Originally from the rice country of the Seihoku area in the Tsugaru region, sushiko is a unique Japanese pickle made with rice. Sushiko uses lactic fermentation and is made with steamed mochi rice, pickled red shiso leaves, and fresh vegetables such as cucumber or cabbage. The sweet flavor produced by the mochi rice pairs with the sweet-sour pickled vegetables. It has a refreshing taste and bright colors.
If red shiso is used with salt and vinegar, it produces a beautiful pink color. If purple cabbage or beets are used, they produce a dark pink color. Flavor and color vary from one home to another depending what fermentation methods and seasonings are used.
The Seihoku area of the Tsugaru region has long been a grain-growing area which was developed during the Edo period to utilize the vast wetlands.
Mochi-rice is believed to be filling and energizing, thusly, sushiko has been an important source of nutrition in farmers’ diet during the harvest and farming seasons.
In the past, sushiko was fermented in small barrels (approx. 18 litres/5 gallons). It was cherished as a preserved food through seasons when vegetables were scarce. The longer it is preserved, the more acidic it becomes, and the nutritional value increases thanks to the effects of the lactic acid bacteria.
Sushiko is one of the many ingenious ways for Aomori residents to endure the snowy food-scarce winter.