250 cc)

Don't peel the turnips.  Slice lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick pieces.

Peel the cucumbers and slice them crosswise, 1/4-inch thick pieces.

Peel the carrot and make 2-inch matchsticks.


Soak the sliced konbu and salt in one cup of water. Put the mixture in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Turn off heat. Cool broth and set aside.


Sprinkle measured salt over sliced cucumbers, turnips and carrots. Let stand for 5 minutes to let the salt settle.  Then gently mix (massage) the vegetables with your hand until water is extracted from the vegetables.  

Put the vegetables in a zip log back.  Make sure there are no air pockets. Press the vegetables by putting some weight on top for about 30 minutes. You can put a plate or cutting board on top and then a large can of tomatoes or something even heavier like a stone.  That's what my grandmother used.  The modern Japanese way to press vegetables is with a pickling device (see picture below). I've had mine for more than 20 years but it's as good as new.  It comes with a lid so I can put it right in the fridge.  You can find pickling devices at a Japanese market.  They are great to have if you plan on making pickles, which I do regularly.   

Japanese pickling device.  It has a handle so you can also use

it  to build some triceps if you like.  

Prepare a bowl of water with ice and set aside.  

In a saucepan, boil 3 cups of  water. We will dump the hot water on the vegetables first, and then give them the ice bath.  So go ahead and take the vegetables out of the zip lock bag or pickling container and put them in a strainer.  Pour the hot water over the vegetables. Let stand for 5 to 10 seconds. This step will make the vegetables slightly limp. Then transfer the vegetables into the ice water with ice cubes and cool the vegetables quickly. This is to get them crispy and cold. Keep the vegetables in the ice bath for 10 seconds.  Drain. Return them to the pickling device or zip log back along with the brine and press for additional 30 minutes or longer.  Keep refreigerated.

To serve, lightly squeeze the water out of the pickles and sprinkle some chopped shiso leaves.  

Quick Turnip and Dried Peaches Pickles - a Salad alternative

Posted on August 19, 2009 at 4:57 PM Comments comments (0)


A Japanese meal normally finishes with some kind of pickle and a bowl of rice. It's nice to save the pickles to the end because the saltiness ties the whole meal together.  Pickles can be made with many vegetables - both root and leafy types.  Some pickles can be quite salty for the western palate.  Some can be rather sweet. This ways vegetables are pickled differ from region to region and from family to family.  As for the pickles I made tonight, I wanted to see how dried peaches which I bought at the Farmers Market will work with turnips.  It was a fun experiment.  These were quick pickles that stayed in a vinegar mildly sweet dressing for about 1 hour. The dried peaches softened and added a lovely sweetness to the turnips.  I enjoyed them.  You can call these pickles, salad too.  It's hard to draw a line between what is a pickle and what is a salad in Japan because salads were introduced to the country much later.  I would call this one a hybrid.

Dried peaches from the Farmers Market.  

Dried apricots will work with this recipe, too.

Very tender baby turnips


Makes 4 servings

4 small baby turnips

1 tsp salt

3 dried peaches or apricots

Vinegar dressing:

2 Tbls water

2 Tbls Rice vinegar

1 Tbls Sugar (or maple sugar)

1/2 Tsp Salt

Peel the turnips and slice them lengthwise in halves. Then slice each half crosswise into 1/8 inch thick pieces.  Rub in the salt until the turnip slices become tender.  Rinse under water.

Set aside.

Slice the peaches or apricots thinly, about 1/4 inch thick pieces.  

In a medium size bowl, mix the vinegar dressing ingredients.  Squeeze out the excess water from the turnips and then add to the bowl.  Also add the sliced peaches.   Leave in the vinegar dressing for at least an hour.  Keeps in the fridge for 2 or 3 days.

Apricot Butter

Posted on June 30, 2009 at 1:48 AM Comments comments (1)

One of the first pictures I took for the blog in May was my apricot tree. The fruit was still green then. I thought it would take between 6-8 weeks for the aprictos to ripen but 4 weeks later, here I am making apricot jam with the harvested fruit. I am leaving for Tokyo in a few days and I would like to take some jam back as a souvenir. The tree produced about 300 apricots this year. Raw, they tasted best when they were firm and still slightly on the green side. Riper, the fruit became sweeter but slightly mushy. This is the trouble with apricots. You love them but they don't quite deliver. So we picked most of the fruit slightly early and decided to try jam making with them.





Apricot butter cooling in the jars





Since I knew I couldn't get to the fruit right away, I froze the fresh picked apricots. Freezing is a good way to preserve certain fruit but you want to make sure they are clean, firm and not bruised. I found an apricot butter recipe in Joy of Cooking. I defrosted 8 lbs of apricots overnight and spent Saturday cooking the fruit in my big Le Creuset pot. When defrosted, the apricots go brown and look like they are about to melt but the flavor remains intact. The apricots were sweetened with sugar and spiced with cinnamon, allspice and clove but I found The Joy of Cooking recipe too generous with spices for my taste so I cut back. Also, since every fruit has different levels of acidity and sweetness . you have to be flexible about how much sugar and lemon juice to add. I kept tasting the apricot butter with a spoon. I's good to have a nice loaf of bread when you are making jam so you can try it on a piece of bread. I had a beautiful loaf of Brioche that Huckleberry gave me yesterday for free. They wouldn't let me pay for it because it was past 6 pm and the cash register was already closed. Got lucky. By the time I finished straining all the fruit, and tasting it, adjusting the spices, I felt tired. I decided this was more than a day's work. I let the apricot puree rest in the fridge for a couple of days. I came back to it and finished the rest of the recipe today. This was a good strategy. The apricot butter turned out nice and the spices were a good accent. I might make it without the spices next time and to keep it pure apricots with just a hint of lemon. I will see what my Japanese friends have to say about the apricot butter.



  • 8 lbs apricots, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup sugar to each cup of pulp or more to taste.
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon, optional
  • 1/2 tsp cloves, optional
  • 1/2 tsp all spice, optional
  • 1 grated rind and juice of 1 lemon (or less lemon juice if acidity of the fruit is strong)
  • 11/2 cup dry white white


  1. Wash and pit 8 lbs of apricots. Cook very slowly in their own juice until soft. Stir occasionally. Crush the apricots, using a potato masher.
  2. Put the fruit through a fine strainer. Add 1/2 cup of sugar to each cup of sugar. Add more sugar if needed.
  3. Add cinnamon, cloves, sllapice, grated rind and juice of 1 lemon. Let the pulp cool down.
  4. Stir 1 cup of white wine. Place 3/4 of the puree in a large heat proof crock pot. Keep the rest in reserve. Put the crock pot in a cold oven. Set oven to 300 F. Let the apricot butter bake until it thickens. As the puree shrinks and the color darkens, fill the crock pot with reserved apricot puree. When the butter is thick, but still moist, put into sterile jars. This will take about 3.5 to 4 hours.
  5. Makes approximately 6 cups of Apricot Butter.