If you are looking for a crunchy, sour and peppery pickle with loads of umami, this is the one for you! Chinese Mustard or gai choy is a variety of mustard with thick, wavy leaves so solid that, to me, they look like some kind of weird giant green mollusk. They look like napa cabbage’s super buffed up, gymhead bro. I don’t have any of my own photos of gai choy at the moment and that description is a bit strange so here is a stock image from google search.
This pickle is made by creating a brine and simply submersing the vegetable in it for at least 2 weeks. Although, it doesn’t reach its full flavour potential until at at least 1 month! The first image at the top is after 2 months. Sour, packed with umami and peppery. So crunchy too. You can eat this as a side or cook it into dishes like braised pork belly with preserved mustard, a personal favorite! This recipe is super easy and takes no time at all. It does take patience though as it is so pretty to look at and very tempting to tuck into early ::hand slap::
Pickled Chinese Mustard with Szechuan Peppercorns
Makes 1 quart Jar
2lbs Gai Choy Chinese Mustard, leaves separated from the heart but reserving the core.
3T Sea Salt (NON iodized or it will not ferment!)
1T whole Szechuan Peppercorns (or any other kind will work as a decent replacement)
1 quart size sterilized Jar
Separate the leaves one by one, all the way down from the base, making sure you get the thick stems and reserving the heart when you get down to the center. Lay these out on a clean towel or tray and leave out to dry for a few hours in the morning sun, or somewhere in the house for about half a day, until they begin to look wilted.
When dried, cut the mustard leaves and thick stems into large chunks about 2in x 3in. Place into a bowl with about 2T of the salt. Gently massage the salt into the mustard for a few minutes. It will start to sweat liquid as you do this.
Once evenly coated and massaged, layer the pieces into your sterilized jar, followed by the last tablespoon of salt and your whole peppercorns. Next boil some water in a kettle and then pour the boiling water into the jar to cover the peppercorns. Leave about 2 inches of space between the liquid and the lid of the jar. Replace the lid on the jar and turn it upside down a few times to distribute the dissolving salt equally and to get rid of as many air bubbles as possible. Next, you need to keep the mustard under the brine. Open the jar back up, scrunch some parchment paper up into a ball and use it to push down the mustard under the brine. When you put the lid back on, it should keep the parchment paper ball perfectly so it keeps the mustard under the liquid.
Put the pickles somewhere dark and cold for at least 2 weeks, or if you are patient, 1 month or more! Every few days, be sure to open the jar to allow the gas buildup to release. Give it a try when you think it’s ready. If you think it can go longer, simply leave it for longer until the taste is right. Once you have it where you want it, keep it in the fridge. You could technically keep it in the cupboard as you’re getting through it but just remember it will continue to age and as it does it will get more and more sour. My advice is to determine the age you think is the tastiest and keep it in the fridge from thereon out.