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Using salt to preserve food spans millennia. The earliest known records date back to 6000BC in an area around the Nile valley and Mesopotamia known as the fertile cresecent. Japan, however, has turned this process into the artform they call tsukemono

Tsukemono or pickled thing in Japan accompanies literally every meal, can be served over a bowl of rice and even forms part of the tea ceremony

The simplest of tsukemonos is salt pickle (shiozuke) and includes fermented and non-fermented varieties. The lacto-fermented plums in the previous post and the recipe below are examples of the former and latter respectively 

Vegetables with a high water content such as cucumber are just lightly and briefly salted to extract water and concentrate their flavour without fermentation

Harder vegetables such as radishes, carrots and other root vegetables can be fermented.

The principal of fermentation is to

  • use salt (2-10%) to suppress the “bad” bacteria, while allowing the growth of salt-resistant lactic acid bacteria
  • ensure the fermentation takes place in the absence of oxygen, traditionally done by submerging the vegetables in brine

Basic methods

  1. salt can be added directly to the vegetable
  2. the vegetables are steeped in a 5 – 10% salt : water brine and kept entirely submerged with the help of weights. You can buy special fermentation weights or fill a sandwich bag with the same brine, tie it with a strong knot and rest it on top of the vegetables
  • 5% brine requires 8 hours pickling and will last for 2-3 days
  • 10% brine requires 5 hours of pickling and will keep closer to a week


You can pickle vegetables with or witout extra condiments. This recipe uses kombu (sea kelp) and dried chilli with whole coriander seeds. The flavour combination is potentially endless: for cucumbers try dill with sumak, or preserved lemon with black pepper. Experiment to your heart’s content

Salted Cucumber With Kombu And Chilli

Course any
Cuisine Japanese
Keyword pickles, raw-food, salt pickle, tsukemono, vegan
Prep Time 5 minutes


  • 1 cucumber thickly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp non-iodized salt
  • a few thin strips of kombu (dried sea kelp)
  • a few thin strips of dried chilli
  • 1 tsp whole coriander seeds


  • put the sliced cucumber in a bowl with the salt and toss with your fingers to disperse the salt evenly. Add the coriander, kombu and chilli.
  • rest, covered at least an hour and preferably 5 hours in the regrigerator. Set a timer so you don;t end up with overly salty vegetables
  • rinse off the salt and pat dry with a clean tea towel or absorbent paper
  • serve in a clean bowl with the kelp and chilli. Try garnishing with a few black sesame seeds