Most of the recipes in Mary Karlin's new cookbook, Mastering Fermentation, at least sound familiar. Even if I'd never tried making salami or kombucha before doesn't mean I haven't put it into my body at some point.
But these bran-fermented vegetables are a different story. Called nuka in Japan, they are traditionally made by burying relatively dense vegetables, like daikon or carrot, in a salty fermented rice bran mixture fortified with kelp, miso, and/or beer. The vegetables take only a day or so to ferment, and emerge from the bran relatively crisp, tasting lightly of salted sourdough.
Why I picked this recipe: There's a first time for everything, and this week it was nuka pickles.
What worked: Despite the foreignness of the recipe, the process was super simple, and the fermenting bran mixture infused my kitchen with a lovely smell akin to baking bread. My final pickles were snappy, a bit yeasty, and totally unique.
What didn't: I let one batch (I split my batch in half because I don't have one gallon crocks on hand, see below) ferment a bit too long and it became way too salty. Make sure to taste the vegetables every 12 hours to make sure this doesn't happen to you!
Suggested tweaks: I used green beans here because I figured they'd ferment pretty quickly (I was right), but you could use just about anything you'd enjoy eating pickled. Just be sure that all of the vegetables are the same size, so they'll ferment at the same rate. If you don't want to go out and buy a crock just for this project, you can use ceramic mixing bowls or probably even Pyrex baking dishes. You just want to use a non-reactive vessel that is deep enough to bury your vegetable(s) of choice.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area BitesBerkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.