daikon

Dehydrating daikon

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This isn't as large as they can grow, making it hard to fit them in the fridge
This isn’t as large as they can grow, making it hard to fit them in the fridge

I’m very partial to daikon, the enormous white radish that’s much loved in Japan. It grows very fast, up to the size of my forearm, and it’s pretty pest resistant.

That success is also the challenge: how to get through an arm-sized daikon with the two of us?

My recent purchase of Preserving the Japanese Way provided a timely solution: dehydration.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds! Plenty of other things are dehydrated (think apple, banana, etc), including Japanese ingredients like seaweed.

A mandolin makes quick work of creating strips.
A mandolin makes quick work of creating strips.

The process is a simple one: use a mandolin to cut the daikon into thin strips. I tried two different sizes of strips, and the daikon was processed in under five minutes.

After a day in the dehydrator, this is the result.
After a day in the dehydrator, this is the result.

Then into the dehydrator it goes! Run it for a day at the medium setting, and the result is a tangle of dry strips. These can then be stored for many months. According to the cookbook, they need to be soaked for an hour or two before use.

Stored in a jar in the pantry, this will last for many months.
Stored in a jar in the pantry, this will last for many months.

 

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My first fermented pickle

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Two jars of pickles - ready to eat!
Two jars of pickles – ready to eat!

A few weeks ago I attended a workshop on fermenting vegetables, presented by Sandor Katz (organised by the always-wonderful Milkwood Permaculture).

This covered a range of different approaches to using lactic acid fermentation to preserve vegetables.

The first and simplest technique is the one that most took my fancy (it was also the one Sandor recommended the most).

It goes like this:

The food processor made light work of even hard vegetables.
The food processor made light work of even hard vegetables.

Start with a mix of hard vegetables, in our case:

  • beetroots (red and yellow)
  • daikon (white radish)

Slice them into small pieces, by hand or by food processor. With the slicer attachment of our food processor, this took mere minutes.

The vegetables, crushed by hand with salt.
The vegetables, crushed by hand with salt.

Put everything in a large bowl, and add salt to taste. (I tried 3% salt as a first test, but next time I’ll use a little less.)

Crush and squeeze it by hand, until as Sandor put it, “you can wring water out of a handful like you would out of a sponge”. This only took about 5mins of easy work.

Ready to ferment!
Ready to ferment!

Squeeze the vegetables into jars, and pack down until the water level rises above the vegetables.

Put the lids on, and then watch and wait! Because I was doing a very quick pickle, I didn’t worry too much about keeping air out (there are a heap of techniques for doing this).

Each day I checked the pickles, as well as getting Priscilla to taste test. After just 3 days, the vegetables were soft enough (and not too sour) for Priscilla’s taste. Into the fridge they go!

This is a super-simple preserving technique, and I’ll definitely be doing more of this.

Some footnotes for future reference:

  • 1kg of vegetables, which made approx 1L of pickles (as Sandor had predicted)
  • 3% of salt (use less next time, a bit too salty for our salt-reduced diet)
  • 3 days pickling

Bright red radishes

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Bright red French breakfast radishes

These French breakfast radishes are super cute! Baby-sized and bright red, these are ready for the picking. They are also one of Miss P’s favourites.

We’ve got plenty of other root crops in the ground at the moment, some fast-growing but most taking their time:

  • beetroots
  • heirloom radishes (various colours)
  • heirloom carrots (various colours)
  • daikon
  • onions (various)
  • turnips
  • spring onions
  • leeks
  • shallots
  • potatoes (going in soon)

Attack of the killer daikon!

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Just one of the many daikon we've pulled out of the garden; normal-sized carrot for comparison

There’s something supernatural about daikon (Japanese white radish). They grow amazingly fast, and are immensely large when pulled out of the ground. They’re quick and easy to grow, and are hard to get in Australian supermarkets.

I’d have to say that the first ones we picked were an acquired taste. Miss P didn’t warm to the surprisingly bitter flavour, so I had to hide them in soups and the like. I had read that they become milder in taste during winter, and thankfully this turned out to be the case.

In a recently-acquired cookbook, I found a receipe for pickled daikon, so I gave that a go. It’s an absolute winner! Once pickled, the daikon takes on a very different flavour; sweet and fruity. Great as a side dish during a Japanese meal. We now have two jars of pickled daikon, with more plants still in the ground.