Pickled Cabbage and Daikon
Maybe I am becoming nostalgic as time goes on. I miss the days when I walked through the door of our unlocked home in San Jose, CA after walking home from school, and took in the smells of roasting meats and Chinese dumplings wafting through the Spanish-styled home on Goldfield Drive.
Mom hadn’t gone back to work quite yet; she would later take on a job in the accounting department of a large hospital in the area, so for awhile, Mom was the Domestic Engineer that is responsible for the green and white floral wallpaper that still decorates the front hallway of this home today (or least, the time I visited in 2012 and knocked on the door to ask permission to take a look around).
A particularly familiar smell of my wistful childhood memories is Mom’s jars of Chinese-style fermented cabbage and daikon vegetable. She would boil several glass jars, usually recycled dill pickle jars and their lids, and then fill them up with these vegetables after stirring in what looked to me like very little liquid, salt, vinegar, and spices. Using a pair of chopsticks, Mom rotated the chopped vegetables in the marinade over several days, scolding my father to not help himself to them before they were done.
When you’re a child, two weeks feels like forever and a day to wait; sometimes, Mom fermented a jar for almost a month before she began doling pieces out to us with our dinner meal.
My interest in pickling vegetables began this year when I developed a strong reaction to alliums (garlic, onions, shallots, leeks). When I could no longer obtain a source of fermented food like pickles from the grocery store, I realized that I needed to make my own. And of course, I thought about Mom’s pickled vegetables, with their crunch as well as the soothing results of a happy gut. I always remembered how fermented foods helped my gut maintain a healthy balance of gut flora needed to properly digest food.
It was time to call on Mom to see if she could write a recipe for something she had done from scratch without ever measuring a thing.