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Pacific Merchants 10L Pickle Crock + Giveaway

pickling crock square

I made my first batch of sauerkraut in the fall of 2008 (in fact, that single jar of kraut was the first thing I ever wrote about here on Food in Jars). Since then, I’ve done a goodly amount of fermentation, from kosher dill pickles to kombucha to kimchi.

In all the years that I’ve been letting various fruits and vegetables gently bubble away in my kitchen, my vessel of choice has been a wide mouth jar (either a quart or a half gallon, depending on the volume I’m making). And while these jars have served me admirably, there was part of me that always wanted to try out a dedicated pickling crock.

crock overhead

So, when a rep from Pacific Merchants got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in trying out their 10L fermentation crock, I said yes.

It is a lovely crock, with thick walls, stone weights, and a gutter that you fill with water for an airtight seal. This crock, along will all the other stoneware vessels that Pacific Merchants sells, was made in Boleslawiec, Poland.

pickling crock open

You can use crocks like this one for all manner of ferments and I’m planning to christen it with a batch of sauerkraut. I’d intended to start a batch in it before this post, but I head out of town next week for nearly three weeks on the road and Scott asked that I not make him responsible for a large-scale ferment. I thought it was a fair request and so will start a batch (with step-by-step pictures for you all) when I get back in July.

pickle weights

Now, for the giveaway. The nice folks at Pacific Merchants are offering one lucky Food in Jars winner a $100 gift card for their website. What’s more, they’re also offering a discount code for their website. It’s good now through June 16. Just type in “foodinjars15″ at check out for 15% off your order.

Here’s how to enter the giveaway:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your fermentation habits. Do you make your own lacto-fermented pickles? Do you have a jar of kimchi in the kitchen right now? Or is your only contact with a fermented vegetable is the tray of warm sauerkraut designed to top hot dogs at the ball park?
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm on Saturday, June 7, 2014. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, June 8, 2014
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: Pacific Merchants sent me the 10L fermentation crock, along with a pair of 1L Kilner jars, for photography and review purposes. They are also providing the giveaway unit. They have not compensated me beyond that to write this post and all opinions remain my own. 

Homemade Kimchi

half gallon of kimchi - Food in Jars

I’ve been talking a lot about fancy salts and how to use them in preserving this week. On Tuesday, I shared a recipe for a quick, spicy cucumber pickle (which I’ve been eating non-stop on salads for the last couple days. It’s intensely garlicky and I love it). Today, we’re using some of that gorgeous salt in a batch of kimchi.

shredded kimchi veg - Food in Jars

I came relatively late to the world of kimchi. I’d eat it when at a Korean restaurant, but it wasn’t really something I started seeking out until a couple years ago. At first, I satisfied my kimchi craving by buying packets of the stuff from the Trader Joe’s refrigerator case, but soon found myself going through two or three a week. It was time to start making it myself.

salt and crushed peppers - Food in Jars

I will be the first to say that my technique isn’t the most authentic on the planet. I don’t use rice flour (because I’m lazy and don’t want to add another thing to my pantry) and I pretty much toss whatever vegetables in that I have (there are red radishes in this batch because I had some and wanted to use them up).

I also pack my shredded and seasoned veg into a half gallon jar and let it do its fermenty thing, without airlocks or any kind of weight. I just press it down with a clean hand once a day and keep an eye out for any sort of surface funk.

spiced kimchi veg - Food in Jars

This batch is a combination of shredded napa cabbage, grated carrot and daikon radish, shaved red radish bits, the tops of spring onions, ginger, garlic, grey sea salt, and gochugaru (that’s the Korean red chili powder and this is the only special ingredient I keep around specifically for kimchi making. It’s just not the same without it). Essentially, I combine all the ingredients, knead them together with with clean hands, pack the whole mess into a jar, and let it sit for a while.

tossed kimchi veg - Food in Jars

For those of you who aren’t regular kimchi eaters, let’s talk about to use this spicy, tangy fermented pickle. I scoop a couple forkfuls onto nearly every salad I make. It’s good stirred into soups (carrot or lentil are particularly good vehicles). And it’s miraculous gently warmed and eaten with scrambled eggs (Alana taught me that trick).

How do you eat your kimchi?

PS – For a more authentic recipe, along with everything you want to know about the world of fermenting, I highly suggest you visit my friend Amanda’s blog, Phickle. She’s incredibly knowledgeable and her site is a fantastic resource.

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Fermentation Fest, Dig In and Sauerkraut

back of the car, filled with fruit

There are a couple of events coming up in the next few days that I’ll be at. If you’re in the area, consider stopping by and saying hi!

First is the Kennett Square Fermentation Festival this Friday, October 1. It’s happening in conjunction with Kennett Square’s regular Friday afternoon Farmers’ Market. It will feature lots of samples of fermented foods and drinks, as well as a number of demonstrations on how to ferment at home. I’ll be doing at sauerkraut demo there at 4 p.m. so come out and say hi!

On Sunday, October 3, I’ll be at Slow Food Philly’s Dig In event. There’s a delegation of folks from the city who are heading to the Terre Madre Conference in Turin, Italy in a few weeks, and so this is part send-off, part celebration of the people and businesses who are living and working with the Slow Food philosophy in mind. The event is taking place at the World Cafe Live from 12 noon until 3 p.m. and tickets are $10. I’ll be there for my day job, representing the Philly Homegrown project, so while I won’t officially be talking canning, feel free to come and chat about it nonetheless.

There are still a few spots left for my sauerkraut class on Tuesday, October 5 at the Swarthmore Co-op, so get in touch (foodinjars AT gmail.com) if you want to sign up.

The Portland canning class on October 13 is totally full. I’m still taking names for the waiting list, so please email if you’d like to get on it. If you missed out this time around, I’ll be back in Portland around Christmas and am planning another class to take place then.

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Pickled Asparagus

Asparagus Tops

Oh asparagus! How I avoided pickling you. I kept you waiting in the fridge for over a week, as you anticipated your spicy vinegar bath. And yet, already you’ve given me so much! After just two days of pickling, you are the perfect balance of crisp and pucker. You make the perfect sidecar to just about any meal. I am enamored.

Blanched Asparagus

That’s right kids, the pickled asparagus has turned out to be a riotous success, despite the fact that I used asparagus that was a tiny bit past its prime (life, why much you always throw distractions into my canning schedule?) and forgot to include the peppercorns in the brine.

Pickling brine

I based my recipe on one from Putting Up, a really terrific book about Southern-style canning that was recommended to me by my friend Taylor. It’s by Stephen Palmer Dowdney, who ran a successful canning business in Charleston, SC for many years (although I’m far more impressed by the fact that he was a college classmate of Pat Conroy, who is one of my favorite authors). If you’re looking to expand your food preservation reference library (I make it sound so official, don’t I), this is definitely a volume to consider. I like how it’s organized by month, as well as the fact that it has really excellent details on the basics of canning.

Packing jars

Before we get into the recipe, I want to take a moment to encourage all of you to consider pickling something. Possibly even this week. The reason? It is so very simple. You can prep just a single jar at a time, which makes it the perfect first canning project. Honestly, you don’t even need to do the hot water bath if you’re just making a jar or two for yourself, you can just stash your pickles in the fridge. Making pickles will build your canning confidence and get you excited for more ambitious projects. I’m certainly chomping at the bit for my next pickling project (onions and then okra). If I’ve got you sufficiently excited, my favorite refrigerator pickle recipe is right here.

I’m not going to be giving a jar of these pickles away, since this whole pickling thing is new to me, I want to wait and make sure they continue to be good for the weeks to come before I start handing them out, all willy nilly. However, do not despair. I’ve got another giveaway up my sleeve that will be coming soon.

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Homemade Sauerkraut

sauerkraut-and-kielbasa

Last October, Scott and I filmed an episode of Fork You with Scott Gryzbek of Zukay Live Foods. Zukay makes a line of probiotic condiments and Scott (Gryzbek) came on the show to teach us some basic fermentation techniques. We made pickled daikon, an apple-pear chutney and sauerkraut. The episode was really fun to film and it piqued my interest for fermentation as a means of preservation.

Unfortunately, I let the chutney ferment a little too long and the sugars turned to alcohol, so we never got to taste that one. However, both the pickled daikon and the sauerkraut were huge successes. We polished off the daikon some time ago, but the sauerkraut has been hanging out in the fridge, waiting for a good application.

Sunday night, we planned a simple dinner. We had a coil of supermarket kielbasa in the fridge and two pounds of brussels sprouts that I was going to halve and roast with onions and garlic. Scott said, “Too bad we don’t have some sauerkraut.” In a flash, I remembered the jar that was tucked in the back of the refrigerator. He sliced up the sausage and tossed it in a frying pan with about half the jar of sauerkraut. Ten minutes later, the sausage was browned and the sauerkraut was translucent and pungently aromatic.

sauerkraut-in-fridge

I am now totally sold on homemade sauerkraut, because it was dead easy to make and so much more delicious that anything than came from the store (and there’s something magical about cutting up a cabbage in October and not eating it until February). We simply thinly sliced the cabbage (a nice big one from the Headhouse Square Farmers Market), put it in the bowl with a tablespoon of salt and a teaspoon of fennel seeds (we didn’t have any carraway, which is the traditional flavoring) and banged it up with a potato masher to break down the cell structure of the cabbage a bit. Then we packed it into a jar (packed being the operative word) and topped it with a bit of distilled water (just enough to cover the cabbage). Then it just hung out in a corner of the kitchen for about a month. I put it in the fridge after that time, but I do believe that you can also let it spend a bit more time doing its thing.

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