Takuan-zuke (also known as takuwan), is a traditional Japanese pickle made from daikon radishes. It has a pungent smell, a sour-sweet taste, and a BRIGHT yellow color, usually due to food coloring in commercial brands, or from dried persimmon peels in homemade/natural pickles.
I have several books on tsukemono, several of which lay out the traditional way to make takuan-zuke. This process is labor-intensive and time-consuming. First, the daikon must be hung in the sun to dry for several weeks to make it pliable. Then, it is layered in a crock or pickling press (tsukemonoki) with nuka (rice bran), salt, kombu, and the daikon greens. The fermentation occurs through lactic acid bacteria, and the nuka bed must be carefully maintained, lest it become smelly or moldy (GROCE). The takuan will take several months to fully pickle.
Growing up and even now when I visit my family, there is almost always a beautiful okazu (side dish) plate on the kitchen counter waiting for me from Mom. Always 2 or 3 onigiri, sometimes some pickled mustard greens, and ALWAYS a few half-rounds or quarter-rounds of takuan. No matter whether I've just eaten breakfast, or if we have one foot out the door to head out to lunch, I always leave the okazu plate clean within minutes of stepping into the kitchen.
I've always batted around the idea of making my own traditional takuan until I stumbled across a recipe for "quick" takuan from Foodjimoto. A quick inventory of the pantry yielded everything I needed for the pickling, and a lunchtime jaunt to the local Japanese market netted me some beautiful and ENORMOUS Japanese daikon. Within half an hour, the pickling process was well under way!
WARNING: Like making kimchi or sauerkraut, this WILL fill your entire house with a pretty unpleasant stank.
adapted from Foodjimoto
5 Japanese daikon
3 Tbsp salt
3 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup distilled white vinegar
Yellow food coloring (optional)
Wash the daikon and peel with a potato peeler. Cut off the ends and slice into rounds. Cut into half-rounds (hangetsu-giri) or quarter-rounds (icho-giri) if desired. Place in a LARGE container - I used my giant plastic tub that I use for making kraut.
Combine the salt, sugar and vinegar; stir well. The mixture will be thick and almost paste-like. Add to the daikon and toss to coat thoroughly.
Squeeze excess liquid from the daikon slices and pack into wide-mouth canning jars. Reserve the pickling 'brine'.
Bring the brine to a boil in a large stockpot and add a few drops of food coloring if desired. Skim any scum that accumulates and boil until the brine has cleared and is no longer cloudy.
Let brine cool, then pour over daikon slices. Keep refrigerated and allow the pickles to mature for 2 weeks before eating.