Lettuce is a common ingredient for salads and on sandwiches or burgers, but many home cooks don't know that you can make pickled lettuce and use it in many of the same ways regular lettuce is used. Pickled lettuce is used more in Asian cooking than in North American cuisine, but the concept and preparation are the same, and you can usually make it with basic ingredients in your kitchen.
The Art of Pickling
Pickling is an art that is practiced all around the world in many different cultures. International foods such as kimchi, miso pickles, sauerkraut, pickled herring, corned beef, pickled pig's feet and many salsas are all examples. Foods that are pickled are either soaked in vinegar or in a brine to discourage bad bacteria growth or encourage good bacteria growth. Pickling also enhances the taste of many foods, adding a new dimension to the regular flavor. Pickled lettuce is among the foods that experience a flavor boost.
Not only is pickled lettuce possible, it is also a versatile condiment with multiple uses. You can use it as a base for bright, piquant-flavored salads, a tasty addition for sandwiches instead of regular cucumber pickles or a crunchy addition for tacos instead of cabbage slaw. If you are accustomed to adding lettuce to your Asian stir-fry, tossing in some pickled lettuce in will give the flavor a new dimension. For standard meat dishes, some pickled lettuce makes a zippy accompaniment on the plate.
Make It to Taste
You can buy tins or jars of pickled lettuce in some Asian markets, but your options are greater if you make it yourself. With homemade pickled lettuce, you can add specific ingredients to influence the taste of the finished product. Along with iceberg or romaine lettuce and vinegar, consider adding fresh dill, chopped garlic, hot peppers or even dried fruits like cranberries for added texture. Use apple cider vinegar and red wine vinegar for more flavor instead of all white vinegar.
Wasting Less Food
Once you get into the habit of pickling lettuce for your various culinary adventures, you will end up wasting less food as a result. Covered pickled lettuce will keep for at least a week in your refrigerator, which is often longer than it would have lasted without pickling. If you notice your iceberg or romaine lettuce getting close to the turning point, consider pickling it to preserve its life span and avoid wasting food.