Suddenly Sauer: Preserving Food and Tradition in a Modern World

The Pickling of the Mustard Green
March 22, 2010, 1:57 am
Filed under: Pickled Anything

Turmeric, Garlic, and Fennel Seed Mustard Greens

may the image speak for itself.

This pungent delicacy was one of the only remnants I had of my day spent working at the cultured pickle shop in Berkeley.  I toted my little 6oz jar all the way back to Michigan in my carry on luggage, swearing to place a hex on any unsuspecting  security official who attempted to confiscate my admittadly suspicious container.  No amount of rearranging would have squeezed it into my toiletry ziploc.  After weeks of covetousness and allowing myself only the tinniest of bites, I decided to take matters into my own hands, embarking on an experiment in, hopes of recreating this most supreme pickle in my own kitchen.

It’s been at least two months since I actually started the ferment, so I’ll need to consult my trusty notebook to review what actually went into the bowl.  When I say “trusty” it should be noted that if I’m actually hoping to label myself as a scientist, my scientific method is deeply flawed.

Pardon my mess.

Nonetheless, I did manage to keep track of the quantities of ingredients used, and I have the process in my head, so I’ll now attempt to elaborate on what can only be euphemistically described as my “short hand.”

PICKLED MUSTARD GREENS: with Fresh Turmeric, Garlic, and Fennel Seed

Chop 1 bunch mustard greens into 1 inch strips

Sprinkle with 1 Tbs salt and mix until greens begin to wilt and exude juices (won’t take very long)

add 1/2 Tbs fennel seed

grate 1 inch fresh turmeric into mixture

finely chop 1-3 cloves garlic

I mixed all the ingredients and then packed them into a small jar (only made about 6 oz) and put it in my cupboard with a water seal*

I let it ferment for about 7 weeks, tasting it about every 2 weeks.  At first it really wasn’t very good… but I put it back in the cupboard and let it keep going.  I was thinking it might be a lost cause, but when I checked on it most recently, it was GREAT!  The sourness had developed and helped blend all the strong flavors.  It’s still really pungent, but in the best possible expression of the word.  And the experience helped to remind me of an important lesson, which is: patience!  Thinking something tastes too strong or weird is often resolved by allowing it to just keep fermenting.  Bacteria are amazing, they get up to all sorts of crazy shit when given ample time to do so.  Often, they create masterpieces.

*A water seal is just a ziploc bag, filled with enough water to press on the entire surface of the greens and force brine up the sides of the jar.  This creates a pretty airtight fermenting environment, meaning minimal/no mold.  Remember to use food grade plastic!  This is a great method for  weighing down (topping) small batches!

I’m going to eat my pickled mustard greens on homemade sourdough bagels with cashew butter.  I learned to eat pickles with nut butter from the masters (i.e. the people at cultured).  If you haven’t tried it, I recommend it highly.

Also, and I’m putting this in writing in hopes that it will manifest, Greg from Brother Nature Produce agreed to grow me some mustard greens for the express purpose of pickling them.  A half a year from now, pickled mustard greens could be coming to a kitchen near you!


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