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Categories: Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Citron-pickled Chinese cabbage

If miso soup and sushi are all that come to mind when you think of Japanese cuisine, it's time to step away from the takeout California rolls and pick up a santoku bocho (all-purpose Japanese knife). But learning the fundamentals ... Read more

Total time: 10 minutes, plus at least 12 hours standing time | Serves 8 to 10
Note: Adapted from "Washoku: Recipes From the Japanese Home Kitchen" by Elizabeth Andoh. Togarashi dried red pepper and kombu are available at Japanese markets. You can use a tabletop pickle pot (see Cookstuff) or devise your own weights to apply pressure to the cabbage.
  • 1/2 head Chinese cabbage, about 12 ounces
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon freeze-dried yuzu peel, crushed or cut with scissors into very small bits, or finely minced lemon, lime or grapefruit peel
  • 1 piece kombu, preferably rishiri kombu, rausu kombu or ma kombu, 2- to 3-inch square
  • 1 togarashi, broken in half, seeds removed, and cut into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon, lime, and/or grapefruit juice
  • 1 teaspoon mirin
  • 1 teaspoon light-colored soy sauce
  • Soy sauce (optional)

Step 1If you are using very fresh cabbage, you will need to wilt it first: Cut the cabbage into two or three wedges through the core and spread them on a plate or tray at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours.

Step 2In a large bowl, stir together the salt and yuzu peel (or lemon peel). Place the cabbage in the bowl and sprinkle half of the mixture over the cabbage, rubbing it into the thicker core and lifting layers of the leaves to sprinkle it between them. With sharp scissors, cut the kombu into a dozen strips. Lift the layers of cabbage leaves and distribute half the kombu among them.

Step 3Allow the seasoned cabbage to sit in a bowl for 10 minutes, or until it begins to sweat. The addition of the kombu will cause the brine to become slightly sticky. The kombu too will become slippery, which is a good sign. Gently squeeze the cabbage, applying greater pressure as more liquid is exuded and it becomes very limp and pliable. Keep whatever liquid (brine) is exuded in the bowl.

Step 4If you are using a shokutaku tsukemono ki (pickle pot), sprinkle the remaining lemon- or yuzu-salt mixture at the bottom of the container before laying the cabbage evenly over the top. Pour in any accumulated brine from the bowl, and then scatter the remaining kombu strips over the cabbage. Add the togarashi strips, placing several between and among the cabbage leaves and allowing a few to float in the brine. Screw the top in place under maximum pressure and let sit for at least 8 hours at room temperature, or for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. If the brine does not rise above the inner lid after 2 or 3 hours, unscrew the top, flip the cabbage over, and add a few drops of water. Replace the lid, again screwing it as tightly as possible. (Go to step 6.)

Step 5If you are devising your own weights, scatter the remaining kombu strips on the inside of a glass bowl and lay the cabbage flat on top. Sprinkle the remaining lemon- or yuzu-salt mixture over the cabbage. Pour in any accumulated brine, add in the togarashi strips to the pickling liquid. Lay a flat plate over all, and then place weights on top of the plate. Let sit, undisturbed, for at least 8 hours at room temperature, or for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. It is fine if liquid rises above the plate from the start, but if the brine does not rise above the plate after 2 or 3 hours, remove the plate, flip the cabbage over, and add a few drops of water. Replace the plate and place additional weight on top.

Step 6Unscrew the lid, or remove the weights and plate from the bowl, and pour off any brine. Transfer the limp cabbage, including whatever strips of kombu or citrus peel are in the pot, to a 1-quart jar or container.

Step 7In a small bowl, combine the rice vinegar, lemon juice, mirin and light-colored soy sauce and pour the mixture over the cabbage to cover, leaving one-fourth inch of headroom in the jar. For a spicier pickle, keep the togarashi pieces in the liquid. For a milder pickle, discard them. Seal the jar with clear plastic wrap and a tight-fitting lid, or use a mason jar. Let the pickle mature at room temperature for 2 hours and up to 5 hours. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Keeps 1 week.

Step 8Just before serving, removed the cabbage from the liquid and squeeze out the moisture. Chop coarsely. Pour a few drops of soy sauce over the pickles if desired.

Each of 10 servings:
9 calories; 1 gram protein; 2 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 0 fat; 0 saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 165 mg. sodium.
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