Dưa Cải Chua

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. -Joni Mitchell

It’s hard to believe in the middle of winter, when you’re so hungry for fresh veg you can’t stand it, but by mid-spring sometimes you can get greens fatigue. They just keep coming!

That bounty is wonderful, but when you’re running out of ideas for how to eat them fresh, remember how hungry you were for those greens just a couple months ago. Fortunately, your greens don’t have to go the same way as Joni Mitchell’s proverbial paradise.

Cucumbers, peppers, cabbage, and radishes aren’t the only spring and summer veggies you can pickle. Give your mustard and other spicy, peppery greens the same treatment, and you can have a taste of spring even after summer has passed.

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Dưa Cải Chua is a Vietnamese dish of pickled Spicy Asian Mustard Greens. It’s simple to make and easy to customize to your preferred palate—you can adjust to find your perfect balance of salt, sweet, sour, and spice. And best of all, you can make it with what’s in your share and a few common items in your pantry.

You’ll need:
2 bunch mustard greens, about 4 pounds
4-6 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of spring onion or white onion
Large pot boiled water
2.5-3 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoon sugar
Sriracha, Sambal Oelek, minced Sereno Peppers, or Szechuan Peppercorns
Fish Sauce (optional)
Clean mason jars
A Kraut Source fermentation kit (we sell them at our booth!) or ziplock bags & mason jar lids

Clean and separate your mustard greens and onions. Pick out any leaves that have gotten too yellow—though a little yellow or limpness is ok, as Dưa Cải Chuaa is a great way to use up greens that have languished in the back of your fridge a little longer than you intended (shhh, we won’t tell). A salad spinner an a little chilled tap water will do the trick.

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Dry the leaves and shred, then slice the onions. Some recommend letting the greens air dry and get limp for up to 12 hours. Others to simply pat dry with paper towels. It depends on how much time and counter space you have, and how fresh your mustard greens are. Once your leaves are dry, massage them till they are even more limp and even start to sweat a little. Mix with your onions and garlic and set aside.

Rinse your mason jars with boiling water to sterilize them. While the jars are cooling, use remaining boiled water to make a brine with the salt, sugar, and whatever spices you are adding. Taste with a clean spoon as you go to make sure you like the level of heat and balance of flavors.

Sriracha will produce a sweeter, milder Dưa Cải Chuaa. Sambal oelek will be spicier. Minced serano peppers are more traditional, but can get very spicy very quickly. Sezchuan peppercorns will be a different flavor—making the dish more Chinese than Vietnamese— and the level of heat will depend on how fresh your peppercorns are. Fish sauce will make it saltier and add an extra briny, umami flavor.

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Pack your jars with the blend of mustard greens, onions, and garlic as tightly as possible. Press them down with a rubber spatula, which you can also use to break up air pockets. Pour the brine in with a funnel, until the greens are covered by at least an inch of brine. Don’t overfill your jars though—you want the brine to sit just below the neck of the jar, at least an inch from the lid.

This is when you either screw on your Kraut Source fermentation kit lid or, if you don’t have one, gently press a plastic bag into the mouth of the jar. Fill with tap water, taking care not to spill. The water will press the baggie flush against the top of the brine, making the contents air tight. Secure lip of the baggie to the mouth of the jar with a rubber band.

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Let the Dưa Cải Chuaa sit on your counter for a week. After it’s done fermenting, take your baggies or Kraut Source lid off, and replace with regular mason jar tops. The Dưa Cải Chuaa will keep for months in the fridge unopened, much like kimchi or sauerkraut.

Traditionally, Dưa Cải Chuaa is eaten much like kimchi or kraut, used to add flavor to soups, salads, meats, rice, and more. Add it to stir fry, grain bowls, eggs, or noodle dishes.

 

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If you used Szechuan Peppercorns for more of a Chinese flare, add your pickled greens to Dan-Dan Noodles, a traditional spicy Szechuan dish made with thick, chewy noodles in a spicy soy-based sauce. For a Japanese-style meal, fry some of your Dưa Cải Chuaa (called Takana in Japan) in sesame oil before adding to rice.

Or if you want to stick close to Vietnam, you can make Canh Dưa Cải Chuaaa beef soup with pickled mustard greens. Or add to another Vietnamese dish Thịt Kho. a slow-braised pork dish with eggs. It would also be wonderful in Pho.

 


Preserving the Harvest :: Miso Pickles

Hello!

The Walking to Spring CSA started this week and I couldn’t be happier to a refrigerator full of fresh produce. Let us know how your thoughts on this session – we would love to hear from you!

I wanted to share with you a preservation technique that you may find fun and useful. It is called Misozuke, which is a Japanese miso-cultured pickle. It is really easy and you only need a couple ingredients – miso and veggies. See below to learn more!

Basics
This is a pretty simple process but there are a few key steps to keep in mind:

  • Create a miso-doko: this is the miso pickling paste. You can use any type of miso you have on hand – white and red are the most common. You can use one type or mix together various types. You can add a little sake and/or mirin which will loosen it up and make it easier to submerge the vegetables (I think I will try this next time). Some recipes add other flavorings at this point, such as ginger and garlic.
  • Prepare your vegetables: you could probably use just about any vegetable but turnips, Daikon, kohlrabi and celery are the ones I have seen most often. I am sure broccoli, carrots, scallions and even the stems from your greens would work great. You can cut your vegetables any size but most are sliced about 1/2″ thick or cut into matchstick sized pieces. Whatever size you choose, be sure they are evenly sized so they ferment at the same rate.
  • Layer miso-doko and vegetables: you can do this in just about any kitchen vessel – a dinner plate, food storage container or even canning jars. You can spread a layer of miso in the bottom of the container, lay the prepared vegetables on top, and top them with more miso. If you loosened the miso, you may be able to just push the vegetables in the mixture. Some recipes I have found will place cheesecloth on either side of the vegetables to make it easier to get them out but I didn’t bother with that step.
  • Ferment: you have a choice to ferment on the counter at room temperature, in the refrigerator or a combination of the two. Some people will keep the mixture at room temperature for a day and then transfer to the refrigerator for the remaining time. If you decide to keep it in the refrigerator the whole time, as I did, it may take longer to reach a desired outcome.
  • Taste daily: this process is entirely new to me so I can’t provide a great guideline on how long it will take. Some recipes ferment for just a day while others leave it for two weeks. Taste a small piece everyday and simply remove them when they are to your liking.

Other Resources
I recommend checking out the links below to get an idea of the process others use to make these pickles. They are all a bit different but you can gleam a little from each one.

Leftover Miso
You can use the miso bed over and over as long as you like the flavor – some say up to 10 times. Once it loses flavor, however, there are plenty of ways to get use out of it.

  • Tekka: I am fascinated by this savory condiment made by cooking down miso and ground root vegetables. You can find a recipe and learn more about it here and here.
  • Miso-Sesame Dressing: this probably won’t be as full flavored as compared to using fresh miso but still a great option none-the-less.
    • Ingredients: 6 tablespoons water, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 7 teaspoons red miso, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1-1/2 teaspoons honey, 1 (2-inch) piece ginger – peeled and chopped coarse, 1 small garlic clove – chopped coarse, 1/4 cup canola oil, 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
    • Direction: Process all ingredients except canola and sesame oil in a blender until finely chopped, about 15 seconds. With the blender running, add oils in steady stream until incorporated, then continue to process until smooth, about 15 seconds. Can be refrigerated for a week.
  • Simple Miso Soup: add a little of the miso paste to a cup and pour boiling water over, stirring to combine. Top with sliced scallions and enjoy.

Radish Miso Pickles
makes about 1/2 cup finished pickles

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup white miso
  • 4-5 French or globe radishes, sliced 1/2″ thick or cut into small wedges

Directions:

  • Place 1/4 cup of the miso in a thin layer on the bottom of a glass food storage container. Place the radishes in a single layer on top of the miso. Spread the remaining miso on top of the radishes. Cover and place in the refrigerator until done.

Bread & Butter Bitter Melon Pickles

Hello,

One of our shareholders mentioned the idea of turning bitter melon into bread and butter pickles and I knew I had to make a version myself. I adapted this recipe from The America’s Test Kitchen Do-It-Yourself Cookbook (which I highly recommend!). You get the typical sweet-sour notes up front with bitterness from the melon on the back end. I have yet to use it with anything but here is a nice list of suggested uses. I think adding it to a German potato salad sounds pretty amazing!

I purchased fresh turmeric from Sequatchie Cove Farm at the Main Street Farmers Market last week. I used it here but feel free to use 1/4 teaspoon dried turmeric in its place. Enjoy!

Bread & Butter Bitter Melon Pickles
makes about 1 pint

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound bitter melon, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed and sliced 1/8″ thick
  • 1 small onion, halved and sliced through root end into 1/8″ thick pieces
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery seeds
  • Pinch ground cloves

Directions:

  • Toss bitter melon, onion and salt together in a colander and set over the sink or a bowl. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour. Rinse and drain vegetables well.
  • Bring vinegar, water, sugar, mustard seeds, turmeric, celery seeds and cloves to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add vegetables, return to a boil, and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer pickles to a pint sized jar with a tight fitting lid. Pour hot brine over pickles and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for 2 days before eating. Pickles can be refrigerated for up to 2 months.

Easiest Refrigerator Pickles

Hello!

We are moving into our new house this week (yay!) so I have very limited time in the kitchen. I remembered Smitten Kitchen’s Easiest Fridge Dill Pickle recipe when I was trying to decide what to do with cucumbers, and I am so glad I did! This recipe couldn’t be easier or more delicious and it is perfect with our Diva cucumbers. I adjusted the recipe slightly by using a different type of vinegar and swapping out the dill for a dried spice blend. This is a recipe I will make again and again and we hope you like it too!

Easiest Refrigerator Pickles
makes 3-4 cups of pickles + brine

Recipe notes: 1) although not necessary, a mandoline makes slicing the cucumbers a quick and painless process; 2) I used 3 teaspoons of salt as I like my pickles salty – reduce amount to 2 teaspoons if you are sensitive to salt; 3) you can use different types of vinegar (white wine, distilled, etc) but I prefer rice vinegar as it has the lowest acidity level and doesn’t leave the pickles with a sharp bite.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds (about 3 medium) cucumbers, sliced very thin (I used the 3mm setting on my mandoline, which is about .12 inches)
  • 2-3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • A tablespoon or two of chopped dill or other seasonings as desired (I used 1 teaspoon of Penzey’s Greek Seasoning which contains oregano, garlic, lemon, black pepper and marjoram and I LOVED the flavor!)

Directions:

  • In a large mixing bowl, toss cucumbers, salt, vinegar and herbs/seasoning, if using, together until well combined. Note: the liquid will NOT cover the pickles, and that is ok. The salt will begin to draw water out of the cucumbers and soon there will be plenty of liquid. Set aside for an hour. Transfer to an air tight container and refrigerate. The pickles will keep for a couple of weeks, but come on, they won’t last that long!