Takuan

Some things you do for money and some things you do for love, love, love.

-The Mountain Goats

SPL_0528

Takuan pickles are sun-dried daikon pickled in a bed of rice bran and salt. We are intrigued by Japanese pickling traditions in part because of how they employ unique mediums such as rice bran, miso, and sake lees. This tradition utilizes “waste” materials from rice milling to impart both impressive nutritional value and unmatched concentrated taste to these pickles.

This pickle is named after Takuan Soho (1573-1645), a Zen priest who was exiled from the priesthood for rejecting the formal approach of Zen discipline in favor of the reflection of true spiritual insight. He is author of the book The Unfettered Mind: Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master. During his lifetime, rice milling gained increasing popularity in Japan, hence the abundance of the nutritious bran. Takuan Soho encouraged the proliferation of rice bran pickled daikon throughout the country, and indeed it is still enjoyed in Japanese cuisine today. The bran is rinsed off, and the takuan are sliced very thinly, most commonly eaten very simply with rice. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find traditionally produced takuan, as modern varieties utilize artificial color, sweeteners, and stabilizers.

P1100047

We love making Takuan at The Shop. The daikon we use has been selected for its uniform size and is delivered with the greens still attached.  We begin by hanging the daikon to dry in the windows. They are such great Shop decoration. In the mornings  with the dappled light pouring through the foliage covering the large windows that comprise the eastern wall, The Shop feels festive and magical.  We dry the daikon for about 8 days, until they become soft and pliable. This drying will provide the pickle with a wonderful chewy texture and keep moisture from flooding the rice bran. We create a mixture of rice bran, turmeric, chili flake, kombu salt and sugar. We remove the greens and spiral the daikon into a crock, layering in the dry rice bran mix. The crock is weighted with a bag of small clean pebbles. Pebbles are used because we can easily fit them into odd shaped vessels and the weight can be quickly adjusted.

We allow the daikon to ferment for anywhere between 4 and 10 months. We have always considered takuan to be one of the more challenging pickles to make. This is due primarily to the duration of fermentation and with the drying process. If there is too much moisture in the daikon it provides conditions optimal for lactic acid creating bacteria. It is quite easy for the ferment to pick up a distinct lactic tang. This is to be expected to some extent. Lactobacillus is ubiquitous, especially in our Shop.  What we want to dominate, however, is the smokey yeasty quality that fermented rice bran brings to the palate. So we check on them often hoping to catch the moment.

There hasn’t been too much of a market for these more obscure pickles. We have continued to make them for the love and learning. But recently, as people become more aware of what we do, we have seen an increased interest. The last batch we made took eight months to ferment and yielded thirteen jars. They were all sold in within two weeks. We will be making more.

P1000118

We change the way we do the Taukuan a little each batch. Here is one of our recipes:

4.5 kg daikon, air dried for 5-10 days until soft and pliable

1.5  kg rice bran

95 grams salt

95 grams sugar

13 grams turmeric

1 strip of kombu cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Combine the bran, salt, sugar, turmeric and kombu. Spiral the daikon into a 5 gallon crock and layer between one inch of the rice bran mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and/or a piece of clean cheese cloth. Press with 3-5 lbs of weight.

Try the pickles every two months and observe how they change over time. They are different and delicious.

P1090954

-Kevin & Alex

3 thoughts on “Takuan

  1. The original traditional yellow colorant for takuan isn’t turmeric, but kuchinashi no mi (a kind of gardenia seed). If you can find it, try it and see if it makes a difference for your takuan. It is also traditional to include persimmon peels (for the tannin) and dried chiles in the nuka bed.

    • Indeed Josh. Kuchinashi no mi is not available in the U.S., although we hear you can find it sometimes sold as an herbal supplement in some Korean markets. We also include both persimmon peels and dried chilies in our nuka bed. Thanks for sharing. Cheers.

  2. D: I’m so dying for some good and safe pickled daikon again. There used to be some carried locally that had actual sugar in them, now they all use saccharin and it tastes terrible and makes me sick to boot. I haven’t had any in so long. Hoping I can manage to pickle some myself. XD Just takes so long to wait for it. 😀 Thank you so much for posting this up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: