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Adding crunch to the winter table

By Pauline D Loh | China Daily | Updated: 2018-02-03 11:04
Jars of pickles by Liubiju, a Beijing pickle maker that is more than 400 years old. [Photo provided to China Daily]

When the first frosts arrive and the garden turns bare, it's time to get all in a pickle

Editor's Note: China is divided into as many culinary regions as there are different ethnic groups. Its geographical diversity and kaleidoscopic cultural profiles contribute to the unending banquet of flavors.

Our garden has gone gray and silent. The first frosts have arrived, and our trees have been stripped bare by the gusty north winds. Only the wintergreen hedge is still dark green, although even the foliage has been dulled by the cold.

In a hidden corner, the last radishes are braving the weather, but they, too, will be harvested almost immediately.

My husband has gone to the neighborhood market and come back with a good haul of vegetables for pickles. Every year, we make huge vats of pickles - crisp crunchy varieties that will see us through the entire season.

They are perfect as side dishes for mutton hotpots or table barbecues, and are good palate cleansers after too much meat.

Earlier, our ayi had already put aside a big urn of salted brown mustard greens, a slightly tart pickle called xuelihong. This is delicious cooked with lean meat and noodles, and great for when ayi makes her hand-cut noodles.

We buy about 10 kilograms of the fresh vegetables because they shrink during pickling and in the dehydration process.

Ayi hangs them out to dry on the clothesline for a day or two before sprinkling salt on them and stuffing them into the jar.

Xuelihong keeps its bright green color even after pickling and is a wonderful addition to our winter diet when glasshouse greens are so expensive.

My husband likes preserving radishes as well, and he also makes Sichuan-style pickles.

The radishes are large, fat and very sweet right about now. Apart from the common white radish or daikon, there are also green fruit radishes and rotund watermelon radishes.

Beijingers love raw radishes, lightly skinned and cut into chunks. These are dipped into the sweet bean sauce normally associated with Peking duck and eaten like fruit.

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