Pickling with Nuka (Rice Bran)

cucumber pickles in nuka pot
In the nuka pot are pickled ‘Diva’ cucumbers.

Remember Thomas Jefferson’s “fine spiced pickle, brought up troutlike from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below stairs in Aunt Sally’s cellar”? Here’s a pair of nuka pickles, brought up clamlike from the mucky depths of a fragrant jar of nukamiso.

In traditional Japanese homes, nuka–rice bran–is salted, mixed with water and either beer or soaked koji (Aspergillus-inoculated rice), flavored with ginger, chile, and kombu (kelp), and mixed into a pickling paste that can last for generations, if it’s well cared for.

Every day, you must reach your hands into the nuka pot to stir and turn the mixture, feeding it at first with vegetable scraps. When it has developed a strong, earthy aroma, you bury in the paste whatever vegetables you’d like to pickle. You take them out after a few hours or days, when they’re as salty and tangy as you like. Rinse them, slice them if you want, and eat.

These ain’t Aunt Sally’s pickles, Tom, but try them–they may grow on you.

Full instructions for pickling in a nuka pot are in The Joy of Pickling.

0 thoughts on “Pickling with Nuka (Rice Bran)”

    1. To 2 pounds nuka, I use 3/4 cup salt, 3 small dried hot peppers, a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, 2 5-inch strips of kombu (cut up), 1 1/2 cups koji soaked in water for 15 minutes, the koji soaking water, and 2 more cups water. Detailed instructions are in The Joy of Pickling.
      This recipe makes a very salty mash, but the salt-to-nuka proportion seems to be typical, and the saltiness declines over time. How salty the pickles turn out depends mainly on how long the vegetables are left in the nuka. If you really don’t like salty pickles, though, you might try Elizabeth Andoh’s recipe in her book Kansha. I haven’t tried her recipe, but I know it uses much less salt.

  1. Have you ever used sake instead of beer in your nuka mash? Sandor Katz mentions the use of sake in nuka in the “Art of Fermentation,” but I have not been able to find any recommendations on water to sake proportions. I would assume you need less than beer since the alcohol percentage is so much higher. I’m curious if you have any experience with this, or even just a gut instinct.

    As long as I am posting on your blog, I want to say thank you for “Joy of Pickling” – it is an outstanding book, and one I come back to again and again!

    -Dan in Madison, WI

    1. You’re welcome, Dan, and thank you for your kind words.

      I haven’t tried using sake in a nuka mash, though I have successfully added wine when starting sauerkraut. I agree with your assumption that you’d want to use less sake than beer, because of sake’s higher alcohol content. I think I’d try just 1/4 cup sake for two pounds of rice bran.

  2. I’ve used my “junk” vegies like capers or calamata olives. I chop them small and mix them in with my salads. It adds lots of crunchy vegies to your salad. Adjust the amount of salad dressing to take into account the saltiness of the nukazuke and you have a super salad.

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