Make Ahead

Quick Cucumber and Shiso Pickles

June  7, 2010
4 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Serves summer a little cooler.
Author Notes

I keep a version of this in the fridge all summer long -- carrots, radishes, cucumbers, onions, celery or any other vegetable available, marinated in vinegar, shiso, mirin, and sugar. But I always, always include cucumbers. They're crisp and cool and perfect as a garnish, summer chutney with fish or chicken, or topping for soba. They can be ready in four hours or four days. I slice the cucumbers on the blade side of a box grater. You can cut them to your liking, I like them thin, like little round silky ribbons. Somehow, there's more umami for me this way. - Teri —Teri

Test Kitchen Notes

Shiso and pickles should hang out more often. The aromatic green leaves give Teri's lightly sweet pickles a fresh, herbaceous lift, reminiscent of cinnamon, cloves and ginger all at once. Because the pickling liquid is left cold, the delicate coins of Japanese cucumber retain a satisfying bite, even after several hours in the refrigerator. The pickles would be great with a light, summery fish dish. - A&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 1 tablespoon salt, preferrably sea or kosher
  • 5 Japanese cucumbers, or 2 English cucumbers
  • 8 shiso leaves (or substitute basil)
  1. Put sugar, vinegar, mirin and salt into a non-reactive bowl. Whisk until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
  2. Slice cucumbers as thinly as possible. (To seed or not is up to you and what you found at the market. With the skinny Japanese cukes or the English version, you should be okay without removing the seeds.)
  3. Gather the shiso leaves like a deck of cards, roll into a tube and slice, chiffonade-style, like you would with basil.
  4. Add cucumbers and shiso to the marinade and stir. Try to cover the vegetables with the marinade. It's okay if the liquid doesn't submerge the cucumbers. They will break down and get smaller as they marinate.
  5. Put the mix in the fridge and let marinate for at least 4 hours. Mix a couple of times if you can, but it's okay if you don't. Once pointed in the right direction, cucumbers tend to take care of themselves.
  6. Serve, icy cold out of the fridge if you can.
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32 Reviews

maryvelasquez July 18, 2019
Thank you. These are tremendously good. I followed the recipe exactly and the cucumbers were ready to eat in a few hours. Both cucumbers and shiso leaves appeared in my farm share box this week so I am making more today.
Teri July 18, 2019
Thanks, Mary
Judith L. August 1, 2015
These are so delicious. I didn't have any basil or shiso so I put in some dill instead and it still had a nice fresh herb flavor to it that blended in with the sweetness. No simpler snack around.
I_Fortuna August 6, 2013
This is a great recipe for quick cucumbers. If anyone wants to take some time though, try using a Japanese pickle press. Cucumbers and other veggies made this way are more crispy and will last a little longer. The Japanese pickle press is available online through simply Googling it.
Here is how I make them: I choose about four or five cucumbers, peel them with a potato peeler, slice them the long way and remove the core pulp with the seeds. (seeded veggies last longer). I then slice the halves in thin moon shapes. Then they are layered in single layers in the Japanese Press container. I generously salt (sea salt) in between layers.
The top is seated is then on the container and then the screw is screwed down as far as possible. The assembled press with the cucumbers is then left on the counter for about an hour.
Once the water has been extracted from the cucumbers there will be a lot of brine (salty water) in the container. This brine is poured off and the cucumbers are rinsed in fresh water. I then put my pickles in a canning jar with a small amount of salt and vinegar mixed with water enough to cover the veggies. I put them in the fridge and serve them alongside meals, or in salads, and these are great for snacks in between meals. Pickles made this way are crispy crunchy and delicious. This is the kind of pickle that is often found in Japanese restaurants.
The pressure and salt is important in creating crispy veggies. Crocks with weights can be purchased, some expensively, to make these pickles as well as sauerkraut, and kimchi. Use only salt to make these and add the other ingredients after the pickles have been pressed. Adding vinegar to the pressing process, which is acidic, impedes the action of the salt which is alkaline and it keeps the pickles from being crispy.
Vicky K. June 26, 2013
How long do the fridge pickles last?
Teri June 26, 2013
I'd say five to seven days. The cukes themselves will last a while, but the shiso may begin to fade.
FeedingTheKids May 27, 2013
Literally, my 4 year old son ate half the batch an hour after I made these. Happy Mama
JadeTree April 14, 2013
My house has become a very popular place for dropping in thanks to this recipe - we love it and so do our friends!
mdm January 11, 2013
I made this all summer, with lots of different veggies, thank you!
bluet July 28, 2012
I was given some garden cukes of unknown vairety so I salted them first to let out some liquid. Didn't have shiso so used basil. Looks great and I'm sure they'll taste great, too.
Bluejade August 24, 2011
Very excited to try this as red shiso really is a weed in my garden. Thanks to SallyCan for posting its positive virtues. Several years ago an older woman who was a gardening friend thought several of us should plant this so we would have more red leaves in our gardens. So I did and it does look beautiful, much better than the more spindly purple basil plants. Maybe she also knew the plants would bring good things to the gardeners. I can never completely eradicate it from the garden because it's very prolific, pretty and reminds me of my gardening friends. I find the scent and taste rather intense, but glad to find a Food52 recipe for it.
Teri March 25, 2011
Healthier kitchen: where'd you get your shiso seeds? Is it hard to grow?
healthierkitchen August 17, 2011
Johnny's Selected Seeds. It's growing like mad! Glad I planted them in a pot!
Teri March 25, 2011
Thanks Pat. Glad you liked it!
Pat E. February 5, 2011
I will make this today as I have a little shiso left from my trip to "little Tokyo". BTW...purple shiso (called aka (red) shiso) is used to make those shriveled salty pickled plums you see in plastic containers (also eaten every morning for good health). Be careful using it as it imparts it's color and might not be too pretty in pickles. I have never seen it just eaten or used in other cooking. Green shiso (called ao (blue) shiso...I know it's not blue but that's what it's called) is used for the general cooking and often as a garnish, like parsley, in Japanese restaurants. I lived in Tokyo for 5 years and I miss it ...and the easy to get shiso...every day.
Pat E. March 24, 2011
OMG...this was so good. I wish I could get shiso wothout driving 50 miles.
healthierkitchen March 25, 2011
I bought some shiso seeds recently and am going to try to grow it as it's so hard to buy in stores!
windycityvegan August 17, 2010
Hurray for shiso! I have both green and purple varieties that are very invasive on our property, so I'm always looking for new ideas about how to incorporate them in different dishes. I like to add really young leaves to salads, and larger leaves are always a nice addition to pesto or used as mini-wraps for finger food.
Teri June 25, 2010
Shiso in your garden? Lucky you! I think you can use it any way you'd use fresh mint or basil. It's a little chewier, so I like to cut it in ribbons. I put it in fried rice -- leftover rice, sesame oil, a handful or so of the week's leftover vegetables, a fried egg. It's often my Sunday morning fare. (Especially if there was a little too much wine Saturday night!). I bet shiso would also be good muddled in a glass, then with plain ol' iced tea.
SallyCan June 25, 2010
Thanks, Teri, I've got the purple variety growing like a weed in my garden. My neighbor's mother gave it to me, saying in broken English, that it is a plant of good health and fortune, that wherever it is growing it means "that God is watching over you". She drinks it in a broth in the morning, "for health". I usually serve it in Vietnamese rice noodle dishes and salads, and have been wondering what else to do with it, so I'll be drying some for my rice, now!
Teri June 25, 2010
My friends tell me that purple is usually for pickles, so it sounds like it would work. Dried purple shiso I know is often sprinkled over rice; I've never put it in a recipe. Another friend told me people use green shiso more often because it's more common.
SallyCan June 24, 2010
I just asked Lei this same question~ what is the difference in purple and green shiso? Would purple work ok in your recipe?
Teri June 18, 2010
Try an Asian grocery store. Even if they don't specialize in Japanese food, they might have a small section or know who in town would. Stores focusing on Korean, Chinese food would be more likely to carry it, I'd think. If there's a Whole Foods in your town, try there. If they don't have it, maybe they'll order it. Or any other big, good chain. I'd think Wegmans might carry it these days. It should be in the produce section. A&M, any other suggestions?
gingerroot June 18, 2010
Congratulations! This looks great. I have an abundance of baby carrots, turnips and radishes screaming to be pickled!
Midge June 18, 2010
Sounds great! Fell in love with shiso in Japan and have been on the lookout for it ever since. Will step up my efforts to find it so I can make this.