Tim “Blind Muscat” Patterson of Subterranean Cellars has called another bottling party. This time, there’ll be home-stuffed sausages on the grill. What was I going to bring? Hmmmm…I do believe there’s a little voice whispering “sauerkraut” into my ear….

It’s ridiculously easy to make, so if you plan to throw some bratwurst or beef franks on the grill this summer, I encourage you to try your hand at making homemade sauerkraut. All you need is a head of cabbage, a sprinkling of salt and a big jar. I promise that your first bite will be a revelatory experience and that your friends will be duly impressed.
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Bean Sprouts with Sake and Bonito Flakes


Shaved bonito, planed just like wood from a dried, fermented and smoked fillet of skipjack tuna, is a popular garnish in Japan. Known as katsuobushi, the delicate shavings belie a rich, complex flavor that serves as one of the cornerstones of Japanese cuisine. Paired here with sake’s mouth-fullness, bonito flakes deepen the flavor of this simple, quick pickle.

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Cucumber Stuffed with Perilla and Ginger


This pickle is currently my favorite quick pickle. Astonishing, really, that four naked ingredients can meld together so beautifully, so gently, so easily.

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Pressed Turnip with Konbu


Browsing the shelves of Kinokuniya Bookstore two weeks ago, after succumbing to a still-warm crepe wrapped folded around strawberries and whipped cream, I found a book that now sits on my kitchen counter with scores of sticky notes shingled out from its pages: Easy Japanese Pickling by Seiko Ogawa (Graph-Sha, 2003). This book is an excellent introduction to the Japanese everyday art of “pickled things.”

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Bean Sprouts with Scallions


Maybe it’s because I grew up with this one, but truly, these lightly pickled bean sprouts would rank at the top of all three workhorse lists: easy, fast, versatile. They are the fresh-tasting foil to a classic Vietnamese dish, thit kho, that involves long, tender cooking of fatty pork, burnt sugar, and hard boiled eggs. Delicate in flavor, with just a hint of tartness, the pickle’s refreshing crispness works well with grilled meats, rich stews and the sweet, roasted pork of Chinese delis.

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