I posted a photo on Facebook of the jar of “Dilly Beans” I’d put up in July, after visiting friends with a surfeit of dill. I use a recipe from a favorite book from the 1960s. It’s obviously loved and remembered by other people and you can find the story here: http://ow.ly/T4MMu. My reward was getting a response from a publishing friend, Paul Evans, in Singapore with his Chinese wife’s recipe for pickled vegetables. Fang Yan has kindly allowed me to share her recipe. Thanks to both Paul and Fang for both the recipe and the photographs!
GETTING PICKLED, CHINESE STYLE
Fang Yan with Paul Evans
The vegetables that are best for Sichuan pickles are: long green beans, cabbage, and carrots. For the liquid, use cold boiled water, a reasonable amount of salt (until the water tastes a bit salty), ginger, garlic, Chinese peppers, and one or two fresh red chilies.
Wash the vegetables and then scald with boiling water. Wait until all cools down. Then put everything into a Szechuan pickle jar 2/3 full of salty water.
Add three tablespoons of Chinese rice liquor, at least 50 proof. Put cold boiled water on the outside ring which acts as a seal from the air (see photo). Change the outside water every two days.
The pickles should be ready in about one week. But later and later, they taste even better and better. The whole process must not use any oil. Otherwise, it will fail.
After taking out the pickles from the jar, then put new vegetables into it. Some Szechuan people use pickle water that is as old as 60 years. A grandmother will pass the jar and water to mother, mother passes them to daughter. The older the water is, the more delicious the pickles are.
My pickle water is only about one month old, but the pickle already tastes very good. Every time, when you put in new vegetables, you need to put in the relevant amount of salt. After adding new vegetables three or four times, you need to put in some more liquor (2 tablespoons). When the pickle water is old enough (say, three to six months), if you put in cabbage in in the evening, the next morning it is ready to be eaten.