Bran Pickles Recipe

The time spent making these traditional Japanese pickles — using miso, kombu and bran — is well worth the effort and wait.

| June 2019

bran-pickles
Photo from Adobe Stock 

The crown jewel of Japanese pickling, bran pickles are time-intensive but worth it. From preparing your pickling bed, testing your pickles, and maintaining the pickling bed, they are simply a lot of work. It is easy to see why these types of pickles, at one time prepared in every household, have fallen by the wayside. However, if you want to experience Japanese pickling at its finest, you should definitely try your hand at these traditional pickles. You will need a small pickling crock or other wide, deep nonreactive dish to make this pickle.

PREP TIME: 30 minutes, plus 1 to 2 weeks for the pickling bed
FERMENTATION TIME: 5 days
Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup pickling salt
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon miso
  • 1/2 slice white bread
  • 1 (3-inch) square kombu
  • 1 pound wheat, oat, or rice bran, divided
  • 1 (1-inch) piece of ginger, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup mixed vegetables for pickling (cucumbers, daikon, Chinese cabbage, celery, carrots, turnips, green bell pepper)
  • Extra salt, for rubbing vegetables

bran-pickle-making
Photo from Adobe Stock

Steps:

  1. Prepare the pickling bed by first mixing the salt and water, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Mix the miso together with the water, stirring to combine. Break the bread into small pieces and add this to the water.
  2. Wipe the kombu with a damp towel and cut into several pieces using kitchen shears.
  3. In the pickling container, add ⅓ of the bran to the bottom, followed by 1/3 of the pickling-bread liquid. Mix well with your hand. Add another 1/3 of bran, followed by 1/3 of the pickling-bread liquid. Do this one more time until all of the bran and pickling liquid are used.
  4. Add in the kombu and ginger, and mix well.
  5. Rub a couple vegetables (cucumbers, daikon) with salt and bury them in the pickling bed. Pat the bran mixture down firmly with your hands. These are test pickles, so they can be scraps of vegetables, as you will not eat these.
  6. Use a wet cloth to wipe the inner rim of the pickling container clean. Cover the pickling bed with a lid or cloth and place in a cool location.
  7. After 1 to 3 days, remove the vegetables and discard them. Do this 2 or 3 times and then replace the scraps with vegetables for pickling. Leave the vegetables for 1 to 3 days, then taste them. If they taste good with a well-balanced pickled flavor, they are ready to eat. If not, discard them and try again, being sure not to leave any vegetables in the bed for more than 3 days. Every time you take vegetables out, stir the bed well to aerate the bran, and be sure to wipe the inner rim with a damp, clean cloth.
  8. Once your bed is producing pickles that taste good, keep it active by stirring it every day or two, and always replacing the vegetables after 3 days. It typically takes at least 1 to 2 weeks to get the pickling bed performing well and producing pickles that taste really good.
A CLOSER LOOK: Customarily, these are made using rice bran, but since this is not widely available in the United States, wheat and oat bran are also recommended here.

bran-pickle-pack
Photo from Adobe Stock



BRAN PICKLING TIPS

Bran pickling is typically started in spring and early summer, as it can take up to one month to obtain a good flavor from the pickling bed. Be sure to get yours going with plenty of time to take advantage of the endless summer pickling opportunities. Here are some tips to keep in mind when bran pickling:

  • Firm vegetables such as carrots and daikon need more time in the pickling bed to achieve full flavor. To combat this and speed up pickling, cut them into small pieces. Other vegetables such as cucumbers, eggplants, and celery can be pickled whole.
  • Always rub vegetables lightly with salt before burying in the pickling bed to help aid in the pickling.
  • Don’t leave any vegetables in the pickling bed, as this can cause sourness. Always be sure to stir the bed well and inspect for missed vegetables. If your bed does become sour, add a tablespoon or two of mustard powder to neutralize the bed.
  • Keep it cool. In Japan, pickling beds were traditionally kept in the floor, where temperatures remain cooler. A root cellar or basement is an ideal location — just don’t forget about it.
  • If mold appears on the pickling bed, remove it promptly from the surface, and wipe the inner rim clean.
  • In theory, if you keep your pickling bed well-maintained, it can be reused year after year. To do this, store in the refrigerator as noted above. Bring the bed to room temperature, and add additional aromatics such as more kombu, ginger, garlic, mustard powder, or chile pepper.
  • Begin the same process of testing as when you started pickling.

bran-pickle-pat
Photo from Adobe Stock






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