Tsukemono – Shiozuke (Salt Pickling) 塩漬け | Family Cuisine

Shiozuke pickles are a traditional Japanese pickle made by fermenting cucumbers in salt and rice vinegar. They can be eaten as a snack or with rice, and they're often found at Japanese restaurants.

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How to make shiozuke pickles

Shiozuke is the simplest Japanese pickle – Tsukemono. All you need is salt, water, and fresh seasonal vegetables. Try this pickle today to serve with your Japanese steamed rice and miso soup!

Tsukemono easy Japanese pickled vegetables featuring carrots, cucumbers, eggplants and daikon

Reading: how to make shiozuke pickles

Shiozuke (塩漬け), literally salt (shio) pickling (zuke), is the most basic type of Japanese pickles known collectively as tsukemono (漬物). Salt pickles were first produced in ancient times as a means of preserving food, and over the years became an important part of the basic Japanese meal. If you’re interested in learning more about different types of tsukemono, read Tsukemono: A Guide to Japanese Pickles on my blog.

Tsukemono has several types based on the pickling agent:

  • Shiozuke (塩漬け) – salt
  • Suzuke (酢漬け) – vinegar
  • Amazuzuke (甘酢漬け) – sugar and vinegar
  • Misozuke (味噌漬け) – miso
  • Shoyuzuke (醤油漬け) – soy sauce
  • Kasuzuke (粕漬け) – sake kasu (lees)
  • Shiokojizuke (塩麹) – rice koji/mold-cultured rice
  • Nukazuke (糠漬け) – nuka (rice bran)
  • Karashizuke (からし漬け) – Japanese hot mustard karashi
  • Satozuke (砂糖漬け) – sugar

I will try to go over one by one at a different time, but today let’s talk about Shiozuke.

What is Shiozuke?

Shiozuke (塩漬け) is tsukemono made with just salt and vegetables. Therefore, the amount of salt used for the brine and the pickling time make the difference in the final dish. When it’s done right, tsukemono is simply delicious.

Shiozuke not only prevents the food from going bad, but also helps break down the fibers, keeps the vibrant color, and tenderizes any tough vegetables that could be hard to eat raw. It also adds umami to the vegetables.

Tsukemono in mason jars.

Shiozuke Basic Brine

The basic brine that I learned from a Tsukemono book, Honkaku Tsukemono written by a culinary & tsukemono expert Takako Yokoyama, is 10%. That means 100 grams of sea salt in 1000 ml (gram) of water.

For those of you who don’t use metric, it means 6 tablespoons of sea salt (16 g per tbsp) for every 4 cups water.

In general, the ratio of salt to water for Shiozuke is 2 to 10%. It’s quite a large range, but as I mentioned earlier, the amount of salt and pickle time is up to one’s preference.

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When you pickle vegetables in the light brine for a short period of time, this method is called Asazuke (浅漬け), literally “shallow pickling.” Asazuke doesn’t develop deep flavors that fermented pickles do, yet the result tastes wonderfully refreshing. Since it is easy to make, Asazuke frequently appears in our daily dinner table.

  • Shiozuke: 5 to 10% brine, pickle for 6 to 12 hours, enjoy in 3 to 4 days.
  • Asazuke (quick pickling): 2 to 5% brine, pickle for 2 to 3 hours, enjoy in 1 to 2 days.

Today I make my Shiozuke with 5% brine and pickle for 8 hours.

Vegetables in a bamboo basket.

2 Simple Ingredients You Need to Make Shiozuke

1. Vegetables to pickle

The best choice is seasonal vegetables because they are fresh, easy to get, and at an affordable price. You can taste the freshness through the pickling process when you use fresh vegetables. The common vegetables include:

  • Eggplant – longer, thinner, and smaller Japanese/Chinese/Italian kind
  • Cucumber – short, skinny, and smaller Japanese/Persian kind
  • Daikon radish – green-top, long, thick Japanese/Korean kind
  • Carrot
  • Celery

You can make Shiozuke with a wide variety of vegetables. In this recipe, I made a colorful batch of Shiozuke with above 5 different vegetables. You can, of course, choose to make with less or more vegetables. For first-timers, I’d recommend following my pickling time indicated in the recipe, which is 8 hours, then you could adjust the brine and timing in your next batch.

If you want to pickle leafy vegetables (napa cabbage, cabbage, greens, etc), I recommend Asazuke (quick pickling) with 2-5% brine.

2. Salt

I like to go with the traditional method; use natural sea salt when you make tsukemono, and not table salt.

Sea salt is produced through evaporation of ocean water or water from saltwater lakes, usually with little processing. This leaves behind certain trace minerals and elements, which add flavor and color to sea salt.

On the other hand, table salt is typically mined from underground salt deposits, is more heavily processed to eliminate minerals, and usually contains an additive to prevent clumping. If you’re interested in the different types of salt, read this article.

Additional mix-ins (optional)

In this recipe, I decided to keep it basic; however, we can make different variations of Shiozuke with the additional ingredients. You can include:

  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Kombu
  • Red chili pepper
  • Yuzu zest (you can use other types of citrus)

Tsukemono served in Japanese ceramic.

3 Tools You Need to Make Shiozuke

1. Kitchen Scale

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I understand that it’s not common to have a kitchen scale in the American household, but now that you want to make tsukemono, it’s very important to measure 1) the total weight of the vegetables you’re going to pickle, 2) the weight of sea salt, and 3) the heavy object you put on top of the vegetables.

This kitchen scale that I use in my recipes is from Amazon and I have it for a long time. I usually use the gram measurement for my baking and other traditional Japanese recipes; therefore, I highly recommend getting one now if you like to follow recipes precisely.

2. Containers

You will need slightly deeper containers with lids so you can put the vegetables, brine, plates, and weights. I like to use glass containers than plastic ones so the smell doesn’t retain. I do not have a special pickle press for tsukemono (tsukemono-ki 漬物器), but you can use it if you have one.

3. Weights (Stone Weights)

You will need something heavy to apply downward pressure on top of the pickles. You can use several plates, pie weights in a plastic bag, clean rock, etc. Traditionally, the pressure is generated by heavy stones called tsukemono-ishi (stone) (漬物石) with a weight of 1-2 kg.

The ideal weight to put on the vegetable is between 1.5 and 2 times of the weight of pre-pickled vegetable. So make sure to weigh the vegetables before you soak in the brine.

Lastly, don’t forget to prepare a plate that you would place under the heavy object inside the container in order to distribute the weight equally on the vegetables.

Tsukemono in mason jars.

My Recommendations and Some Tips

  • My favorite Shiozuke: 5% brine, pickle for 8 hours, enjoy in 3-4 days; and 10% brine, pickle for 5 hours, enjoy for 5 days.
  • If you are going to serve tsukemono for tonight’s dinner, consider making Asazuke (quick pickling).
  • Again, get a kitchen scale.
  • Decide to pickle whole or cut pieces. The way you cut vegetables affects the finishing time and texture of tsukemono. If you cut the vegetables to create more surface, pickling is done faster than pickled as a whole or cut in half or quarters.
  • Re-use the leftover brine for your next pickling. Once in a while, it’s good to let the brine boil again and add more salt as needed.
  • Make the brine previous day. The brine has to be at room temperature. When I first made shiozuke, I was impatient as my brine didn’t cool fast enough. In winter (like now), you can keep the pot of your brine outside to cool faster. In summer, make the brine ahead of time, so you don’t have to sit around and wait for it to cool.
  • Set a timer for removing vegetables from brine. I sometimes forget and end up with salty vegetables!

What to Serve with Shiozuke

With a crunchy texture and refreshing flavor, Shiozuke is definitely one of the easiest ways to enjoy vegetables. For a quick dinner, I often serve these pickled vegetables as a side with steamed rice and miso soup and I’d add along with a protein dish like Miso Butter Salmon or Ginger Pork. On a cold day, you can serve the pickled vegetables with okayu (rice porridge). It could not be any simpler, healthy and full of flavor.

Tsukemono in a Japanese ceramic.

Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.

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