Sunday, April 29, 2012

Perfect Pressed and Pickled Vegetables

There was a brief moment of silence in the kitchen this morning as I plunged my fingers into ice cold brine to prise out the last prized bits of 2010 pickled chard and kale stem from the jar.  With a sigh of nostalgia I ate up the last bit of crunchy pickled vegetables from our 2010 summer bounty - the year Carrisa and I pickled garden surplus and everything else we could get our hands on.  All that remains of that memorable summer is a bottle, yet unopened, of elderflower champagne.  Big sigh.

I do like a bit of pickled vegetables to perk up my meals.

This morning I got busy playing catch-up after using up that last jar.  When I am really on my game I like to make a fresh jar of pickled vegetable every weekend.  That keeps me in a steady supply.  This morning I made a pint of slender succulent iceberg radish pickle, a pint of ruby-red pickled beet (flavored with dried cardamom seeds), a quart of pickled turnip, beet, and onion (this one is a new combo for me and I am anxious to see how I like it) and a quart of my favorite sauerkraut.  The jars will sit on my kitchen counter for three days.  On Wednesday (three days)  they will be ready to eat and can be stored in the refrigerator.

When I finished filling and packing the last jar of sauerkraut this morning I found I still had a serving size dish of cabbage left.  What to do with the left-over cabbage?  I certainly did not want to waste all of the raw, live enzymes.  Pressed Salad to the rescue.  Pressed Salad is essentially a quick pickle - an iconic dish from my Macrobiotic days - that is ready to eat in a couple of hours.


Chop up vegetables such as cabbage, kale, or collard greens.  I have been known to press wild greens as well.  Lamb's Quarters and Mallow are my favorite wild greens to press.  Each salad will be different depending on what you have on hand.  You can minced up a bit of carrot top, turnip greens, radish greens, or green onions to add to the salad.  Or you can slice in some radishes and/or carrot.  The thinner the better on the root vegetables.  Flavor with fresh herbs such as cilantro, parsley, basil or chives if desired.

Toss your chopped vegetables into a very large glass or stainless steel bowl.  Add a good amount of sea salt.  For 4 - 8 cups of vegetables add about 1 t. of sea salt.

Now either pound the vegetables with a wooden mallet or massage the vegetables with your hands.  Massage or pound the vegetables for about 10 minutes.  This is the meditative part of the process.  As you pound or massage the vegetables they will release a lot of liquid.  Keep the liquid.  Do not pour the liquid off.

Place the vegetables with their liquid into a clean glass bowl.  Nest a smaller bowl on top of the vegetables so that the vegetables come in contact with the nested bowl.  Place a heavy object, such as a Mason jar filled with water or grain, on top of the vegetables.  Let the vegetables sit on the counter for 1/2 hour to several hours.  Do not refrigerate. 

Once the vegetables are softened to your liking squeeze out the liquid and serve the salad artfully arranged on a plate.  The beauty of this salad is it's Japanese minimalist simplicity.  Pressed salad does not require a fancy dressing and is delicious eaten just as it is.  If you would like to add a dash of flavor I find that a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, or a splash of rice vinegar is a nice addition.

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