Pickles made from rice bran... nuka-zuke, are delicious and easy to make. They have a pungent aroma, a tangy flavor, and are very nutritious since they harbor vitamins and minerals from the rice bran. Unlike salt pickles, nuka-zuke last for only a few days once removed from the pickling medium. It is best to pluck them fresh from the pickling medium, wash them, pat them dry and then immediately eat them. Like all Japanese pickles, these are particularly tasty with sake or beer!

In order to make nuka-zuke you will need a large wide mouthed glass jar or ceramic pot with a tight fitting lid, I use a large glass jar with a lid that clamps shut (plastic, wood, or metal containers won't work for this pickling method). A jar with at least a quart capacity is required. Begin by purchasing 6 cups raw  (rice bran) from a health food store.

Place 6 cups of rice bran and 1 tablespoon of salt in a bowl and add 1 3/4 to 2 cups of water. Mix together with your hands until the bran has the consistency of slightly moist sand. Place some of the moist bran in your jar and then add a small 2 inch strip of konbu seaweed (this helps maintain the moisture balance in your pickling medium), add more bran to cover and then add 2 cloves of peeled but uncut garlic (this adds much flavor to the final pickles, you can also use a small knob of fresh ginger). Continue to fill the jar with bran and then add 2 dried red peppers (this adds flavor to the pickles but also discourages bugs from entering the rice bran mix.

Finish filling the jar with bran, making sure that the kombu, peppers, and garlic are completely buried. It will take at least a week for the rice bran medium to ripen and be ready for use. You can speed up this process by adding vegetable scraps (peels from cucumbers, wilted cabbage leaves), to the bran but remove the scraps after a day or two. After a week or so the pickling medium should have a heady aroma and look like damp sand. It will then be ready to use.

A nice batch of rice bran medium can last for years, if it becomes too wet after much use just add a little bit of dry rice bran. A good trick to prevent your rice bran bed from getting too soggy is to ad a handful of dried soybeans to the mix! The beans absorb excess moisture and also impart a mild flavor. It's also a good idea to "air out" the mix on occasion, stirring it up with your hands or a spoon. Vegetables to be pickled should be completely embedded in the rice bran and left in the pickling medium for no more than two days. The finished pickles should be bright in color, limp but crunchy, and possess a subtle aroma and earthy aftertaste. Good pickles are only slightly salty and have a delightful tangy flavor to them. It takes some effort to keep the pickling bed in good shape, for instance, in summer your bed can sprout white mold... if that happens just pluck out the mold, air out the bed, and add a bit of fresh rice bran. Tending your pickling bed takes work...