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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Making Pickled Chinese Cabbage, Japanese Style

Greetings from the mountains of Japan! In October/November of 2008, Mother Earth News published my story on Finding the Good Life in Japan. I wrote about heater tables, tiny ovens, pickled plums, and getting used to country life in a (very) foreign country. Two years later, my husband Keita and I have moved from an orange-growing village by the sea to an apple-growing town in the mountains. We’re starting a new adventure in modern homesteading, and at the same time I’m starting this blog where I hope to share more tips and stories about Japanese country life with Mother Earth readers. I hope you’ll use the Comments section to ask me questions about Japanese cooking and farming techniques, or anything else you’d like to know about how people here approach sustainable living.

Peeling persimmons to dry and listening to public radio onlineOnce again it’s November, which just might be my favorite month in Japan. It’s definitely a delicious one! Our storeroom is full of persimmons, apples, kiwis, sweet potatoes, ginger, and winter squash, and the loveliest sweet smell wafts out each time I open the door. On Sunday Keita and I walked down to an abandoned farm that we’ll be helping to look after and picked a couple of crates of persimmons from an enormous old tree outside the barn. I spent yesterday morning peeling them and hanging them from the eaves to dry (see my instructions for How to Dry Persimmons

if you’d like to try – they’re easy to make and are a yummy, healthy snack).

Since we just moved here we haven’t got our garden going yet, but luckily the neighbors have been sharing their veggies and fruit with us. They cruise by our house in the tiny white trucks that seem to be required equipment for Japanese farmers, and call out: “Hey, do you want some apples? How about some persimmons?” (Makes me feel a bit like Snow White, but I’m pretty sure these apples are safe).  A couple of days ago we received two enormous heads of Chinese cabbage. I’ve got them salted down in an enamel pot in the kitchen, and I thought I’d share the pickle recipe I used. The Japanese aren’t so big on canning, but they are huge fans of fermentation (miso, soy sauce, pickles, sake ...).  This is an easy traditional recipe to start with. It’s a bit of an acquired taste, though! If the pickles are too salty, soak them in water before serving.

Japanese-style Pickled Chinese Cabbage

(Adapted from Pickled Plums, Pickles, and Preserves: Tasty homemade recipes I’d like to share with my daughter, in Japanese, by Masayo Waki)

Ingredients and equipment:


My pickling set-up.