I still remember when I arrived at London 15 years ago, I made a big jar of Sichuan pickles within the first week. In fact, that was my first time to make it, no recipe, no measurements just followed the vague memory of how my grandma did and it turned out delicious.
In fact, people in China, especially in Sichuan province, eat that pickles with every meal, pickles with conges in breakfast, meat along pickles for lunch and pickles as a side for dinner. Even in restaurants they are given free as a pre-starter to work up your appetite.
This naturally fermented pickles has no vinegar, in fact, the process is so simple that allow vegetables soak in a jar with nothing but seasoned brine and time will do the magic. The perfect fermented pickles taste so good, they are crunchy, sour, crisp and refreshing. Eating them uncooked aids in digestion and definitely much tastier than digestive tablets.
The biggest advantage for making your own pickles is that the fermentation is an on-going process and you get the active bacteria all the time when you eat your own pickles unlike the one you brought from supermarket which had been processed in certain extent for them to be shelved for a long time.
It is not a whole story without mention the special Sichuan pickle pot when we talk about these truly delicious and naturally fermented pickles. The pot is traditionally made by ceramic. Around the top of the pot, the outlier stretches out and upward along with inner neck of the pot constructing an ingenious moat when fills with water, it allow gas to escape from the pot and cut off outside air into the pot. You can find this speciality pot on Amazon. in fact, I use an ordinary jar to make the pickles and lift up the lid occasionally at the initial fermentation stage to release the gas. It does the job well, please remember to remove the rubber seal from your jar.
‘Sichuan PaoCai’ Sichuan Pickles
I usually make no more than 2 jars of pickles at one time as I don’t want them take a lot of space in my fridge. The below recipe is basing on a 0.5 L sized jar, you can make your own adjustment depends on the size of your jar and vegetables you put in.
The ratio between water and salt- 1 kg water: 1 Tablespoon salt
1 Teaspoon Sichuan Peppercorn
1 star anise
2 peeled garlic cloves
2 Tablespoons of brine from ‘pickled green chill’
you can get this from your local Chinese grocery store. This brine actually works as master brine as well as a fermentation efficacy enhancer. Traditionally Chinese make their own master brain by boiling water and salt at the same ratio as above and let the salted water sit in the pickle jar for at least 1 week.
1/4 round cabbage, cut it into pieces about 1 inch square
1/4 Chinese radish peeled and thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and cut thinly on the diagonal
1/4 kohlrabi, peeled and thinly sliced
2-3 red radishes
2-3 whole green and red chillies
- Wash the vegetables and pat them dry. Let them air dry for a couple of hours. Make sure there is no water residual on any piece of your vegetable. Treat your pickle jar in the same way. No fresh water nor any oil goes into the pickles are critical factors for making a successful Sichuan Pickles.
- Boiled the salt and water together to dissolve the salt, let the salted water cool down to room temperature.
- Pack the vegetables into the jar layer by layer and press them firmly, pour the salted water and add rest of the above brine ingredients to the jar make sure the brine fully covers the vegetable and filled right up to the top edge of your jar.
- Put lid on the jar, wrap the top with cling film and place the jar on a plate (There will be overflow from the jar at initial fermentation stage).
- Keep it on a cool and dry place. Your Sichuan pickles will be ready in between 1-2 weeks depends on seasons and temperatures.
- Serve the pickles directly from the jar by adding some chill oil or extra virgin Oliver oil as you like
- Please note it is normal that the brine turn into unclear after first several days. It will dissolve as the pickles continue to ferment.
- Use clean chopsticks or tongs to take the pickles from the jar to avoid contamination to the brine.
- When you notice the pickles sink back to the bottom your jar, it indicates that your Sichuan Pickles are ready and move your jar into fridge.
- Don’t throw away the rest of the brine, It is your own master brine from now on.