How to Make Nukazuke: Nukadoko Pickling Bed

How to Make Nukazuke: Nukadoko (Nuka Bed) ぬか床の作り方

How to Make Nukazuke: Nukadoko (Nuka Bed) ぬか床の作り方
We have some favorite shops in Kyoto for nukazuke tsukemono pickles but really wanted to be able to make our own at home. Traditionally every household in Japan made their own pickles, still many do. Nukazuke is quick and easy to make once you have a pickling pot full of fermenting ‘nukadoko‘ pickling bed. Just add some seasonal vegetables to the wet, salted rice bran powder and in a few days you will have some tasty, healthy pickles. Of course, it is fun too. With the passing of months and years your nukadoko will develop its own unique character and taste.

Nuzazuke is one of the Japanese culinary traditions that I would especially like to see adopted and spread abroad. It doesn’t taste particularly ‘Japanese’ or exotic, its just fresh, pungent veggies.

How to Make Nukadoko (Pickling Bed)

Nukazuke is quite simple to make provided that you can obtain the nuka (rice bran powder), which is a byproduct of milling brown rice into white rice. Other grain bran has been found to work abroad but we haven’t tried it. As Japanese style short grain white rice and brown rice is widely available, even cultivated abroad, you ought to be able to get a hold of nuka. In Japan you can get it free from rice shops.

Nuka Rice Bran Powder
How to Make Nukazuke: Nukadoko (Nuka Bed) ぬか床の作り方
We just got ours for free from our favorite liquor and rice shop, Kunitaya.

Nuka is mixed with salt and water and allowed to ferment. Bread and/or beer can be added to help the ferment. In Japan you can buy packaged pre-fermented nukadoko, but of course foodies make their own from scratch! You can also obtain a bit of ‘starter’ from a friend or tsukemono shop.

Flavoring agents such as whole chili peppers, ginger, dried shiitake mushrooms, kombu, egg shells, shaved fish and so on can be added to the mix.

The nukadoko must be mixed and turned by hand once or twice a day to prevent spoiling. Once in the winter, twice in the summer is the usual rule. The more mixing the better.

Vegetables are buried in the nukadoko for several days to a week, depending on the vegetable and the temperature.

The salt and ferment of the nukadoko transforms the vegetables into a healthy, pungent pickle.

Ingredients

  • 2 kg of lightly roasted nuka
  • 400g of salt
  • 2L of water
  • 1 slice of bread
  • dried kelp (kombu)

Preparation of Nukadoko (Pickling Bed)

Nuka: Roast the nuka in a large clean pan over moderate heat and mix well as it roasts to avoid burning. Of course, DO NOT use cooking oil. Allow to cool to room temperature.

In Japan they say that you are trying to get it hot enough to kill the ‘bad’ bacteria that will cause spoilage but not hot enough to kill the ‘good’ bacteria that will produce tasty pickles. Some report the proper temperature is 70 C, this is the temperature that nuka will start to change color ‘a bit’. Getting a fry pan or wok full of powder to a uniform and exact temperature seems quite impossible to me. I roasted ours in two batches until I could smell the nuka and the color darkened. See photo. Miwa was sure that I roasted it too much (and ruined it), but it seems to be fermenting well.

Keep in mind that you will need to add nuka powder from time to time to your nukadoko to replenish it, as a small portion is lost to mixing and removing vegetables. So, keep some on hand.

Roasting Nuka Rice Bran: Before
How to Make Nukazuke: Nukadoko (Nuka Bed) ぬか床の作り方

Roasting Nuka Rice Bran: After
How to Make Nukazuke: Nukadoko (Nuka Bed) ぬか床の作り方
The darker brown nuka is from the bottom of the pan.

Nuka Rice Bran
How to Make Nukazuke: Nukadoko (Nuka Bed) ぬか床の作り方

Water: Boil clean, fresh water and add salt. Once dissolved, remove from heat and add chopped bread. Allow the bread to soften and mash by hand when sufficiently cool. Allow to return to room temperature.

Mix: Add the roasted nuka to your pickle pot. Gently pour or ladle in water mixture while mixing and squeezing with your free hand. Mix and stir by hand for several minutes. The nukadoko should feel like wet sand when done.

Bread for Nukadoko
How to Make Nukazuke: Nukadoko (Nuka Bed) ぬか床の作り方

Soaking Bread for Nukadoko (Boiled Salt Water)
How to Make Nukazuke: Nukadoko (Nuka Bed) ぬか床の作り方

Mashing the Bread for Nukadoko
How to Make Nukazuke: Nukadoko (Nuka Bed) ぬか床の作り方

Adding Bread Mush and Salt Water to Roasted Nuka
How to Make Nukazuke: Nukadoko (Nuka Bed) ぬか床の作り方

Mixing in Bread Mush and Salt Water in Roasted Nuka
How to Make Nukazuke: Nukadoko (Nuka Bed) ぬか床の作り方

Mixing in Bread Mush and Salt Water in Roasted Nuka
How to Make Nukazuke: Nukadoko (Nuka Bed) ぬか床の作り方

Mixing Nuka, Adding Kombu
How to Make Nukazuke: Nukadoko (Nuka Bed) ぬか床の作り方

Pressing Down the Nuka
How to Make Nukazuke: Nukadoko (Nuka Bed) ぬか床の作り方

Pickle Pot: The pickle pot can be wood, ceramic, metal, glass, plastic, etc. Traditionally pots were wood or ceramic. We are using an enameled metal pot. You just want something that isn’t going to rust. Plastic is very commonly used in Japan now.

Fermentation: Depending on the season and temperature fermentation will take 1 to 3 weeks. Using a seed starter will of course take less time. Adding beer will help speed fermenting.

The nukadoko needs to be mixed by hand once or twice a day, be sure that your hands are clean and free of lotions, creams and so on. If nukadoko is not mixed sufficiently, it will spoil.

We started our nukadoko without seed starter in February in our cold Kyoto machiya townhouse and ours wouldn’t ferment well, so I rigged-up a hot water bottle and old blankets to keep ours warm for several days, then it started to ferment nicely. I would imagine that in most houses in Western countries, even in the winter, this would not be an issue.

We will keep you posted on our progress. Making nukazuke seems like great fun and I think that this is another Japanese cuisine that could be widely adopted abroad.

5 Responses to “How to Make Nukazuke: Nukadoko Pickling Bed”

  1. Lina says:

    i love nukazuke. i’ve only found the quick nuka mix at stores (i’m pretty sure it’s the instant kind, ‘moto’). any advice on using that?

  2. Funazushi says:

    I have just gathered the ingredients to make our nukadoko. We are growing some Kyo yasai this year so I hope to pickle some when the harvest comes in.

  3. [...] title – a nukadoko is a pickling bed. Refer here for detailed explanation. *Aki forgot to upload a photo…I’ll update this post again [...]

  4. Ricardo A. says:

    Hello! I have started my nukazuke bed 2x weeks ago. With the same recipe that you described here, i just didn’t added beer, and since its hard to find rice bran, i made it with wheat bran.
    I mixed it everyday, some days 2x somedays just once, since we’re in winter here.

    3 or 4 days after starting i added some small radishes to analyse how they turn out, and to add some basteria and juices to the nukazuke. After 24h they turned out just salty, not fermented.
    After, I also added leaves from cabbage, turnips, etc. Some of them even tasted good. 2 or 3 days ago it started to smell really intense. Honestly it smells like cheese, but not regular cheese. It smells like that cheese that smells bad, i dare to say that it’s very close to a “spoiled” smell. I added carrot and it smelled the same, it even tasted like that smell. The next day i added some turnip leaves, they smelled bad, but after washing they tasted good.

    I’m not sure if it’s spolied or not. The nukazuke is salty, is moist, and i never failed to mix it even one day. How can i see if it’s spolied or not?
    I’m used to piclkes and fermented foods. I make salt pickles at home, i use miso everyday, i also eat bought takuan pickles, so it’s not from my nose…I just don’t know if this is a normal smell.

    Thank you!!

  5. [...] a nukadoko pickling crock to make nukazuke pickled [...]

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