How to Make (and eat) Salted Cherry Blossoms- Sakura no Hana no Shiozuke (桜の花の塩漬)
By Avi Landau
The cherry blossom season is one of the most festive times of year in Japan, one eagerly anticipated and then slowly savored. But alas, the delicate petals usually break away from their trees within a few days- filling many Japanese ( and lovers of Japanese culture) with a deep sense of regret for the passing of beauty, and for the fleeting nature of all things.
There is a way however, to enjoy SAKURA NO HANA (cherry blossoms) even after the last ones have fallen away- and in fact throughout the year!- with SAKURA NO HANA NO SHIOZUKE (桜の花の塩漬）, cherry blossoms preserved with salt and vinegar.
These can be used as a garnish ( especially in April and May, for adding a seasonal touch to a spring meal), used as a topping for rice balls, steeped in boiling water to make fragrant sakura tea, or cooked with rice in the rice cooker to make sakura rice.
Being a highly auspicious blossom, these salted sakura often appear ( in some form) at wedding receptions.
Here is how to make these pickles ( tsukemono).
You CAN use any cherry blossoms, though the variety YAEZAKURA is prefered. You pick them before full bloom ( anywhere from when the buds just open till about 70 percent bloom.
For 300 grams of sakura you need 3 tablespoons of salt
and 3 tablespoons of vinegar (plum vinegar, 白梅酢, is preferable
Wash the blossoms, remove the water and cover thoroughly with salt.
Cover with a pressing stone and let sit (in the fridge) for 1- 3 days ( to remove liquids).
Remove the liquid and add vinegar and put in the fridge for 3 days.
Remove liquid, and then spread out and dry outside for 3 days
Preserve in a glass jar with some more salt
And enjoy cherry blossoms at any time of the year!
If you would like to read more about the unique place of cherry blossoms in Japanese culture I have written more here:
I like it best as sakura tea for a hang-over in the early morning, or on some mornings for taking care of my tongue after sipping some cheap strong coffee. That mild salty taste with the faint and fine flavor of cherry-blossoms with a still pinkish color always makes me so happy that I am ready to get up to face another day and opposite sex.
Sakura no shiodzuke is very pretty as a decoration, but to speak honestly, I dont like the taste of sakura cha tea very much.
However, sakura tea is served at weddings, especially to the parents of the bride and the groom. Drinking this tea means it is a special occassion