Nukazuke: Japanese Rice Bran Pickles

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Having corralled some of San Francisco’s wild yeast and soured my own crock of sauerkraut, it was time to move on to my next live food project: nukazuke. I was still a new convert to the Church of Fermentation, but a recent trip to Japantown helped immerse me completely.

I was pushing my cart around the back corner of Nijiya Market and came across bags of flaky rice bran, or nuka, the brown coating removed from rice grains during the milling process. Hmmmmm….now what could I do with those? Fortunately, not knowing how to use an ingredient has never stopped me from tossing it into my shopping cart. Browsing my Japanese cookbooks later, I found references to rice bran pickles. My go-to expert on Japanese pickles, Ikuko Hisamatsu, provided a basic recipe for traditional nukazuke in her book Quick & Easy Tsukemono.

As it turns out, “quick” and “easy” are relative terms. Homemade nukazuke are most definitely not for anyone who thinks food should be fast or convenient. But if you make your own vinegar, tend a few chickens in your backyard or brew beer, then these pickles will not phase you at all. If you’re dedicated to eating well and to providing your gut with a healthful balance of good bacteria, these pickles will be worth your time, I promise. And if you obsess about the proper method of boiling soba noodles or have perfected both chawanmushi and tamagoyaki, then consider nukazuke as serious leveling up.

For those wanting to take a half step, look for instant nukazuke kits in Japanese grocery stores: small plastic containers with the rice bran bed mixed and inoculated already for you.

Hard-core picklers, though, keep reading.

Nukazuke are one of the most rewarding foods I’ve ever made. I love their complex yet subtle sour-saltiness and their extra crunchiness. My husband and I enjoy small bites of them at simple, homey meals. A Japanese meal might end with a single bowl of steamed rice accompanied by a beautiful dish of nukazuke. A handful of radishes plucked from the rice bran makes a much healthier snack than potato chips, and they’re much more delicious, I think. It’s the perfect project for spring and early summer, as vegetables return to market in all their freshness and abundance.

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Nukazuke pickles — slices of cucumber, eggplant and baby daikon — add zip to a summer lunch of Korean-style salad nicoise (with bulgolgi-flavored tuna carried back from LA), pan-seared shishito chiles and miso soup with baby bok choy.

Dependable, Hard-Working, Likes Regular Attention

Like some of the better things in life, these pickles are a long-term commitment. After inoculating the bed of rice bran, known as nuka-doko, with the proper microbes, you’ll need to wait another three or four weeks before the best flavor develops. And from the first day you mix the pickling bed, you’ll need to aerate the rice bran every day by hand.

Yes, every day. By hand.

The good microbes happen to live on your hands, and they thrive with a good supply of air. The undesirable bacteria are anaerobic, so daily stirring keeps them in check. (There’s a way to leave the rice bran in deep hibernation for a period of time, used back when the winter season cut off supplies of fresh produce, but it’s not a fix to be applied too often.)

The daily stirring takes about 30 seconds, so no big deal if you’re in the kitchen anyway. In return for helping them breathe, the lactobacilli that have colonized your rice bran bed will happily transform fresh vegetables into crisp, flavorful, healthful pickles. The most delicate require only two hours, while large and dense vegetables may need to be buried for a few days. Some daikon roots are aged in the rice bran for years to develop intensely deep flavors.

Last summer, John “Taikoman” Ko had connected me with Hideaki and Hitomi, two dedicated and talented cooks in Sebastapol. From Hitomi I received a few tips on starting my nuka-doko. She gave me an inspiring pep talk about how good the pickles are, how much her son loves them and how many years she’s successfully tended her rice bran bed. She even travels with her nuka-doko to make sure it receives the attention it requires — on hot days, she stirs it twice — and then makes pickles for her hosts.

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Apple peels drying in the sun. They’ll lend sweetness to the rice bran bed.

To make my own nuka-doko, I adapted Hisamatsu’s formula in her book (15% salt, by weight of the rice bran) and incorporated some of Hitomi’s suggestions. The rice bran, salt and water are the three essential ingredients. In my own rice bran bed, bread speeds up the inoculation process, seaweed adds umami, apple peel lends a hint of sweetness, chiles keep away bugs and worms, eggshells clarify while contributing calcium and ginger adds its own bright flavor to the pickles.

Preparing the Rice Bran Bed

The nuka-doko serves as a medium for the microbes, a carrier for the flavorings and a gentle cushion in which the vegetables rest. Buried for two hours or two days, they emerge from their sleep brighter in color and flavor. Like vinegar and sourdough, receiving a small amount of active starter bacteria from a friend’s established colony will give you a jump start, but inoculating your own nuka bed is still pretty straightforward.

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Toast the rice bran in a wide, heavy pan until it has deepened a couple of shades in color. Frequent stirring, especially as the bran browns, prevents scorching.

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I use a plastic bag and a rolling pin to crush the eggshells.

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Moistened bread helps attract and feed the desirable, healthful microbes to the rice bran. Ginger is one of my favorite flavors, so I add a few pieces to the bread before pureeing it with water.

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While the aromatics are optional, konbu seaweed gives nukazuke that undefinable depth of flavor that makes Japanese cuisine both subtle and satisfying.

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The carbo-rich bread slushee and additional cold water are stirred into the rice bran with clean hands to ensure inoculation with good germs.

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A deep Cambro container becomes my starter crock. (The lovely, traditional wooden buckets in Japantown, priced at nearly $300, will have to wait.) Later, after the rice bran is well inoculated, I’ll transfer it to a ceramic pickling crock. For now, though, a few wedges of cabbage serve as my starter vegetables in the clear container. A thin, clean kitchen towel serves as the cover for the bed. The rice-bran bed is a living organism — a complex colony, in fact — that needs to breathe, so good air flow is critical.

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After two days in the nuka-doko, the cabbage has wilted and become salty. The wedges aren’t properly fermented, this being only the first week of the rice bran bed, but there’s a wonderful crunch to the leaves and just a hint of the nukazuke’s distinctive woodsy flavors. I could throw them out…

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…or I could coat them with a heady mix of chile oil, minced garlic, grated ginger, sugar and rice vinegar to balance the salt. These end up as a host gift to Joshua and Jineui on the occasion of Olivia’s welcoming party.

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My current favorite nukazuke are radishes. Above are some little cuties right after I pulled them from the fully fermented rice bran bed, about five weeks after I first mixed it all together.

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And here are the radishes, rinsed and ready for munching. I eat them out of hand, stubby stem and pointy roots and all. Nukazuke are instantly recognizable by their heightened colors, with jewel-tone brightness, an elegant shimmer on the outside and a delicate translucence inside.

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For extra crunch, I dried daikon for a few days at our hottest window before burying the whole root in the rice bran. (The cubes on the right were treated to a classic Vietnamese pickling brine made of fish sauce, caramelized sugar and lots of garlic.)

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This is the first nukazuke I made away from home. The rice bran bed traveled with me to Los Angeles for a weeklong stay at Juli’s place in West Hollywood. These Brussels sprouts went straight from the Santa Monica farmers’ market to the rice bran bed, then emerged three days later as very yummy pickles. Remember to cut little cross-hatches into the stems to encourage even distribution of the rice bran’s fermenting friends.

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Once my rice bran bed became home to a well-established, bustling colony of lactobacilli, the Brussels sprouts take only one night to pickle. They’re put to bed just before I go to sleep myself; they’re ready in the morning. If I wanted to pickle them in a few hours, I just cut each sprout in half.

Other vegetables you can bury in your nuka-doko: baby eggplants, carrot sticks, bell pepper wedges, broccoli, cauliflower, cubes of pumpkin and other winter squash, young ginger and small, tender turnips. Some recommend rubbing the vegetables with salt before placing them in the rice bran, but I now skip this step and haven’t noticed any differences in flavor or texture.

Taking Care of Your Nuka-Doko

Wash your hands and dry them well before stirring the rice bran, removing pickles and burying new vegetables. Some people like to wear gloves or use a spoon, but the bacteria level will remain most friendly and flavorful if there’s repeated contact with your hands. Even if you don’t do it every day, do try to give your pickle bed some love now and then with direct contact.

Occasionally, you’ll need to stir in additional rice bran and small amounts of salt, as you’re removing a bit of the bed every time you take out pickles. Add aromatic ingredients according to your own taste preferences. Try mustard powder or whole garlic cloves (which can be sliced and eaten as a pickle later).

Don’t leave your vegetables in the rice bran bed too long, as they’ll turn it sour. The moisture level will vary week to week, depending on the type of vegetables you’re pickling. If you notice too much moisture, pooling at the surface or at the bottom of the container, then soak up the excess water with wadded paper towels.

If you miss stirring the rice bran for a few days, you might see a white mold growing on the surface. Simply skim it off, transfer the rice bran to a clean container and add salt. With regular aeration, the good microbes will regain their hold in a few days.

For deep storage, remove all vegetables from the rice bran. Cover its surface completely with a 1/2-inch layer of mustard powder, then a 1/4-inch layer of salt. The top should be completely white. Drape the container with several layers of thick towels, to allow a small but steady amount of air flow, and then store the container in a cool, dark place. When you remove it a few weeks or months later, scrape off the mustard and salt layers. Restart the rice bran bed with test vegetables just as you did when you first inoculated it.

NUKA-DOKO RECIPE

To hold the nukazuke for a few days after they’re fermented, remove them when they’re ready and store them in a covered container in the refrigerator. I like to leave a thin layer of the rice bran on the vegetables to keep them flavorful and “fresh” (i.e. alive), rinsing them just before serving. Once rinsed, they’re best eaten within an hour or two.

5 ounces (142 g) sea salt
32 ounces (910 g) organic rice bran
5 x 5-inch square of dried konbu, soaked in cold water overnight and torn into thin strips
Peel from 2 apple, pears or Fuyu persimmons, removed in wide strips and dried
Shell from 3 eggs, crushed into small pieces
1/4 cup sliced dried Korean chiles, or dried chile flakes
2 inches ginger, minced
2 slices bread, pureed with 2 cups cold water (preferably filtered to be free of chlorine)
Assorted starter vegetables such as radishes, carrots, cabbage wedges or small cucumbers, rinsed and dried

1. Combine the salt with 4 cups water in a small pan and stir over medium heat until completely dissolved. Set aside to cool.

2. Toast the rice bran over medium low heat until lightly toasted and fragrant. Let cool until you can touch the bran comfortably.

3. Stir in the konbu, apple peel, chiles, ginger, bread puree and cooled salt water, using your hands and squeezing with your fingers to distribute all the ingredients evenly. The consistency should resemble wet sand. Drizzle in more cold water, if needed.

4. Transfer the mixture to a deep ceramic, glass or plastic container. Leave empty space in your container to allow room for stirring the rice bran. Bury your starter vegetables completely in the rice bran bed, and press down all over the surface to compact the rice bran well. If desired, place a wooden drop lid or a saucer right on the surface of the rice bran bed, but be sure to leave about an inch open between the rim and the side of the pickle container to allow air flow. More importantly, drape  the container with a clean cloth and place in a cool location that’s within relatively easy reach of your daily routine.

5. The next day, stir the rice bran bed, scooping and turning it with your hands to aerate it well. The starter vegetables can be left for two to three days before being replaced with new ones. They will be overly salty and not yet properly pickled. Continue using starter vegetables for about two weeks, until the bran bed has absorbed extra moisture and developed an earthy, woodsy smell. Regularly taste the starter batches to learn how your nuka bed changes as it ferments.

6. After two weeks, taste vegetables after pickling one night. Eventually, once your nuka bed is mature, you’ll be able to pickle small or cut vegetables in 2 to 4 hours, larger vegetables in 6 hours or overnight.

7. Give your nuka-doko regular attention and enjoy the products of its quiet work.

[Please note: I didn't receive notices about new comments for a crazy long period of time. Poor little me, I thought no one was reading my pickle blog. As it turns out, there was a "server misconfiguration" that created an embarrassing backlog of questions and comments. I ended up e-mailing folks directly with my responses in addition to posting here. Many apologies to everyone and many, many thanks for your patience. It's all fixed now, so feel free to ask away again!]

86 Responses to “Nukazuke: Japanese Rice Bran Pickles”

  1. Andy Raskin says:

    Thy… this is fantastic! I tried to get into nukazuke a few months ago, and I searched far and wide for step-by-step instructions. I couldn’t find anything even close to what you’ve provided here, even on Japanese-language websites. As a result, my nuka-doko was nothing more than a stinky mud pit. I think I might have used too much salt, but not sure. I got most of my information from “Professor Genmai’s Bento Box,” a Japanese manga series about a college professor who is always trying to turn his skeptical students on to the joys of nukazuke (and other types of fermentation).

    • Thy Tran says:

      Andy, glad you enjoyed the post. I love that you followed instructions from a manga, especially one on fermentation. I’ll have to look for an English translation of that. As for your nuka-doko, let me know if you start another one. And feel free to check in with questions. I don’t think too much salt will make it stinky, just the opposite in fact, but the extra salt might have drawn out more liquid from the vegetables. Just blot with paper towels to absorb the excess water. You want wet sand, not stinky mud. Also, if the weather was unusually hot, you might need to stir more often. The rice bran will have a rich, earthy smell, but it definitely shouldn’t smell bad!

  2. Sharon K. says:

    My mother always had a crock of nuka-doko going when I was young. I loved the smell of the fermenting vegetables but my brothers hated it. My favorite pickle was the Japanese eggplant (o-nasu). The inside turns from a pale yellow to a pastel purple. I would even eat the tough sepals of the eggplant.

    My mother no longer bothers to keep a nuka-doko batch going. At the age of 79 she just makes the overnight salted pickles. I have tried to do nuka-doko but kept forgetting to stir it. (I’ve killed a few sourdough starters this way too.) However, since my mouth was watering while reading your blog, I think I will have a another go at this. Thanks.

  3. Milton Oshiro says:

    I have been doing research and would like to start my own bed. Thank you for your in-depth preparation instructions, I have been looking for something like that. I am a visual person and really like the many pictures you had. In reference to temperature and the frequency of stirring. When you say on “hot days she stirs it twice”. Can you tell me what kind of temperatures are you referring to. I live in Hawaii our temperatures range from the upper 50s F the upper 80s F. I just wanted to get an idea if I would have to stir it twice a day. I know a lot of factors are involved but the more I learn the more I may be able to make better decisions. Thank you

    • Thy Tran says:

      Sharon, Thank you for sharing those memories — wonderful images. I’m definitely looking forward to making nukazuke with this summer’s eggplants. Those overnight pickles are awfully good, and I make them often myself. Be sure to come back and me know how your next nuka-doko fares.

      Milton, Hot here refers to Sebastopol, where it can linger for days in the mid-to high 90s F. Here in mild San Francisco, where it also stays in the 50-80s F range, my rice bran bed has been happy with stirring just once a day. Best of luck with starting your own bed!

  4. Sharon K. says:

    My nuka-doko is 3 weeks old today. I added more salt about a week ago because the starter cabbage leaves didn’t seem salty at all. Now even the overnight leaves are way too salty. (sigh) I’ve added more bran today and will hope for the best. I’ll think of it at an evolving process.

  5. Thy Tran says:

    That’s great Sharon! I just stirred more bran into my bed yesterday, too. It’d been shrinking with all that asparagus I’ve been pickling.

    Yes, it’s an adjustment process. And it’s ongoing. Once balanced to your tastes, its flavor may still shift slightly from week to week, month to month. Part of the uniqueness and fun…and challenge…

    Good luck!

  6. young says:

    How often do you remove and replace the seaweed, garlic, apple peel, and chili flakes? Have you heard of anyone having bugs actually go into the bed of rice bran? That happened to me after not checking it for a couple of days. I want to start another batch, but am hesitant.

    • Thy Tran says:

      young,

      I’m glad to hear that you’ve been trying to start a rice bran bed!

      Actually, I don’t remove all those flavoring, aromatic ingredients. They just slowly break down in the rice bed. Maybe every other month, depending on how many pickles I’ve been burying, I do stir in additional rice bran (toasted gently) and additional salt, as small amounts of both are removed when you dig out the finished pickles. I drape a linen napkin over my pickle crock, to let in air but keep out bugs.

      I should note that San Francisco does not have as many bugs in homes — flying or crawling — as other cities I’ve lived in. I would definitely recommend a napkin or several layers of cheesecloth over your pickle bed. You might even want to secure it with a large rubber band.

      Once in a while, I’ve gotten a tiny amount of white fuzz on the surface — harmless mold that I simply scrape up with a spoon before stirring the rice bran. For a one-week vacation when I wasn’t able to bring the pickle crock with me, I sprinkled the surface evenly with sea salt to cover thinly but evenly and completely, and then followed with a thin layer of ground yellow mustard. It kept the bed perfectly fine while I was away. When I came back, I scraped off most of the salt and mustard, and then stirred in the rest right into the rice bran.

      Do try again, and feel free to send me any more questions you may have. Best of luck with the next one.

  7. t degroot says:

    Thy, this is the most comprehensive explanation I’ve found, thanks much for it.
    I’m trying to make pickled daikon (takuan) for my zen group. The very sketchy information I’ve been able to glean indicates that the daikon are pickled whole in large pots over long periods, maybe even several years. I don’t think they are stirred every day. Now several years is probably out of my reach, I’m aiming for several months or a year, perhaps with stirring every month or so. Do you have any ideas on how to keep the nuka healthy over longer periods without daily stirring?

  8. Sharon K. says:

    The book Tsukemono by Kay Shimizu doesn’t mention any stirring of the mixture for takuan. The process includes drying the daikon first (until it can be bent into a U), placing it into the nuka-brownsugar-konbu-fruit peels and dried chili pepper mixture under weights for 2-3 weeks, letting it alone for a month to mature after that – and then you can start to eat it.

  9. Asher says:

    Ms. Tran,

    I want to first of thank you for your wonderful blog about pickling and secondly for your exquisite pictures and in depth step-by-step to nukazuke success. I have, in the past week, pulled out the first few batches of pickles from my nukadoko and, as you said, was very satisfied with the product.

    During the first few weeks of caring for my nukadoko I was a bit apprehensive and second-guessing whether or not I had missed a step or spoiled the medium, but with a little patience and a lot of excitement I barreled on through to week one of delicious pickle bliss.

    I had one question: I already changed my garlic cloves once, and when doing i thought, ‘Should I be changing my konbu or chili peppers anytime soon as well?’ Do the chili peppers and konbu need to changed periodically as well?

    Thanks again for your insight, pictures and pickle guidance.

    Asher
    Akune city, Kagoshima, Japan

    • Thy Tran says:

      t degroot and sharon,
      You’re both right that takuan-zuke is not stirred. It’s a different type of pickle that starts with thoroughly dried daikon tightly packed between layers of rice bran. The pickling the mixture can include many of the same aromatics but typically contains less salt (5-7% by weight) and no bread, so the fermentation is completely different. A thick layer of dried greens is often used to cover the surface, and then a drop lid and heavy weights keep out air. There’s an essential layer of brine that will rise. You’ll need to leave the radish for at least a couple of months; for the famously well-aged flavors, keep it in a cool place for up to a year or more. I make a cheat version with my nuka-doko by using a smaller daikon and then just leaving it in when I stir and remove other vegetables; it’s packed in beneath the day-to-day vegetables. Two months later, the daikon was very very rich in flavor. Some don’t like it — too “funky” for them — but I love it.

      Asher,
      I’m delighted that you have been enjoying pickles from your very own nuka-doko! Your pickle bed is a living thing, so it will change flavor day to day, week to week, year to year. You’ll notice, with time, that the konbu, chiles and other aromatics will begin breaking down and, more importantly, that your pickles will become less flavorful. Depending on the size of your container, how often you add vegetables and what type you use, your bed will need new infusions of ingredients. Try reflecting the seasons. Recently, I have been growing out of a spicy mustard phase and easing back into the sweetness of persimmon peels. Have fun with tending your nuka-doko and enjoying your pickles! BTW, I love your posts about Akune–thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

      Thy

  10. Asher says:

    Ms. Tran,

    I was just thinking about putting some persimmon (kaki) peels in my nukadoko as well, thanks for the suggestions. I was wondering, though, do I need to dry the peels like you did with your apple peels? And do i need to be careful about leaving too much fruit on the peel? Also (and I swear this is the last question, for now), could I put in mikan peels as well?
    All the best.

    • Thy Tran says:

      Asher–I think citrus peels would be a lovely addition! It’s certainly the season. I’ll be traveling soon to the Ehime region to visit yuzu orchards…can’t wait! As for leaving too much fruit on the peel or burying it fresh: extra moisture and sugar will always make the microbes happy. It’s a matter of how active you want them to be. If your rice bran is still pretty dry, it shouldn’t be a problem; you just might need to adjust later by stirring in more roasted bran or pickling vegetables that don’t give off a lot of moisture. If your nuka-doko is currently pretty wet, I’d take the time to peel well and dry thoroughly. It might be interesting, actually, to try pickling slices of apple. BTW, don’t worry about asking too many questions. That’s why I became a food writer! Wishing you a joyful and delicious harvest season, Thy.

  11. Nuka Noob says:

    Hi there,

    I’m doing this for the first time, I have my nuka-doko in a roomy baeckeoffe tureen, with a top. I’m uncertain as to what to do about covering it. Should I, or should I not? You’ve mentioned that you drape a cloth over it, but would that not leave it to dry out over time? The top might crust over. And then there’s the wafting smell, not unpleasant, but it’s not something you want to permeate your entire kitchen all the time.

    • Thy Tran says:

      Hey there, Noob — Glad to hear you’re trying out your very own nuka-doko. The bed, with regular use, won’t dry out because it will be absorbing moisture from the vegetables that you bury in it. In fact, if anything, you will need to soak up excess moisture that collects on the surface to maintain the right sandy but not wet consistency. And yes, the smell can be strong when you’re up close and personal with the fermenting rice bran, but between my wooden lid and an old cloth napkin, I don’t notice any residual smells through the day. Like a healthy compost pile and very fresh fish, there actually shouldn’t be any unpleasant odors, merely the essence of the living things. Earthy at most, like a forest after rain, but definitely nothing rotten or fumey.

  12. Guido says:

    Hi,
    This is a wonderful blog! I have been trying to find the nuka in the Boston area, so far without success, for a few weeks and have pretty much run out of ideas. Any suggestions? I don’t know if there are “rice shops” in Boston; never heard of them. Supposedly they give away the nuka…

    • Thy Tran says:

      Hi Guido, I know, it can a bit tricky tracking down the rice bran, especially if you’ve never used it before. I just did a search on Yelp for Japanese markets in the Boston area and came up with several that seem promising. The stores usually stock 1 to 2-pound bags of nuka near the rice aisle. I don’t know of any rice vendors here in the US that just give away the rice bran, though you might be able to order directly in bulk from rice growers in California or throughout the South. Let me know if you need more help finding the raw nuka.

  13. CulinarySkeptic says:

    Hi,

    Nice recipe and a fantastic website. One thing I noticed though, in the nukadoko recipe above your standard to metric conversions are way off- looks like you doubled the metric, or halved the standard.
    One lb is 16 ounces, or 454 grams. 32 ounces, 2 lbs is only 900 grams, not 1800 as you list. Same thing with the salt- there are about 28 grams per ounce, so 5 ounces is 141 grams.

    Based on the quantities listed for the remaining ingredients, I suspect that the recipe was written for the larger metric amounts (1800gr/ 4 lbs of nuka, 270gr/ 10 ounces of salt), not the smaller amounts listed in US standard amounts?

    FWIW, I’m a pickle fanatic as well- all things fermented actually. Bread, cheese, beer, sake,’kraut, salami, miso, etc etc.
    Keep up the great work!

    • Thy Tran says:

      Oh my goodness, Skeptic, I’m so glad that you caught that! I decided to halve the amounts, since my original full-sized pickle bed was rather large, especially for a Western diet. I do love my rice bran pickles, but then, there are so many others to enjoy! Thank you very much for correcting me and for helping many others make properly salted pickle beds.

  14. Guido says:

    Actually found the nuka at Japan Village Market in Brookline over the weekend.
    Guido

  15. Rachel says:

    I saw on some Japanese dramas that if one adds tea leaves to the mixture some of the funky smells that people sometimes don’t like will go down. (I saw this on two separate dramas). I’m wondering if that’s true…

    • Thy Tran says:

      Ohhh…I must try this with a little batch. I wonder if its the tannin inhibiting growth? And if the tea adds subtle flavor, too? Thanks for the idea, Rachel!

  16. Cass says:

    Excellent article! This is what I used for reference when I got started (Thanks!) There’re a couple of things I wound up doing/using that you might be interested in. I used a ceramic crock pot insert I got from Goodwill for $3.99 for my nukadoko. The other thing is I used paper towels to soak up the extra water as you suggested but realized it was getting wasteful. I wound up using a syringe (w/o the needle) for this task. I think something like a turkey baster should work for this as well. I’d first make an indentation in the nukamiso for the water to pool in.

    • Thy Tran says:

      Great idea to use the syringe or baster! Might as well put that thing to use year-round, no? Thanks for sharing your suggestions, especially about making the little water pool. Brilliant!

  17. jeani says:

    hi thy tran,

    your blog is inspiring and i love how you lay things out – so simple and educational! so i hope you can tell me whether i can salvage over salting my nuka bed. i forgot to stir it one day, and the white mold came…i swear, it was only one day! i also let asian pear peels sit on top of the bed before the day before i stirred it at night (the next night i skipped). i also keep veggies in it for for a few weeks…

    after writing this down, i realized that i may be doing a lot of things wrong here…

    some guidance would be much appreciated!!

    thank you,
    jeani

    • Thy Tran says:

      Jeani: It’s best to stir in well your additions, so that they’re in full contact immediately with rice bran and salt. Also, if it’s very warm around your pickle bed, then the fermentation will be accelerated, and you might find things pickling much faster. Still, I’m surprised the mold came so quickly. I’m guessing that there’s a rich presence of spores in the air or from a source nearby (I’ve noticed such differences after moving to a new home), and that you’ll need to be extra vigilant until the rice bran bed is strong and stable. Best of luck!

  18. ROSA says:

    I have just started my first nukazuke bed and am 2 days into it but I think I may be making a mistake. I have covered my crock with seran wrap to keep it from getting dust from the air or curious hands in it. Your article and pictures are great and very informative but do not mention if the nuka is supposed to be covered during the initial fermentation process, during the pickling process or ever. Can you please clarify. Thank you.

    • Thy Tran says:

      Hi Rosa, Sorry about the confusion. Yes, the nuka bed needs to breathe, as the fermentation is aerobic, so the saran would probably inhibit the pickling process. Do cover it with several layers of cheesecloth or an old, clean kitchen towel. Glad that you tried making your own nukazuke — Good luck!

  19. russell says:

    Hi. just found this web site and have had a nukadoko going for about 5 weeks now. one question I have for now is that I did some beetroot, the nukazuke went reddish and the beetroot disapeared, (dissolved).The aroma is great but maybe I should not have boiled them first and /or left them too long. What do you think?

    • Thy Tran says:

      From what I can tell, you left the beets in the whole five weeks, right? Yes, that would be a long time, for little ones especially. As long as you’re still using it regularly, it should be fine. Of course, that might mean all your pickles come out red, though, until you’ve worked in all new rice bran. Actually, that sounds kinda pretty. I might have to try creating a little red bed just for special pickles.

  20. Dandan says:

    Hello thy, reading all these posts, i feel like i know you a little :) I want to ask.. im about to start nakuzuke. Im about to move house and would like to start to have pickles dailiy….

    1) does my naku pot need to be air tight. as i have one that clamps and seals is that ok to use?
    2) i saw many years ago, that people put a rusty nail in the pot – or was i dreaming ?
    3) the brussel sprouts i think will be the best.. i cannot wait to try.

    do you have a facebook account id sure like to be a fan there :)

    • Thy Tran says:

      Hi Dandan, Be sure to allow free air flow, even slow, into your rice bran so that it ferments properly. It’s full of living microbes that require air to do their magic, so a tight seal will eventually kill them off and allow the anaerobic colonies to take over. Trust me, those are definitely not the ones you want! As for the rusty nail, I was reading about that but haven’t tested it out myself yet. It supposedly prevents eggplant from turning brown (I’m guessing something is happening with the trace amounts of metal distributed in the nuka bed that prevents oxidation of the vegetable surfaces). I believe that you don’t have to use rusty nails, per se, just something made from iron. Back in the day, this probably contributed valuable supplemental iron to diets less abundant in red meat than ours, similar to the use of cast iron pans. For what it’s worth, ingesting small amounts of iron or iron oxide (a.k.a. rust) won’t be harmful, unless you have a severely compromised immune system and swallow huge amounts of it. And yes, it’s now the season again for Brussels sprouts — enjoy!

  21. Bruce says:

    Ms. Tran,

    I want to first of thank you for your wonderful blog about pickling and secondly for your exquisite pictures and in depth step-by-step to nukazuke success. I have, in the past week, pulled out the first few batches of pickles from my nukadoko and, as you said, was very satisfied with the product.

    During the first few weeks of caring for my nukadoko I was a bit apprehensive and second-guessing whether or not I had missed a step or spoiled the medium, but with a little patience and a lot of excitement I barreled on through to week one of delicious pickle bliss.

    I had one question: I already changed my garlic cloves once, and when doing i thought, ‘Should I be changing my konbu or chili peppers anytime soon as well?’ Do the chili peppers and konbu need to changed periodically as well?

    Thanks again for your insight, pictures and pickle guidance.

    Asher
    Akune city, Kagoshima, Japan

    • Thy Tran says:

      Great to hear that you’re having such success with your pickle bed! You know, I’ve kinda wondered that myself about the aromatics and konbu. What I do is break and sniff the larger pieces every once in a while, to check if they’re still fragrant, and then replace as they become weaker. Over time, they do disintegrate. The best part is creating slightly different flavors through the year by varying what and how much you add. Have fun experimenting!

  22. Antonie La Chappelle says:

    Dear Ms. Tran,
    I recently began my own nuka pot a couple few weeks ago, and have already added in a bag of bran. I did not pan toast my bran first however, as the book I am using didn’t mention that. Will this adversely affect my nuka pot? Also I am using a small (about 1.5 gal.) ceramic pot with a lid. Should I replace the lid with some cheesecloth? And today when I transferred the nuka into my stirring bowl, it gave off a definite odor much like nail polish remover. Yesterday it simply smelled fermented. I am pickling daikon and carrot and baby cucumbers currently. Could any of those things cause the chemical-y odor?

    Or should I scrap this nuka, and start over with toasted bran?
    I have been looking for a troubleshooting guide to nuka online. But between yours and Mr. Ito’s pages I have gleaned a lot of information. I appreciate any help or advice you can share with us, and thank you for your time! Happy Holidays!
    Antonie

    • Thy Tran says:

      Your nuka bed definitely needs to breathe, so I would recommend an air-permeable cover, such as a cloth or bamboo screen. I actually think not toasting it fine, but it’s partly to make sure you’re starting with a relatively “clean” bed for inoculating with the proper microbes as well as a bit of a deeper flavor. Using untoasted rice bran, however, should not be creating on its own the ammonia/acetone smell; nor do those vegetables you’re using give off that smell typically. I would suspect it’s from not having enough air flow; like most living things, the nuka bed is quite resilient in its own way. You might just try continuing with this bed for another couple of weeks to see if it evens out and corrects itself. Good luck!

  23. Rachael says:

    Hi Thy!!!!

    I started a batch just now. Very (very!) excited. I also have a bag of “instant” nuka that I’m going to compare it to. (I’m pretty sure I know the answer as to which is best already, but hey it was $2 to buy.)

    YAY!

  24. MeiMei says:

    I used wheat bran for my pickling bed with great results – a little easier to find than rice bran. I went to a local health-food store (co-op) and bought it in bulk. My bed was also quite salty to start with but has mellowed. Thanks for the great information!

  25. Jen says:

    Thank you so much for this informative posting. It’s one of the best how-to posts I’ve ever read. I love fermenting foods and keeping sourdoughs…so I am looking forward to adding this new pet to my other fermentation friends. It sounds like lots of fun. Again, thanks for all the information.

  26. Tess says:

    I’m so happy to have stumbled across this article; so much detail! Arigatou!

    I once worked on a Japanese farm where they would pull out the daikon for dinner from a huge clay pot filled with rice bran and the cravings for that same pickled daikon have never left me.

    I’m just wondering, once your nuka pot is brewed and working it’s magic, if you don’t want any pickles for a week or two is it fine to just leave it without veg if you keep up your daily stirring? Is there anything you should do if you need a longer hiatus (eg. holiday away)? Again, many thanks!

    • Thy Tran says:

      Hi Tess: Yes, you can choose to leave the nuka bed empty for shorter periods. For longer breaks, you can put the bed into deep hibernation using layers of dry mustard and salt on the surface. Read the end of the blog entry to see what I do for a few weeks or months of travel. Thanks for sharing your story about eating the pickles on the farm in Japan–great image!

  27. MV says:

    I loved this recipe and directions. I have been searching for over a year to find a recipe that is like one I had gotten (and misplaced) online that was used by an elderly Japanese woman. She used beer and not bread in hers and that’s were the differences end. Ok, she didn’t put apple peels or egg shells in hers but I like the idea of it so I used them today in my first attempt to make this type of pickle. Overnight pickles are to salty for me and I’m hoping these will be more along my tastes.
    I do have some questions though and hope I’m not to late to get answers since this blog is over 2 years old now.
    Do I leave the vegetables in when stirring or take out, stir, re-insert? You say to use a drop lid and towel but every other site/recipe says tight fitting lid. I have a glass jar w/ tight lid I am using and would like to know if I need to change to towel and saucer?
    Thank you for the indepth instructions! They made me feel confident enough to stir up a batch this morning and fulfilling a two year desire.

      • Thy Tran says:

        MV: I love the idea of beer — can’t wait to use some for a new bed I’m starting. For stirring, I just leave the veggies in. I tend to do little ones, or else cut larger ones (like cabbage or carrots) into smaller pieces, so it works okay for me. You can, if you’re doing more elaborate layered arrangements, have two crocks and just transfer between them for the “stirring” in order to give them the aerating and movement they need. Please do not use a tight-fitting lid, however, if you’re making the shorter-term pickles. There’s a version of rice bran pickles that uses anaerobic fermentation (without air), but it’s meant for very long-term aging; involves sturdier vegetables, typically mature daikon; and has a much more robust flavor. Believe me, I once traveled with my bed inside a plastic zip bag, thinking that I’d just pickle along the way instead of putting the rice brain into hibernation, but the bed went totally slimy and gross because it didn’t have enough air flow. Good luck and have lots of fun!

  28. Maranatha says:

    Is there any way you can fix this page so the images display? They’re all blank and I’d love to see them to go with your excellent instructions.

  29. Gee says:

    Ms Tran, amazing insight in nuka! You must be the nuka queen :)
    I heard about nuka one week ago, when my organic farmer told me he will give me 15 kg organic rice bran, so I went googling and come on this amazing blog. Can you hibernate your nuka bed in there refirgerator?
    I live in Thailand since 5 years and it is always around 90 F/32 C in my living room. It seems that you only may use organic nuka, as not organic nuka contains too much arsenic, and all that arsenic is in the bran.
    http://missclasses.com/mp3s/Prize%20CD%202010/Previous%20years/Arsenic/rice%20bran.pdf
    And of course only food grade containers, some ceramic pots have lead coating, and that is very poisonous too. So as from today I start my first nuka bed, and I am soooo excitred, thanks again, best blog ever!!

  30. Gee says:

    Ms Tran, amazing insight in nuka! You must be the nuka queen :)
    I heard about nuka one week ago, when my organic farmer told me he will give me 15 kg organic rice bran, so I went googling and come on this amazing blog. Can you hibernate your nuka bed in there refirgerator?
    I live in Thailand since 5 years and it is always around 90 F/32 C in my living room. It seems that you only may use organic nuka, as not organic nuka contains too much arsenic, and all that arsenic is in the bran.
    http://missclasses.com/mp3s/Prize%20CD%202010/Previous%20years/Arsenic/rice%20bran.pdf
    And of course only food grade containers, some ceramic pots have lead coating, and that is very poisonous too. So as from today I start my first nuka bed, and I am soooo excited, thanks again, best blog ever!!

  31. Mairoa says:

    I’m curious how you tell if the bed’s ready for real pickles. I’m using junk veggies now and wondering how I can tell to put the good veggies in from my garden.

    • Thy Tran says:

      Mairoa–Congrats on starting your pickle bed! You should be able to tell a huge difference in the flavor of the vegetables from the first week (salty, not sour at all) and those that emerge 2 weeks (hint of sourness beneath the saltiness, perhaps some strong funkiness as the microbes start partying). The flavor should continue changing 4 and 6 and 8 weeks later (increasing sourness, more complex but also more mellow and melded flavors). The smell, texture and look of the bran bed itself should also change. The timing depends a lot on the specific blend of ingredients you use and the temperature of your kitchen, but you should be able to eat flavorful pickles within 6 weeks if all goes well. If you aren’t tasting pickles you like a lot within 2 months, you’ll need to readjust the bed for flavor and pickling speed. As you settle into a specific regimen, adding new ingredients or boosting with replacement bran, the bed will go through a temporary adjustment period. It might help to use a consistent vegetable (say a few radishes or a Persian cucumber) every once in a while as a standard flavor test and take notes. Of course, the flavors will continue to develop for many months and even years. Good luck! Let me know if you have any other questions.

  32. Peter says:

    Thanks for the detailed nukazuke instructions. I am getting my bed started now and am eagerly anticipating the pickles. One question – what should I do when I will be away for a while? Perhaps a week or two, when I can’t take the bed with me or leave it with a friend. You gave instructions for a long “sleep,” with the mustard powder, but that seems extreme for a week or two. Freeze it? Refrigerate it? Any ideas will be appreciated.

    • Thy Tran says:

      Hi Peter, It’s not that difficult to cover with mustard powder (dry Colman’s is fine) and salt, and I’d highly recommend it over freezing or refrigerating. But for a week or two, you might be able to refrigerate it without throwing off the balance of your bed, if the temperature is not too far below 40F in your fridge while you’re gone. I’d avoid freezing, unless you’re willing to work all over again getting your bed back to pickling form. Just too risky, I think, after all the time and effort you’ve already put in. Have fun!

  33. Honeychai says:

    A Japanese friend of mine said that when her mother’s nukadoko becomes too watery she buries a few DRIED shiitake mushrooms. They soak up the water like a champ and they also flavor the nuka!

  34. Tenjo says:

    Thanks for writing this blog! I tried making a pickling bed last year wwhen I bought a nukadoko container at Mitsuwa market. The plastic container is kinda like a rubbermaid container, about 1.8 liters in size. I added 1 whole chili pepper, some mustard powder, some large squares of kombu, 2 dried shiitake mushrooms, some beer, water and salt. I asked the Japanese ladies working at the market, and they suggest I keep it in the frig.

    I did keep it in the frig since it came with a lid, I used that lid and kept it closed. After 3 weeks, (i had been putting scraps veggies in it daily and throwing them out), the kombu, mushrooms actually felt a bit slimy, so I added more nuka, and threw in 6 cloves of garlic. Next thing I know at week 7, when I stirred it one day, the garlic and mushrooms have green tinge to them! Like the green mold on cheese! It didn’t smell spoiled, just a very musty wet forest floor smell. But I was scared to eat anything, and just threw the entire batch away.

    Help! What did I do wrong? Should I not have used the lid and used a towel? And where do you keep it? On the floor? On the dining table? Not sure what I should have done.

    • Thy Tran says:

      Don’t worry about the colored garlic. With lower pH, garlic cloves can turn green to blue to purple. I’ve pickled garlic in vinegar before and seen pretty vivid transformations myself.

  35. tarver king says:

    i love these pickles so much. Thanks for all the info!!

  36. Matthias says:

    very nice instructions, thank you. I have a question regarding the chili to keep bugs out. Are the veggies spicy afterwards? Unfortunately I can’t have much chili for medical reasons. Is there another way to keep unwanted visitors out?

    • Thy Tran says:

      No problem at all leaving out the chile. In some places, bugs aren’t an issue, but if you need, drape a thin, cotton cloth or several layers of cheesecloth over the top of your container. If you’re near a Korean supermarket, look in their kitchenware area for a variety of mesh lids that fit over pickling crocks — brilliant!

  37. Jo-Jo says:

    It seems like mines getting very moist and clotting together. I’ve been doing a lot of fruit is to much sugar bad for it? It’s three weeks old now and is pertty established. I’ve added more rice bran should I put more? Thank you so much for this my Japanese friend at work Yo started a bed from mine hers matured really fast. This had been so fun and exciting your blog was very informational.

    • Thy Tran says:

      Yeah, the sugar in the fruit is providing lots of “fast food” and, in the long run, may end up attracting the wrong microbes. Vegetables will have a small amount of carbs, of course, so there’s always some portion of sugar in your bed.

      If things start smelling off, I’d keep the fruit less frequent, or perhaps cycle through the bran more frequently. If your bed smells fine, though, you might have figured out a good process, in which I wouldn’t change a thing!

      BTW, I did cherries once and LOVED them!

  38. Chris says:

    I forgot to toast my bran. Did I ruin the whole batch?

    • Thy Tran says:

      Sorry about the late reply — summer visits with family have kept me very busy (and well fed!)

      Toasting does three things: 1) allow you to control better the moisture content, 2) starts you off with a clean bed free of undesired microbes, and 2) add a deeper, more complex flavor.

      There’s a small chance your nuka bed will get a bit funky, but if you take good care of it otherwise, the good guys will take charge and keep things well balanced.

  39. Rook says:

    Hi, I’m a college student and yearning for a taste of home, I just started my own nukadoko bed in my apartment. While I managed to start with the nuka, I’ve quickly run out of it after making some pickles and I was wondering what would be a good substitution for the nuka? It’s hard getting any other close approximation to the nuka as well, but I heard oatmeal or old rice was good?

    • Thy Tran says:

      Other commenters have suggested that oat bran will work, but I haven’t tried it myself. I’d hesitate to used the whole grain of the rice as the starches will lead to a different type of fermentation. Although rice mash is used in small amounts sometimes to spur the fermentation in Korean-style kimchi, that’s a much more moist process.

      I’d like to try making a nuka bed out of wheat bran. That’ll be my next project; I’ll write an update post about the results.

  40. Mike Lawson says:

    Thanks for an excellent site. I have a nukadoko bed working fine, started it with a bag of rice bran brought from Japan. I live in Spain and have trouble finding rice bran, but I can find wheat bran, salvado de trigo. Have anyone experience mixing the two? I am afraid my rice bran bed will just shrink and shrink… The two should be compatible, but I am no expert. Will also start a separate bed for fish, I read this is done in Hokkaido. Anyone tried it? If so, with what kind of fish? Also seen mentioned meat. I’m a bit sceptical, but guess dried meat could work, what do you think? Thank you.

    • Thy Tran says:

      I haven’t tried pickling fish myself, but it’s definitely done. There’s a wonderful dish where the fish is grilled or broiled with just a very small amount of the rice bran still clinging to the skin and flesh.

      I’d lean toward a slightly saltier bed and use it specifically for fish. Mackerel is the traditional dish, but other fatty fish like sardines and anchovies would preserve well, too. Very complex flavors develop!

      A different version of this fish pickling uses the moist lees left from making sake to create the bed.

  41. Mike Lawson says:

    regarding some of the advice and questions asked above: I interviewed my Japanese mother-in-law about her nukamiso which she have had since forever. To make it “sleep” she just puts it in the fridge, she says it can stay “resting” for months. Second, she’s got a ceramic container with a heavy lid, almost no air passes through, but yet it does not get stinky or bad and produces great nukazuke. I guess it all depends on the bed itself and the surrounding conditions. Comments?

    I can add to my previous comment that I also found “salvado de avena” in Spain, a variety of oat that will be tried. Luckily I have a stock of soft, half dried konbu, will report back. And, yeah, I am no longer afraid to mix rice bran with other bran like wheat or oat, it should work just fine.

  42. Jshan says:

    So much appreciation & gratitude for your excellent & kind contributions here in this page, thank you!

  43. Gerry Grosz says:

    My wife just busted out a Nijiya-bought nukazuke kit, so I thought I’d look it up online to learn more about it. Why am I not surprised to find that you’ve got such an awesome post about the subject? I’m certainly delighted to read your take on the process. Reading through both your post as well as the reader comments has resparked my wife’s memories of her mother’s nukadoko back in Tokyo, plus given us new ideas, like toasting the bran. Using dried shitake to soak up moisture is brilliant, and we’ve got lots of home-dried shitake here for when the time comes. We even happen to have some recently dried, used sencha leaves on hand, so they’re going in, for sure.

    The only hesitation is that my worst-ever case of food poisoning came the summer after graduating college, when my downstairs neighbor offered me some homemade pickled garlic, and I was down for the count for days. I will not easily forget that body-wracking episode. Luckily, I trust my wife’s cooking (and your words of wisdom) enough to take the pickling plunge!

    Thanks, Thy! You rock, as always!

  44. Danusia says:

    I’m in my second week of starting the bed. The vegetables that I leave in for 24 hours taste really really salty. Will the salt eventually mellow out or should I add more rice bran?

    • Thy Tran says:

      Danusia: congrats on starting your own nuke bed! For now, soak your pickles in a bit of cold water for 10 minutes to see if that helps. If they’re still unpalatable, go ahead and add small amounts of bran. It’s still early so I’d give the pickles another couple of weeks before making major adjustments. You might also consider adding some sweetness: dried apple peels can help balance flavors. Good luck!

  45. Rebecca says:

    I’m tempted to start this but I was wondering about the inoculation – Since people are reported using beer to give it an initial boost, and you use a bread slurry… Do you think using sourdough starter would work? I’ve got a batch I started with wild yeast and wouldn’t mind letting a few tablespoons “cross over” into pickle making…

    • Thy Tran says:

      Rebecca, Great question! I love that you already have a sourdough starter. Pancakes on the weekends…yum…

      But for pickles, I’d recommend not using it, as it’s a different microbe that you’re looking for with a nuka bed. The bread and beer provides “fast food” for the new yeast, but with your starter, you’ll be inoculating with a robust community of critters that may scare off the ones that will sour your pickles so well. I do hope that you’ll try starting a nukadoko. If so–have fun!

  46. Janet says:

    This is making me hungry! If making a pickling bed for a gluten-free household, what would substitute for the bread or beer? do you think a GF beer would do the trick? Thanks for this great source of information!

  47. Katz says:

    Hello!

    I am in Japan, and I tasted nuka pickles from a friend about three years ago, and decided to give it a go. My pickling bed is now almost four weeks old. Trouble is, I can’t recall the taste and I don’t know if my vegetables are fermenting, or if it is just the effect of the salt. How can I tell? How can I tell that my bed is fermenting correctly? (today it has a slight different smell, like.. like… I read that it is bad if it turns sour: how do I know that is or isn’t what is happening, the smell that it gives off today?

    I used the same recipe book you mention at the top of the post. My rice bran I didn’t toast, because mostly Japanese sources don’t mention roasting (the book, some websites, and people) but I did get it fresh from the rice milling machine at the local JA store. The first few weeks, the smell of the mustard was overwhelming. It has everything and the kitchen sink thrown in for flavor: konbu, katsuon, dried hot pepper, sun dried yuzu peel, soya beans to absorb moisture and crushed eggshells for whatever it is they do. I added garlic cloves at some point and woa! was that an overwhelming flavor. I took them all out and put a new one in.

    I air it everyday. I put in vegetables everyday since day one. Now I tried cucumbers, and after 24 hours, they are similar to sour Russian pickles – in texture and taste a bit, with all that garlic.

    CUriously, everyone here tells me to seal it. My friend keeps hers in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator… my room is as cold as a refrigerator. No one uses wood containers, and are very surprised when I ask about it. It seems that they didn’t use wood in the past either. I have read that supposedly it helps control humidity levels, but I can’t see how that would work in the Japanese summer – it is so humid outside, and so hot. What a mystery!

    Thanks for your post and for your advice in advance! (how can I tell if my bed is spoiling? and if the vegetables are fermenting)

    • Thy Tran says:

      If the temperature is cool, it may take a new bed more than a month, perhaps a couple of weeks more, to develop fully. If it’s gone off a bit, you’ll notice white, fuzzy mold growing on the surface of the bran or a slimy texture, along with a smell that’s sour garbage, rather than rainy forest. If you catch it in time, you might be able to skim it off and continue fermenting. Once the bran is well inoculated, the vegetables will emerge more than just salty; they’ll have a deeper, earthier flavor and a distinctive brightening of color.

  48. Katz says:

    Hello Hello Hi!

    There is no mold and it is not slimy, though I did read that being too watery makes it sour. Mine did get very wet once I started putting in daikon. Is that why you dry it in the sun, to remove some of the water content?
    I dug a hole down the center of the container and have been stuffing it with paper towels, absorbing the excess moisture. It seems to have toned down the smell and taste in the past 24 hours.

    Rainy forest = earthy smell? the way it smells right before rain comes down?
    It does have a slight sour garbage smell. I don’t know if that is what is referred to as “pungent”. But it is very faint – to me it smells more like smoked, like something smoked. I think the mustard and garlic smell overwhelms all others, and maybe it is these two combined that give off the smoked smell, perhaps from the katsubon too? The vegetables taste smokey too. MMMM.. is smokey perhaps = earthy?

    Do you think it is safe for me to eat the vegetables?

    Thank you !

    • Thy Tran says:

      Hey Katz,

      Yes, you want to avoid too much moisture. The salt draws out moisture from vegetables, some more than others, and depending on the ratio of bran to vegetables you average over time, you’ll figure out when you’ll need to blot with paper towels or hold back on watery vegetables for a bit (say, cucumbers). Also, remember that as you use the pickling bed, you remove bran and so will need to add some back in occasionally.

      I was thinking more of a forest after a rain, that earthy smell that brings together all the elements of the natural world that is alive, not unpleasantly stinky or “dead” and definitely not garbage. If you eat seafood, then somewhat like the difference between the reassuring smell of the sea on super fresh fish vs. the off-putting odor of not-so-fresh fish.

      About safety: there’s very, very little chance that there is anything dangerous in the bran bed. It’s just a matter of a bad taste in the vegetables. And, of course, the long-term stability of the desired bacteria in the bran. The smell is an indicator of the colony’s health.

      As for drying daikon, it’s more about a crunchier texture in the final pickle.

  49. Katz says:

    Hello!

    Thank you for your advice. My nukabed isn’t as watery anymore, but I am guessing most of the salt went with the blotting… It is now super sour tasting. I read that I can still save it by mixing everyday, adding eggshells and mustard. The thing is, it now has a tangy slight burning in my mouth feeling – ever heard of that?

    I am guessing it is from the soybeans I put in while ago to absorb liquid. I am allergic to soy, maybe, and by now they started disintegrating, the skin coming off, and splitting. Maybe that mild burning sensation is an allergic reaction… *sigh* I’ll have to start again…

    Thanks!

  50. Brad Mattix says:

    Hello Thy:
    I just learned of nukazuke from reading in Sandor Katz’s “The Art of Fermentation”. I’m very excited, after reading your excellent article. Thank you for your excellent step by step instructions and beautiful photos. I will be starting my nukadoko bed tomorrow. I thank you for the inspiration.
    All the Best!

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