Napa cabbage is a national vegetable in China. When its harvest season arrives in winter, pickling is one of the ways to preserve in a large quantity. In my native village, almost every household has a huge earthware jar for pickling them. Fully-pickled Napa cabbages taste sour, sweet and succulent. Simple stir-frying and making a salad are the two common ways to enjoy them. It was not until I stayed in Inner Mongolia and Beijing later that I knew pickled Napa cabbages tasted sour only. (My hometown province Hubei is in central China. Inner Mongolia and Beijing are in North China.) People in North China usually use them as one ingredient of dumpling fillings or stew them with meat. Different climates, soil and water shape different vegetables and even cuisines.
It’s for the first time I followed my mom’s way to pickle Philadelphia’ Napa cabbages this winter. It is fun to watch them shrink little by little in the jar. 25 days’ fermenting tested their flavor-sour and a little bit sweet (not enough). Having a plate of stir-fried home-made pickled Napa cabbages to eat makes me happy enough.
Pickled Napa cabbages
- 4 Napa Cabbages (20 pounds)
- 150 grams sea salt
- Enough water
- A 20-liter glass jar (I bought it from H Mart.)
- A three-pound sizable stone, cleaned
- Clean the glass jar and make sure there is no dirt or oil.
- Rinse all the cabbages and cut each cabbage vertically into four quarters. If the cabbage is not big, just cut into two halves.
- Sprinkle one quarter cabbage a thin layer of salt. Lay it vertically onto the bottom of the jar. Repeat sprinkling and laying until all the salt are used and all the cabbages pile neatly in the jar. (If your jar is wide enough, you can lay the cabbages horizontally.)
- Cover the lid and set aside for two days. You will see some water in the jar.
- On the third day, add enough water to cover all the Napa cabbages. Put the stone on top of the cabbages to press so that all the cabbages are drowned in water. If the cabbages float, they will easily rot.
- Cover the lid and let them ferment for 25 days.
Stir-fried pickled Napa Cabbages
- One quarter of a pickled Napa cabbage, about 1.5 pounds, rinsed and shredded
- One tablespoon of grape seed oil
- One piece of one-inch ginger,minced
- Half a teaspoon of salt
- One teaspoon of sesame oil
- Two ounces of red sweet peppers, diced
- Heat the grape seed oil in the wok and stir-fried ginger until fragrant, for one minute
- Add the cabbage to stir fry for 5 minutes.
- Add salt, sesame oil and peppers to stir-fry for one minute.
- Transfer to a plate and serve with rice. It tastes greater when it becomes cold as a side dish.