Carrot Shochu Pickles
By Steven Sharafian
I spend a fair amount of time making tsukemono (pickles). I focus mostly on quick-pickles that only take a couple of minutes to prep and have a short curing period. This seemed to flow into the idea of pairing carrots with carrot shochu.
It's a pretty simple quick-pickle: peel and section the carrots into batons; toss with sea salt and sweat the carrots for five minutes or so. Massage carrots with salt to make the carrots pliable; drain liquid; quickly rinse and pat dry the carrots; make brine with carrot shochu and rice wine vinegar. The ratio is a matter of taste -- for a boozy carrot I use a 2:1 ratio, but you can play around with the measurements. For this batch, I added a pinch of hot pepper and julienned orange peel to the brine. Submerge the carrots in the brine for an hour and then refrigerate for a couple of hours.
For the last batch I used a medium Nantes carrot and 1 teaspoon of Maldon sea salt (I think a course sea salt works best). I let the submerged carrot pieces sit at room temperature for an hour, then I refrigerated the jar, using a smaller jar to keep the carrots submerged in their brine. I let them sit overnight in the refrigerator. I tried them the next day and they were ready -- but better after two days as the heat of the pepper kicked in and the orange became more pronounced.
The shochu I used was Akanone carrot shochu from Fukuoka prefecture in Japan. It is distilled from 65% carrot and 35% rice. Unfortunately, the carrot shochu is pricey (and hard to find as I bought mine online from New York) so I don't make a large amount of the pickle -- I'd rather drink the shochu than spend too much of it in a vinegar mix. But the idea of fermenting the carrots with a distilled carrot alcohol appealed to me.
*Steve aspires to become to become a pastaio. In his free time he writes a blog about noodles and cookbooks at A Serious Bunburyist.