Hot, spicy, zippy sweet ginger and pepper pickles appealed to my desire for distinct flavors.
Tsukemono (漬物) are Japanese pickles—vegetable preserved with salt or brine rather than vinegar. The method usually includes mirin, shoyu, vinegar, miso, and/or rice bran (nuka), or sake lees. Asazuke (浅漬け) is a sort of tsukemono characterized by its short preparation time (thirty minutes to one day) which makes it a very popular in Japanese households.
I happened to notice the jar of gari in my fridge when I tossed out the empty orange juice carton. Gari is a sort of tsukemono: sweet, thin slices of young ginger marinated in vinegar and sugar. It’s the kind of ginger often served with sushi. Many brands of commercially produced gari are artificially colored pink (in some cases by either dye and/or beet juice) to promote sales, the natural product typically has a pale yellow to slightly pink hue from the pickling process. Mine was not natural…
As I wheeled my grocery cart around the store’s vegetable displays the jalapeños looked dark green, shiny, and plump. I thought how pretty they would look with the pink gari. How colors look together has been in my mind: the new house, still mostly empty, needs to have a few rooms repainted.
Jalapeños are usually 2–3½ inches (5–9 cm) long, usually picked before they turn red. Compared to other chilis, the jalapeño has a heat level that varies from mild to medium hot. I’d recently bought some that were very mild, but you can’t tell by looking at them how hot they will be: the heat, caused by capsaicin is concentrated in the membrane surrounding the seeds.
I did hesitate before putting the peppers into my cart, considering that the Korean store might have shishito, the very mild pepper used in Japan. Chili peppers were introduced into Japan by the Portuguese, and—hot at first—were gradually hybridized to be a mild pepper suitable to the Japanese palate. Oh, but the Korean store usually has only the hot
variety that looks like shishito…
I was led astray by smooth green skin!
should have considered this:
Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.
My gas stove does pretty well for roasting peppers over a burner. Jalapeños have a very thin skin, much thinner than the big green, yellow, or red bell peppers. They blistered and blackened very quickly. I plopped them under a towel to steam until they were cool enough to rub the skin away.
Ginger and Pepper Tsukemono
about 1 cup
experimental recipe, with potential
- 3 lovely jalapeño peppers, roasted and skin removed
(a better choice, if you make this recipe, is to use shishito)
- 1 ½ Tablespoons gari (sushi ginger)
- 2 Tablespoons of the liquid in the gari jar
- a tiny pinch of salt
Cut the peeled pepper in half and scrape away the seeds and membrane. (Now would be a good time to taste your jalapeños; if they are hot hot hot, then I’m wondering if cooking them for a while would ease the heat? Maybe in water?)
Chop the peppers coarsely. Remember: you want to be able to eat these pickles with chopsticks.
Chop the ginger. Put the peppers ginger and salt into a plastic bag and let sit half an hour or so.
• As noted, this was an experiment. My peppers must have been hot to start with, though the ones I’ve used recently have all been quite mild. Next time, I’ll use the shishito Japanese peppers.
• Tsukemono are served with rice as a side dish (okazu) with drinks as a snack (otsumami), and as an accompaniment to or garnish for meals