Dish of Dried Fermented Greens Shaoxing
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Dried Fermented Greens, Shaoxing
China - Shaoxing
  -   Mei Gan Cai
2 oz  
7-10 days  
These dried fermented greens were originally food for the poor, used to add flavor to bland vegetables or make soup broth. Today they are the heart of the Shaoxing cuisine, used in thousands of ways, and used also in Shanghai. This recipe is based on that by über expert Fuchsia Dunlop. Make sure all containers and tools used are sterile. Yield: 2 pounds makes 2 ounces fermented and dried - a low yield, but most recipes call for well under 1 ounce.

Mustard Greens (1)  
Sea Salt (2)
Make   -   (45 min + 7 to 10 days)
  1. Separate the leaves of the MUSTARD GREENS and float wash. Dry well, preferably in a salad spinner. You can cut very large stems in half so they fit well.
  2. Thread the Greens on a string passing through the stems, not too tight together, and hang up indoors overnight to wilt (or see Note-3).
  3. Unstring the Greens and cut them crosswise into 2 inch pieces. Thick stems should be sliced thin lengthwise. Put them all in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Sprinkle with Sea Salt and massage it in hard, as if you were kneading stiff bread dough. Massage until the salt is thoroughly incorporated and the leaves look wet as they start to exude their liquid. Let it rest for 15 minutes and then massage some more
  5. Pack Greens in a sterile jar (3 cups size), including any liquid already exuded. Ram them down tight so all air is excluded (see Note-4). Their liquid should cover the top of the greens when rammed down an hour later. Cover tightly and set aside at a cool (but not cold) room temperature. Open the jar daily so pressure won't build up, and ram the greens down again to eliminate gas and wash the top layer in brine.
  6. The greens are done when they have a satisfying sour-savory taste. You may notice a reduction in the amount of gas being generated at this time. A week is about average, but exact time will depend on room temperature.
  7. On a bright sunny day, spread out trays, bamboo preferred, but otherwise solid trays covered by a dish towel. Drain the greens and Spread them out on the tray, untangling lumps. Set them in direct sunlight and turn now and then for even drying. Bring in during the night. Several days of bright sun should do the job (or see Note-5).
  1. Mustard Greens:   Mizuna (xue li hong) is most often used in China, but is difficult to find and expensive in North America. Small Gai Choy, which is easily available here in Los Angeles, works well for this recipe, but other Asian mustard greens could be used. For details see our Cabbage, Mustard, Turnip & Radish Greens page, particularly the Asian Greens section.
  2. Sea Salt:   Natural sea salt should be used for salt pickling. I emphasize "natural", because many major brands of "sea salt" are highly refined. If it doesn't seem a little moist, it's not natural. Various pundits tell you that "salt is salt, it's nearly all sodium chloride", but some of the minor salts in sea salt are important to proper fermentation. Of course you can buy sea salt from gourmet outlets for astounding prices, but if you find a Korean market you can buy big sacks of it for very little. Koreans do a whole lot of salt fermenting, and know what's best. For details see our Salt page.
  3. Drying: Threading on string and hanging overnight indooors is recommended by Fuchsia Dunlop. For the similar Snow Vegetable, she mentions that many people dry half a day in the sun, hung up on string or spread out on bamboo trays, but she's based in London where they don't have sun. The object here is not to get any actual dryness, but to get the right balance of water and salt. For the photo specimens, I dried them in my electric dehydrator, fan on and just warm for 1 hour until lightly wilted. It's a 5 tray Waring and has just enough room for 2 pounds of greens, if I do the cutting before drying rather than after.
  4. Pickling:   Note that the amount of salt is fairly critical. Ideally, these greens should be packed in a small crock, covered by a fitted plate with a heavy weight on top, and a cloth covering. Not having such a crock on hand, I use a 3 cup wide mouth jar. It is not possible to fit an effective weight in a jar, where the opening is smaller than the body. I have found that my scheme of ramming the greens back down once or twice a day so the top layer is well washed with the brine works fine to suppress mold.
  5. Drying:   Rather than sun drying, I use the same electric dehydrator as used for the initial wilting. Set fan-on and low or moderate temperature (depending on room temperature) It is done in about 12 hours.
  6. U.S. measure: t=teaspoon, T=Tablespoon, c=cup, qt=quart, oz=ounce, #=pound, cl=clove in=inch, ar=as required tt=to taste
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