I grew up accustomed to long-term storage pickles, i.e. lasting at least a year, so my biggest regret while discovering Japanese sunomono (vinegared dishes) was their short life. Among these I particularly appreciate Kyuuri no kyuuchan きゅうりのキューちゃん (sometimes written “Kyuri no kyuchan”) for the way the cucumber becomes infused with a mixture of soy sauce and ginger flavours. (Actually, pickled myoga is my number one but it is practically impossible to get here in any form, so I try to forget about it). Due to its brine, the original product is impossible to be processed and preserved the Western way. I have decided to experiment in order to obtain similarly flavoured pickles, but with a considerably extended storage time, concentrating on ginger and soy sauce.
I will not bore you with details, but after several heavy defeats, I have finally come up with the biggest compromise I can accept between long-term storage and taste modifications. There is less soy sauce, less ginger and more vinegar, but the taste is definitely reminiscent of Kyuuri no kyuuchan. This first successful batch was made a month ago and it has kept perfectly of course out of the fridge (tasted today for lunch), so I predict a long pantry life for this one. Needless to say, I have already planned a new pickling session!
You might also like my other long- and short-term cucumber pickling recipes:
Preparation: 1 hour + processing
Ingredients (the number of jars depends on their size and the size of cucumber slices/pieces):
1 kg/about 2 lbs long cucumbers or short pickling cucumbers
1 liter/about 4 cups white wine (or cider) vinegar (4,5%; if your vinegar is stronger, use proportionally more water)
1.1 litre (about 4 cups and 3 oz) water
400 g (1 3/4 cups) caster sugar
3 tablespoons salt
soy sauce (1 tablespoon per 300 ml/about 10 fl oz jar)
fresh ginger (2 slices per 300 ml/about 10 fl oz jar)
Cut up the cucumber into slices or half-slices, if the diameter seems too big for your jars (or for your preferences).
Cut the ginger into thick slices.
Fill empty, clean jars with cucumbers and fresh ginger (maximum two slices per 300 ml/about 10 fl oz jar) to maximum 2/3 jars’ height. Pour one tablespoon soy sauce per 300 ml/about 10 fl oz jar.
Put the vinegar, the water, the sugar and the salt in a pan and let it boil a couple of minutes, stirring well until all the sugar is dissolved. Put aside.
Fill the jars with hot (no longer boiling!) vinegar mixture, leaving 1,5 cm from the rim.
Close the jars and let them cool down.
Place the cool jars into a big pan, bottom lined with an old kitchen towel folded in two (this will prevent the jars from breaking), cover up with hot – but not boiling- water to the level just below the lid. Bring to the boil and keep on a very low heat, in simmering water, for around 20 minutes.
Stick on self-adhesive labels, write the name of the pickle and don’t forget to mark the date.
Wait at least a couple of weeks before opening the jars.