Preserving stuff scares me. Or, rather, it’s the canning process that’s worrisome.
What if the jars explode while submerged in the hot water? Glass can’t possibly withstand that high of heat, right? Or what if I don’t sterilize properly and bacteria—unbeknownst to me—proliferates in said jar like some sort of invasive species, causing me and other eaters to fall ill?
These aren’t unfounded fears, but they’re not, well, founded either. An article or two on canning and preserving would easily assuage them. But, for now, I’ll stick to pickling and quick pickling (quickling, if you will).
Apples tinged with anise, celery sticks, and spicy peppers all scratch that pickle itch. However, if you ask me my favorite thing to pickle, the answer is slightly more vegetal and with origins far east of here: mustard greens.
Pickled mustard greens are ubiquitous in China’s Sichuan cuisine, which is where I first had them. Some are fermented for several weeks and others are pickled in vinegar—they’re like an all-in-one version of Korea’s kimchi and Japan’s pickles. The greens are found in soups, stir-fries, and noodles. They’re as happy with pork as they are with beef, fish, or even tripe and can be bought in vacuum sealed packages at the grocery store, just a squeeze and a julienne away from eating.
While the Chinese have several different types of mustard greens (some with larger stems, others with more leaf-like leaves), the grocery store around the corner from my house does not. It offers a single kind of mustard green—and it’s not of the Chinese variety. But, longing for some pickled greens and lacking transportation to the nearest Chinese grocery store, I decided to make do. However, the pickled greens’ peppery bite, the heat from the chile, and the subtle (also untraditional) garlic scent is better than making do.
And once you have a jar, here’s how to use it up:
Makes 1 quart
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 cups water
1/2 pound mustard greens, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 red or green serrano chiles, spilt lengthwise
2 garlic cloves, crushed
How would you use pickled mustard greens? Tell us in the comments below!
Photos by Alpha Smoot, James Ransom, Bobbi Lin, and Mark Weinberg