I have no memories of either of my own biological grandfathers so the only grandfather-like experiences I had was through my cousins’ grandfather, who was Japanese-Hawaiian. I was very young when he, too, passed, but I have distinct memories of him making huge batches of kimchi and tsukemono, Japanese-Hawaiian style pickled vegetables, for the family.
When I was around 8 years or so, I went through a kimchi phase where I had to eat it with every meal for a good year or so (seriously, every meal). It was always a special feeling to be able to break open a batch of Grandpa Frank’s newest batch of kimchi as it would never last long in our household.
At the time, still under 10 years old, I really didn’t understand why Grandpa Frank was bothering to make homemade kimchi, takuan, kyuuri, and more. Why go through the trouble of cutting up so many vegetables when we could just buy it from the store with a nice label and bright colors of pink, yellow, speckled reds.
I have to say, food is our language of love. While shiny items and new gadgets lose their initial ooh and ahh, food is a form of love that I’ve come to appreciate even more as I grow older. This is why I can never eat out when my grandma cooks food for me; I know she’s made these dishes specifically with my happiness in mind.
I recently started trying to make my own pickles, and instead of rushing through the process as I usually would, I found myself taking my time and recalling on fond memories of Grandpa Frank. I specifically recall him being so deliberate in washing and salting the vegetables, cutting them into the right sizes and scrunching as much as possible into a multitude of saved-up jars. I found a lot of comfort in knowing that he’s still being thought of when I make each batch going forward.
Basic Tsukemono (Pickled Vegetables)
- 1 Cabbage /2-3 Cucumbers
- 1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Sugar
- 2 Bulbs Garlic
- 2-3 Red Chilis
- Chili Powder
This is a very novice version of pickling, but easy enough for me. I started making these for probiotic benefits. I found that 1 cabbage head or 2-3 Japanese cucumbers fit into one large jar.
- Chop and salt vegetables, I used about 2-3 tablespoons. Let drain for a couple hours if possible.
- Mince garlic and chili; set aside.
- Sterilize jars by rinsing with boiling water.
- Mix rice vinegar, sugar, garlic and any additional salt with a little warm water until completely dissolved.
- Pack as much vegetable as possible into the jar, squeezing moisture out of the vegetables when possible.
- Periodically pour some of the liquid mixture in and sprinkle chili powder so that the flavors can evenly disperse.
- Tightly seal jars and set somewhere at room temperature with no direct sunlight.
- I like to reopen in 2 days, but over a sink because it fizzes and bubbles all over the place due to the fermentation process!
- Once opened, I store in the refrigerator and finish eating within 1-2 weeks.