I’m hoping for this blog to be not only a chronicle of my research, but a catalog of the recipes I find, which hopefully can serve as a resource of sorts to those of you reading it at home. Today I went to the market with the grandmother I am staying with to speak with the woman who sells pickled vegetables. Although a much of the pickled vegetables she sells are from a factory, a few of her vats are filled with veggies that are made in her home.
One of the main home-fermented veggies she sells is 雪里蕻, known as brassica juncea, a species of mustard green specific to China. These type of mustard greens are generally not eaten fresh, but rather commonly eaten only after fermenting.
Making them is relatively easy, and the process is transferable to a variety of different types of vegetables.
The first step is to wash your vegetable, and without drying it, roll it in salt. After that, you should put it in a clean jar or crock, preferably full to the top, and seal it up. The woman at the market said that the mustard greens took around two weeks to ferment, but when the weather is hot, the process is much faster—less than a week.
While the greens were displayed out in the open air, the vendor said that they were best eaten today or tomorrow, or else they should be put inside the refrigerator. They can stay a while in the jar that they are being fermented in, but once they’re exposed to the air, they should be quickly eaten or stored in a cold place. This is somewhat specific to this type of veggie, though. I was also introduced to another type of pickled veggie today at the market called 榨菜, which takes an entire year to ferment, and can be kept out in the open air for much longer.
At first I balked at the idea of refrigeration after eating— I’m here doing research because I want to find ways to circumvent refrigeration! But then I was thinking— can wilted greens be fermented as a means to stave off food waste? This may be my next my next experiment in Professor Shen’s laboratory.
I encourage you to try making this recipe at home! It’s simple and delicious. American mustard greens will do just as well. Since the greens are so salty, they are usually used as a condiment or sprinkled within a dish rather than eaten on their own.
Happy pickle making!