Dish of Snow Vegetable
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Snow Vegetable / Xue Cai
China - Zhejiang
  -   Xue Cai
1-2/3 cup  
7-10 days  
This mild pickle is used in many recipes from the Shanghai region (Zhejiang), but "Snow Vegetable" is hard to find even in the huge Asian markets of Los Angeles. Fortunately, it's very easy to make. The juice as well as the greens can be used in recipes. This recipe is based on that by über expert Fuchsia Dunlop.

Mustard Greens (1)  
Sea Salt (2)
Make   -   (30 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 1/2 inch pieces. If leaves are very wide you can make a couple lengthwise cuts before cutting crosswise. Put them in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Sprinkle with 1 T 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 (2 cups size) and ram them down tight so all air is excluded and their liquid covers the top of the greens (it may take an hour for their to be that much liquid). 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. A week is about average, but exact time will depend on room temperature. When the flavor is good, refrigerate. It will keep for about two months.
  1. Mustard Greens:   The "official" green in the Shanghai region is Mizuna (xue li hong), the true "snow vegetable". It's a turnip green (B.rapa), not a mustard green (B.juncia), but it isn't reliably available in North America. I have made the photo specimen from Small Gai Choy, which is easily available here in Los Angeles. Some overseas Chinese chefs, with none of these available, use radish greens. 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 indoors is recommended by Fuchsia Dunlop. 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 was pressed for time, so I dried them in my electric dehydrator, fan on and low temperature, for about 1 hour, until lightly wilted.
  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 2 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. 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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