Written and illustrated by Misa Ono
In Japan, we make pickles by drying vegetables first, adding salt, koji and chili in a container and put a heavy stone on it. Salt and chili prevent from bacteria reproducing, koji gives sweetness and profoundness to the taste, lactobacillus (in the air) plays the role of preservative by producing flavor and sourness. By preparing before winter, we can enjoy delicious pickles throughout the winter. This is the Japanese traditional food culture to eat vegetables during the off season.
Nowadays, as you can see any seasonal vegetables in supermarkets throughout the year, you don’t have to keep vegetables pickled. Moreover, some people are not big fun of pickles because of its sour taste. To be honest, I didn’t like pickles so much.
However, with shio-koji, you can eat pickles like salad. It is the very simple way. Place any vegetables in a plastic bag, knead it with shio-koji (10% of the amount of vegetables), seal and rest it in the refrigerator. After 30 minutes, the water comes out from the vegetables, and that makes moist pickles ready. To preserve it for a long time, you may have to add a lot of salt, but to eat it like salad, you shouldn’t make it too salty. After water is drained, you can enjoy the pickles with your favorite dressings. My suggestions are olive oil or sesame dressing. Both of them bring rich taste to the pickles. And you can also add rice vinegar or wine vinegar to make the pickles like real salad.
After 4-5days (*) the refrigerated shio-koji pickles become sour. That’s because the lactobacillus is preventing it from spoilage, but you don’t want to eat too-sour pickles, do you? Instead, you can try other recipes with the pickles like making soup or pasta, stir-frying with meat. When it is cooked the sourness is gone and its rich taste nicely becomes juice to enhance the meals. You can pickle any vegetables like cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, carrots, capsicum, tomato etc. It can last a couple of days in the refrigerator.
When you eat fresh pickles made with shio-koji, the enzyme of koji is directly absorbed in your body. Moreover, the salt-tolerant lactobacillus effectively survives and reaches the intestine, and helps the digestive process. Besides, it is delicious!
(* The days depend on the conditions and season. Dispose if it smells rotten.)