Review: Tsukemono – Japanese Pickling Recipes
By Ikuko Hisamatsu
2005, Japan Publications Trading, ISBN-13: 978-4889961812
This publication belongs to the very nice ‘Quick and Easy’ series and is a special favorite of my wife, who enjoys trying many different kinds of pickling methods. The name of the book is just a little bit inaccurate but, in this case, the inaccuracy works to the benefit of the reader rather than otherwise because, in addition to providing a very comprehensive of Japanese pickling methods, some varieties from other parts of the world are featured as well…
The book begins with a very short introduction to Tsukemono, which is essentially just a Japanese ‘umbrella’ term for pickles. This introduction takes a historical look at the topic and moves on to a brief overview of some of the equipment required. A short list of some popular flavoring ingredients is also included.
There are 73 recipes in all and, like the other books I have encountered in the ‘Quick and Easy’ series, they are all nicely illustrated with plenty of step-by-step photographs that are well chosen and very helpful. My only complaint with the graphics is that, in my edition at least, the pictures for quite a number of recipes were not printed well and came out somewhat faded and monochromatic.
The range of recipes is extensive and covers several different pickling methods including lactic acid fermentation in salt (dry, brine and in the form of miso), vinegar pickling, and also pickles in wine and syrup. The book also features a very interesting and uniquely Japanese type of pickle called Nukamiso-zuke wherein various vegetables are fermented in rice bran. This is one section of the book that really appeals to me and I actually have several boxes of the required bran sitting in my kitchen cupboard just waiting for me to get down to actually trying the technique.
As noted, the book does not limit itself to Japanese pickles alone but also includes recipes for a few sorts of Korean Kimchi along with a European style Sauerkraut. Most of the recipes are for vegetable pickles (plus a few fruits), but there are also a couple featuring squid and fish. Personally, I would have liked to see a few more of the latter and I think (although this is more a wish than a criticism) that a couple of Indian style pickle recipes would have given the book a truly well rounded balance.
The organization of the recipes is a bit haphazard and the introduction could have been longer but the nice layout and easy readability of the recipes more than makes up for it. Beginners should have no difficulty following the step-by-step instructions and more experienced pickle makers will enjoy browsing through the pages for interesting ideas. I recommend it highly.