Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

November 23, 2008

It's like Christmas!!..... In November?

Or at least it seems that way. A~'s Dad got to our house today, all the way out from West (by God) Virgina for Thanksgiving. He drove all the way out and had planned the trip for months, but how he managed to time it perfectly for the lowest gas prices in years I'll never know. Either way, he's here now and we're glad to have him.

Since he drove out, he was able to bring out a few things from WV that he otherwise wouldn't have been able to. A~'s Mom, at our request, had gone out to a couple of second hand stores in their area to look for stone crocks for us. From what I understand they searched for somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour and picked these two up for us. They're in really good shape too! The one on the left is a beautiful six gallon crock and the other is a two gallon one. We've looked here for crocks, and have only found them in one shop. That six gal one would have probably set us back close to $150.00. Hence, the reason we have been thus far crockless. Ilex, a blog-friend has a beautiful collection of crocks that I've been so envious of, and she made a great point the other day in a reply to me, as a matter of fact, that was pretty spot on I think. Crocks are one of those things in American culinary history that really don't exist in the west. I mean I'm sure they were used to a point, but were never as big as they were in areas east of the Mississippi. We have some now though, so fermented pickles are on the radar for next season, and oh the sauerkraut I can make in that six gallon baby!! We had some tonight as a matter of fact, after we unloaded the crocks and got to talking about them and the things we'll make, which naturally lead to talking about kraut, which made us all hungry. Fortunately for us, my latest batch of kraut has just gotten edible and we had kielbasa and brats in the fridge so that was a no-brainer.

So here's what I need to know, what kind of crock-made goodies have any of you made? Do you have recipies to share, or books that you recommend I add to the winter reading list? I'm really excited about exploring this ancient method of preserving foods. Thanks so much T~, I really appreciate the time and thought that you put into finding these for us, they'll be put to good use!

Oh yeah, and guess what else? That's not it, we got two other great surprises from Mom, but you'll have to wait until tomorrow for those. (Ain't I a tease??)


Anonymous said...

Yipee for good finds at handmedown stores!!!!!!!!!! I love it!!! Big thanks to parents who care to do for thier adult children too :-)!! Enjoy your time with family. tp

ilex said...

Those crocks are great. You're going to love fermenting.

This is going to be long, so bear with me.

The basic rules to follow:

-steady, cool temperature (mid to upper 60s F so is ideal- not above 76F)
-dark or shaded environment- I keep mine in a closet

-"hard" cruciferous or root veg veg work best- i.e., ripe tomatoes will turn to mush. Peppers are great, if very fresh. Most leafy greens are possible, but are usually salted and tightly wrapped on themselves- think kim chee.

-Brine mix- 1 tbsp (or slightly less) *pickling* salt to 4 cups *filtered* water (chlorine stops fermentation; I use water from my Brita pitcher, and pickling salt is free of additives). Salt rule- the higher the ambient temperature, the higher the salt content.

-*always* keep veg completely submerged with brine mixture
-skim mold off top as necessary

One of my favorite recipes for fall- the veg mix is approximate and is based on what looked good at the farmer's market:

1 head cauliflower
6-8 turnips
6-8 carrots
4-6 peppers (if available- hot or sweet, or both)
a few beets, if you like- it will turn the batch bright fuchsia
entire head of garlic, peeled
4-8 tbsp dill seed (to taste)
a few sticks of cinnamon
2 tbsp whole cloves
1 tbsp mustard seed
Handful of grape leaves (fresh, not jarred, if you can get them- the tannins in the leaves are a crisping agent)

Spice rule- use whole spices whenever possible. Ground spices can discolor your pickles.

Peel carrots, and turnips if they are very large. Seed peppers. Cut all veg into bite-sized pieces- your choice as to what that size is. Place into very clean, scalded crock, in this order:
Grape leaves on bottom
Spices/ garlic
Brine to cover, at least by two inches
Non-reactive pickle board or plate that fits snugly and holds veg snugly under brine (or batch may spoil)
Clean weight on top, to hold board under brine

I had a hard time finding a plate that fit well. My husband came up with a brilliant idea- use a large stainless steel steamer basket with the aluminum legs and center stem removed (the aluminum might react with the salt). The leaves of the basket expand to the size of the crock. It works very well.

For a weight, I use a quart canning jar filled with water. But a lid on the jar in case it tips- otherwise the water would dilute your brine mix.

Over it all, I place a cloth held down by a rubber band. Keeps the critters out.

In a few days, the crock will begin to bubble. This is good- fermenting has started.

If a mold forms on the top, skim it off, but don't worry if you can't get it all.

Sample after one week. Veg should be tart and crisp, and not slimy or soft- if they have gone off, or you have any doubts, don't eat. I usually let my crocks go for two weeks.

I store the results in clean, sterilized canning jars in the refrigerator- the batch I described usually fills 6 or 7 quart jars. Put veg in jars first, then add brine from crock. The brine will be cloudy, but will settle in a day or two. The fridge temp will keep the culture live, but prevent it from fermenting further. These pickles will keep for months, but in our house, they never last that long.

Ok, some arcane stuff now. I was taught how to ferment by some really old-school mountain folk in western NC. They all garden and ferment by the zodiac, and they told me, "Never ferment when the moon is in the trunk or bowels of the man of signs; head and neck is ideal, and lower legs are ok". I thought it was a bunch of hooey, so I fermented every weekend for 4 months, regardless. I never consulted the zodiac until I lost three crocks on three separate occasions when I fermented during the "bowel" times- I went back and checked, and sure enough. It's ok to pickle with vinegar during these times, but I don't recommend fermenting. A Farmer's Almanac has the charts (and usually a one-page cheat sheet of "best times to ferment" etc), during the year. I'm a believer now. It's a pain in the butt when a crock spoils. Cutting veg is a lot of work.

If you have any questions, I'm here to help!

ilex said...

Oh yeah, Two of my favorite books-
"Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Ellix Katz

"Preserving Food Without Freezing or Drying" by the Gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivante.

Matriarchy said...

Nice crocks! My mother has my grandmother's big pickle crock, and I will inherit it someday. Old crocks art getting harder to find in the East, too.

Nate said...

I'm just going to second your statement about crocks not being too much of a presence west of the Mississippi. I wouldn't even have known what they were for before reading this post.

Now it's time to keep my eyes out (though I'm guessing I won't have much luck since we live in the same neck of the woods). Mmmmmmm. Pickles.


It's me said...

Haven't you noticed that yard sales out in the faaaar west aren't nearly as exciting as those in the midwest. If you're near a place that was big and well-populated 100 years ago MAYBE, but if you're in BF-Egypt, there's very little. I would assume that crocks didn't travel well on those wagon trains! :)

Anonymous said...

I couple of years ago a neighbor who made kim chi in a crock and it was DELICIOUS (and hot. I mean hot hot. I mean, setting there waiting for your eyebrows to finally run out of sweat and fall off, HOT).

One of the best endorphin rushes I have ever had was the second bowl of kim chi.

Barb J. said...

Does anyone have any idea if you could use the liner from an old Crockpot as a fermenting crock?

Sadge said...

Traditionally, eggs were stored in a solution of waterglass (sodium silicate - not to be confused with isinglass, a product for use in winemaking). A solution of waterglass is made of one part sodium silicate to nine parts of water and placed in a large container, either a crock or food safe plastic bucket. Fresh, unblemished eggs, completely submerged in the solution, are said to last up to six months.

P~ said...

Ilex~ Thank you Thank you!
I will definitely look into those books too.

Mike~ I'm feeling pretty comfortable with the sauerkraut, next year I definitely want to try some kim chee. I have a good friend who is korean so hopefully I can get an authentic recipe.

BarbJ~ I see no reason why you couldn't. If you look back at my original sauerkraut post, I used a second hand cookie jar. It worked like a charm. I mean it is called a "CROCK"pot isn't it? Good thinking!

Nate~ I'm keeping my eye on the DI for large stoneware. Like Barb said, Old crock pot crocks should work. I've seen glass used as well. I would think thick walled glass would be best.

Thanks for your input all!

Barb J. said...

Thanks! I just bought a Crockpot liner and lid without the electric part at a yard sale for a $1. Of course, I think the owner thought I was crazy for just wanting the liner....

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Where is the West is everyone? Pickling crocks are everywhere near Portland, Oregon. Old or new, our local feedstore has new ones, and a quick look on Craigslist always has crocks.

I use my larger ones for mouse proof storage of grains, and a larger 12 gallon (My DH's grandparent's repa crock)for sauerkraut. Recently I found a damaged Harsch pickling crock on ebay that was local and cheap, and close enough I could pick it up instead of shipping.

Most crocks you see nowadays being sold in antique stores are not old enough to have been on a wagon train. Most were made well after 1900. And are still being made today, check Lehmans or your local hardware store. (if Walmart hasn't run them out of business.)

Robbyn said...

Woooo, congratulations on the crocks AND the other goodies!!

Martin said...

We saw some great crocks up at Smith and Edwards. I think the 6 gallon was $50. If you want more crocks, you might want to check it out.