Apparently, daikon is not a widely recognised vegetable so first things first: daikon is a Japanese radish that looks a lot like a large, white carrot. It is familiar to many as that noodle-like garnish on sashimi plates in second-string sushi joints (the best, I find, don’t bother with garnish and the third-string seem to prefer carrot).
This is the first year that we have grown daikon in the garden at the cottage. The unusual, but prolific leaves that these white radishes put out did an excellent job of controlling neighbouring weeds. We are challenged because the backyard at the cottage only has a couple inches of soil above the bedrock. Many hours of digging and dozens of bags of garden soil have bettered this situation but soil depth is still a concern. Luckily, unlike carrots, daikon seems to be alright with putting on growth above ground once they run out of room.
July is a season of bounty and we face an uphill battle to consume certain crops before they go bad. That’s part of the reason that we pickle vegetables but another big part of the motivation is taste and texture. Straight out of the garden the daikon had a slightly tough skin and a very strong, pungent radish flavour. Both of these characteristics have improved dramatically after only a few days in the jar. I’ve tried out the pickled daikon and these are really delicious. The dill adds savour and the vinegar and sugar balance and complement the daikon’s radish flavour.
I am developing a standard (and by no means original) pickle brine of 8 parts water, 8 parts vinegar, 1 part sugar, and 1 part kosher salt. To set off the daikon’s white colour I threw in some carrots. My feelings are a bit mixed about this addition because the carrots in the garden aren’t ready so using store-bought throws off the all home-grown nature of this pickle. Next year I’ll plant more carrots and hopefully the time for thinning them will coordinate with the daikon maturing. The orange carrots and white daikon really do look good together and the sweetness of the carrots sets off the sharpness of the daikon.
This round of pickling didn’t get the full treatment that would make the jars shelf stable because I only had litre Mason jars on hand–the bigger the jar the more difficult and dicey the process gets–and because this is a relatively small batch.
Pickled Daikon and Carrots
- 2 C (500 ml) water
- 1 C (250 ml) rice wine vinegar
- 1 C (250 ml) white vinegar (Because I felt that all rice wine vinegar would have been too sweet and over-the-top.)
- 1/4 C kosher salt
- 1/4 C granulated sugar
- 2 heads of dill (A bit of explanation is required here. There is a difference between the thread-like leaves that most people, I think, associate with smoked salmon and the heads of seeds. This wikipedia article goes part way to explaining the difference but more to the point here is that I find that the leaves have a finer, softer flaovur and rely more on their aroma to get them a place on a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon whereas the seeds bring much more of that familiar dill pickle flavour. I have never come across the fresh seeds in store so unless you have some in your garden go with the fresh leaves before you use dried dill seed.)
- a small handful of cilantro leaves
- a few (maybe four or five) cloves
- an equal number of black peppercorns
- 6 or 7 medium-sized daikon (maybe 2 lbs. worth), sliced in chips
- half as many carrots (maybe three medium or about 1 lb)
Divide the dill, cilantro, cloves, and peppercorns between two 1 L Mason jars.
Bring the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a gentle boil and stir occassionally until the sugar and salt has dissolved. Boil for another three minutes and remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Slice the daikon and carrots. To add a bit of variation I used a food processor for the daikon (to make chips) and a knife for the carrots (to make larger slices). What method you use is, obviously, optional but three daikon fit perfectly in the feed tube of a food processor. Pack the vegetables reasonably tightly into the jars to within about a quarter inch of the jar’s lip. You want to get as much daikon and carrot into the jars without packing it so tightly that the brine can’t reach the bottom.
Pour enough brine into each jar so that it comes almost right to the lip. Over the next few hours the vegetables will soak up some brine and thereby reduce its lever. Screw lids onto the jars and refrigerate.