We’re so excited to welcome TWO new worker-owners into our co-op, Kate Hunter and Kat Smith!! As a worker co-operative, Real Pickles strives to create good local jobs with shared profits and empower our staff to direct the future of our business. We are proud to be part of the co-operative movement to build and strengthen democratic economies in our community and beyond. Kat says she’s “excited to be part of a team of people that is working toward restructuring the way businesses are run in the community.” Kate is glad to be taking on this meaningful role in a business with a mission that she believes in. By expanding workplace democracy in our business, we ensure that there are more voices shaping our collective economic future. We are so excited for Kat and Kate to join us in determining what our co-op will look like in the years to come!
Do you have an abundance of cabbage, daikon, cucumbers, or beets from your garden or CSA share? Do you have memories of pickles and sauerkraut bubbling away in a crock in your grandparents’ cellar? Would you like to recreate these in your own kitchen? If you’re brand new to fermentation, you are in the right place! Here is our two-part guide to get you started experimenting with this traditional fermentation technique for preserving vegetables and creating delicious, fermented flavors! In this post we’ll take you step by step through 2 different methods for fermenting vegetables, and in part 2, we’ll talk about developing recipes.
Before we get started, maybe you’re wondering, “what is fermentation, anyway?” In short, fermentation is a process of transforming food by creating an environment where beneficial bacteria can thrive. When fermenting vegetables, we mainly work with a broad category called lactic acid bacteria. They exist naturally on the surface of fresh vegetables (and in many other places too – like our skin, in healthy soil, etc.). The key to a robust fermentation is giving the lactic acid bacteria a warm, slightly salty, and anaerobic (no access to oxygen) environment. We’ll take you through that process below. For more information on fermentation, see a list of resources at the bottom of this post.
For these recipes, you will need:
- Cutting board and knife
- Kitchen scale
- Mixing bowl
- Measuring spoons
- Liquid measuring cup
- Clean Pint glass jars and lids. You can also use larger jars or crocks (measure the volume and scale up the recipes as needed).
- Optional: food processor or mandolin for slicing.
Vegetables: no more than 1 pound for each pint jar (less for the brined method)
- Many vegetables can be fermented: cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, radishes, onions, beets, cauliflower, and so many more! It is best to use fresh, local, and organic vegetables. This will ensure that plenty of fermenting microbes are present.
Herbs and spices: 1 tablespoon fresh herbs or 1 teaspoon dried herbs or spices.
- Completely optional, but fun to experiment with! These amounts are a starting point, but you may want to use more or less, depending on what you are working with.
Non-iodized salt: Iodine is anti-microbial and will inhibit the fermentation.
- Sea salt, kosher salt, and pickling salt are all ok to use. Best if free from additives.
Filtered water (using any home filtration system)
- If you have no filtration system and your tap water is heavily chlorinated, simply boil the water it and cool to room temperature before using it. Heavy chlorination may inhibit fermentation, but boiling releases it as vapor.
Prep: Brine Method
This method mixes salt and water to make the brine for a ferment of coarsely chopped or whole vegetables. The brining method is a great way to ferment veggies like salad radishes, spring carrots, snap or snow peas, beets, and cucumbers. If you want to scale up this recipe for a larger batch, use this ratio:
1 1/2 teaspoons salt : 1 pint water+vegetables.
- Choose your combination of vegetables, herbs, and spices to ferment (see part 2 for recipe suggestions).
- Coarsely chop your vegetables to yield about 2 cups of cubes, coins, or matchsticks for each pint jar. Or leave them whole if they are tender and smaller than your little finger.
- Place the veggies along with any herbs or spices in the jar, leaving an inch of headspace at the top.
- In a separate jar, mix 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt with 1/2 cup of water until the salt completely dissolves.
- Add the water and salt mixture to the jar of sliced veggies, then top off the jar with more water, leaving 3/4 inch of headspace. Make sure all your vegetables are below the brine.
- Screw the lid on loosely. Shake the jar gently to make sure the salt is evenly distributed.
- Put your jar in a warm (66-72’ F) place to ferment. Put a plate or tray under your jar as they often leak a little in the first week of fermenting.
Prep: Dry-Salting Method
This method is best for shredded veggies like cabbage or carrots. Mixing the salt directly into freshly shredded vegetables will draw our their water. Have you ever heard the saying ‘A pint is a pound the world ‘round’? Believe it or not about a pound of shredded/thinly sliced vegetables will perfectly fill a pint jar! If you want to scale up this recipe for a larger batch, use this ratio:
1 1/2 teaspoons salt : 1 pound (16 oz.) ingredients
- Choose your combination of vegetables, fresh herbs, and dry spices to ferment (see part 2 for recipe suggestions).
- Finely slice or shred your vegetables with a knife, food processor, or mandolin.
- Place the mixing bowl on the kitchen scale and tare the weight. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and fresh herbs or spices. Then add your sliced vegetables until the total weight is 16 oz.
- Mix the salt throughly into the vegetables, herbs, and spices. Let this sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the salt to draw out juices from the veggies as brine. The vegetables will also soften during this process.
- Mix the salted vegetables once more and then pack tightly into the jar leaving 3/4 inch head space. Press down firmly! It should all fit, though you might have a small amount leftover and that’s fine. Pour any brine from the bottom of the bowl on top of the mixture and press the vegetables down until they are submerged. Your vegetables should be covered by the brine. If your mixture is dry, it’s OK to add a tablespoon or two of water.
- Screw the lid on loosely.
- Put your jar in a warm (66-72’ F) place to ferment. Put a plate or a tray under your jar as they often leak a little in the first week of fermenting.
Checking and Tasting Your Ferments
Check on your fermenting veggies daily. Within a day or two you should notice pressure starting to build up in the jar. Once or twice a day, open the lid slowly to release the pressure. You may need to do this over the sink if there’s a lot of pressure, but try not to lose much of the liquid. By the end of the first week, you likely won’t need to “burp” the jars anymore. If the vegetable solids rise above the brine at any point, push them down gently with a clean utensil. Submerging your vegetables in the brine protects the ferment from yeasts and molds, which need oxygen to grow. If you are fermenting in a larger crock or jar, you may need to skim off any mold that grows on the top surface of the brine.
Start tasting your ferment after about a week. As it ferments, the raw vegetable flavor will fade and a sour flavor will become stronger. The texture of the vegetable will also soften with longer fermentation. If you still taste the raw vegetable, try letting it ferment for a few more days and then try it again. When you like the taste and texture, call it done! Putting your ferment in the fridge will slow the fermentation and preserve the taste and texture for many weeks or even months.
How do I Know if my Ferment is Safe to Eat?
- If your ferment was noticeably active in the first few days (bubbly and producing lots of gas), that’s a strong sign. A vigorous fermentation means the lactic acid bacteria are happy and preserving the food.
- You might also notice a whiteish, cloudy substance gathering at the bottom of the jar or in the brine. This is a natural by-product of fermentation and is totally safe and normal.
- Problems like mold or yeast usually occur on the surface of the ferment where it comes into contact with the air. If you notice a little white mold or a darker top layer with a sweet yeasty smell, you can scrape it off and discard the top layer until the ferment looks fresh and smells pleasantly sour.
- If it smells good and appetizing to you, try a small bite. If it tastes pleasantly sour, then it is safe to eat!
Fermentation Resources and Inspiration
Clay fermenting crocks:
Real Pickles is in operation under the COVID-19 Essential Services provision within Massachusetts Governor Baker’s recent emergency order. We are operating with reduced staff and following strict guidance established by the MA Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and US Food & Drug Administration. All staff who can work remotely are doing so, and those working on-site are following social distancing protocols in all aspects of production, shipping, deliveries, and office work.
Our top priorities include:
- caring for our employees and keeping them safe;
- continuing to provide nourishing food to our community during this time when health and nutrition are of utmost importance;
- supplying regional grocers who are experiencing surging demand and intermittent distribution and supply; and
- successfully steering our business through these challenging times so that we can continue to provide healthy food, meaningful jobs and ownership opportunities into the future.
To all our customers, please know we are following strict protocols at all times to keep our product and employees safe.
For any questions, or to arrange curbside pickup, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing everyone health and safety during this difficult time.
– The crew at Real Pickles.
As a worker-owner at Real Pickles, I’m excited that my work exists at the intersection of two of my passions: building a just food system, and building co-operative economies. There is plenty of work to do at that intersection, and we are not alone as we do it. We have powerful historical examples of cooperatives of all kinds working to transform the food system (shout-out to the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, to name one of my inspirations). Right now, there are a growing number of worker co-ops starting up in our local food scene in western Massachusetts. In the last year, we have seen The Compost Cooperative launch in Greenfield, creating living wage, ownership-track jobs for formerly incarcerated people. The Pioneer Valley Workers Center is laying the groundwork for a worker co-op farm, where farm workers can bring their experience farming in the Northeast and Central America to collective farm ownership. October is National Co-op Month, the perfect time to celebrate and support these co-ops who are working towards a just transition.
This summer, Real Pickles got the chance to share the stage with two other Massachusetts-based worker co-ops who share another, even more specific, intersection with us: fermentation and workplace democracy. At the Boston Fermentation Festival, we were part of the “Fermenting Workplace Democracy” panel, alongside Danielle Robidoux from Equal Exchange and James Razsa from Democracy Brewing. We represent three different ages of worker co-ops, and we work in different parts of the food web. Greg Brodsky, founder of Start.Coop, who moderated the panel, led us through a Q&A that demystified what it means to be a worker co-op and what fermentation and workplace democracy have in common. We found many similarities in our co-ops, like how owners make decisions together, and how profits are shared.
Of the three worker co-ops on the panel, Equal Exchange is the most senior and the largest. For more than thirty years, Equal Exchange has been building fair trade supply chains by partnering with small farmers who grow and ferment coffee, tea, and chocolate. Because many of Equal Exchange’s farm partners are organized as farmer co-ops, they remind me that the movement of co-ops in the food system is global, not just local. On the panel, we discussed how food brands often grow so they can “sell out,” or get bought by larger companies; instead, Real Pickles and Equal Exchange are independent businesses owned by our workers, and our growth benefits our workers, communities, and partners instead of corporate CEOs and shareholders. Equal Exchange was one of the co-ops that supported Real Pickles during our conversion to a worker co-op, as they have supported so many other co-ops globally.
Opened on July 4th, 2018, Democracy Brewing is a brewery and pub located in downtown Boston. They created a worker co-op and signature beer recipes from scratch, and their beers’ names give pub-goers a lesson in Boston’s activist history, like the 1919 Strike Stout. On the panel, James Razsa talked about the challenges of raising capital when starting the business. One of the tools they used to raise the money they needed was a direct public offering, just as Real Pickles did in 2013 to finance our conversion to a worker co-op. Both Real Pickles and Democracy Brewing are raising the bar for jobs in the food system, where low wages and poor working conditions are often, unfortunately, the norm. In terms of wages, both our co-ops have kept ahead of the statewide minimum wage raises, and Real Pickles offers health insurance and a generous paid time off benefit. In terms of building engaged, democratic workplaces, James and I compared stories about how we run our kitchens differently as co-ops, and what it sounds like when our crews make decisions together.
We send a big thank you to the Boston Fermentation Festival organizers for giving us a chance to gather with other worker co-op fermenters and explore these connections! Check out the video of the panel to learn more.
When we arrived at Martin’s Farm in Greenfield, MA on a Monday in mid-September, Adam Martin was in the driveway, repairing a yellow machine the size of a fire truck with “The Beast” written on its side. Adam welcomed us with a wide smile and grease-streaked cheeks. We had traveled up the road to Martin’s Farm for our annual staff field trip, an opportunity to meet our partners in building a strong regional food system. To begin our tour, Adam introduced us to The Beast, which can grind 1 ton of food scraps per minute. Adam, who studied diesel mechanics before he went to business school, wears many hats on this farm, from owner to tour guide to repairer of The Beast.
Martin’s Farm is one of a handful of family-run compost farms in Massachusetts. Bob Martin, Adam’s Father, started the farm in 1981, and in 1987 he got one of the first state permits for on-farm composting. They now accept up to 22 tons of compostables per day and sell multiple blends of high quality compost. Real Pickles has been sending our vegetable waste to Martin’s farm for over a decade. In the early years, we brought our compostables to Martin’s in a pick-up truck. Now, we send Martin’s over 60,000 lbs of compostables each year – that’s 97% of our facility’s entire waste stream. By composting our scraps into soil nutrients that farmers can return to their fields, Martin’s Farm is one of the crucial links that closes the loop between farms, fermentation, and people’s forks.
We followed Adam out of the driveway, over the truck scale where loads of compostables are weighed, and down the road to the composting yard. The air smelled like fresh mulch – a rich, woody, slightly sharp scent. Here, amidst the windrows of compost from this summer, Adam walked us through the whole composting process. When food scraps arrive, staff sort through the load by hand to remove anything not compostable. The sorted loads are digested by The Beast, and then mixed in the right ratios of nitrogen materials (food scraps) to carbon materials (wood chips, leaves, etc.). This recipe of nitrogen and carbon is the key to composting: the microbes that break down the compostables need the right habitat to thrive. While the microbes get to work, Adam monitors temperature and moisture in the compost piles to keep them happy. In 3-4 months, the microbes have digested the food waste into rich organic matter and raw nutrients. Just like any other farmer, Adam’s composting season has been affected by all the rainy weather this summer; the extra moisture made the compost heavier, and backed up his schedule because he had to wait for the the sun to dry out the piles.
Back in the driveway at the end of the tour, Adam is quick to point out that he couldn’t make a difference in the food system without the schools, businesses, and neighbors who send him food scraps. And together, there is more we can do to reduce food waste. According to the MA Food System Collaborative, in 2017, approximately 900,000 tons of food were thrown away in Massachusetts – that’s enough food waste to keep The Beast running for a year and 8 months, with no breaks! With municipal landfills at capacity, regulators have created incentives to compost food waste instead of trashing it. Massachusetts enacted a ban on commercial food waste in 2014, and the ban has increased the demand for compost collection and transportation. So far, two worker cooperative businesses have started up to meet this need: CERO Co-op based in Dorchester and serving Boston, and The Compost Cooperative based Greenfield and delivering to Martin’s Farm.
Adam sent us on our way with tractor air fresheners as souvenirs, and a fresh commitment to take stickers off our fruit peels when we compost them. We’re grateful to share a place in the food system with dedicated, food-humored people like Adam and the Martin’s Farm crew!
This guest blog is written by our friend Zoe Gardner, a self-proclaimed herb nerd and plant lover with over 20 years of experience working with medicinal plants. A specialist in the quality and safety of medicinal plants, she is the author of the 2nd edition of the American Herbal Products Association Botanical Safety Handbook, a reference text on the safety of over 500 medicinal plants. Zoe helped found the Medicinal Plant Program at UMass Amherst, spent seven years overseeing product development and product safety at Traditional Medicinals, and now splits her time between working as a research consultant to herbal companies and creating botanical pottery. You can find more about her pottery on Instagram and Etsy. She is proud to be a member of the Real Pickles Advisory Board.
I am so excited for Real Pickles’ new small batch Organic Nettle Kraut! If you’ve spent any time learning about herbs, or if you have friends who love using herbs or foraging for wild foods, then you probably share my excitement. But, if you haven’t heard of nettles as an edible plant, and especially if you’ve brushed up against nettles and experienced its famous sting, the idea of nettle kraut probably sounds a little crazy to you. When nettles are prepared properly, they make an amazing addition to food or tea, with a level of rich green goodness that’s hard to top.
Herbalists and wild food enthusiasts get *very* excited about nettles. Here in the Northeast they are among the first plants to come up in the spring, providing rich edible greens after a time when greens are traditionally in short supply, and, perhaps most importantly, signaling the end of winter. For wild food enthusiasts, nettles provide the first chance to go foraging and eat fresh local greens. For herbalists, nettles are one of the most widely used herbs in the Western herbal tradition. They are considered a nutritive tonic that contains a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals, providing nutritional support to benefit the health of all the systems in the body. Nettles are one of the many plants that blur the line between food and medicine. I often think of them as super-kale, so wonderfully full of nutrients that in order to persist in the wild they need to protect themselves with stinging hairs.
Each spring I try to find the time to harvest, cook, and freeze nettles so that I’ll have them around throughout the season. The greens are a wonderful addition to soups, stews, and many other dishes where spinach or kale are used. Some people even make the savory Greek spinach pie, spanakopita, with nettles instead of spinach. But I don’t always get around to preserving fresh nettles, and when I do it’s a bit of a production – chopping leaves with gloves on so that I don’t get stung by the fresh plants. So, I’m very grateful that the Real Pickles crew took the time to preserve some nettles in kraut so that I can enjoy the taste of fresh nettle in the fall and winter.
The timing of nettle and cabbage harvest seasons don’t usually coincide very well, with the main cabbage harvest in New England running from September to November, and nettles being one of the first plants up in March or April. Nettles do stick around all summer, but they get tougher and more prickly as they grow, especially as they start to flower. When nettles are properly tended and repeatedly cut back over the course of the growing season, the new leaves can be harvested several times in a season and are just about as tender as that first spring harvest. Real Pickles worked with a Vermont farm, Foster Farm Botanicals, to get the timing just right, receiving a wonderful fresh and tender delivery of nettles to ferment with the first of this year’s cabbage crop.
This small batch Organic Nettle Kraut is a simple and delicious blend of cabbage, fresh nettles, sea salt, and scallions. It’s all the fermented and probiotic benefit of kraut with the addition of the green goodness of nettles to help keep you well-fed and healthy through the winter, until you can go pick some fresh nettles in the spring.
RECIPE: Nettle Kraut Pancake with Herbal Schav (cold vegetable soup)
Serves 4, Vegetarian and gluten free.
- 1, 15 oz jar Organic Nettle Kraut, strained, liquid reserved for schav
- ¼ t baking powder
- 1 clove garlic, finely grated
- ¼ cup flour (gluten free: blend 2 parts cornstarch to 1 part rice flour)
- 2-4 T nettle kraut brine
- clarified butter for frying
Strain sauerkraut, reserving liquid for both loosening batter and for schav (below)
Combine flour and baking powder, whisk
Grate garlic and mix with kraut
Add dry ingredients to the kraut and garlic mixture and fold together
Add kraut brine a little at a time to achieve a slightly stiff, cake-like batter
Fry on a medium-hot pan in clarified butter until crispy
Serve hot alongside room temperature schav
- 3 hard boiled eggs
- approximately ½ lb. mixed greens (such as swiss chard, kale, collards, nettles, brussels sprout leaves, pea shoots, turnip or beet greens, sweet potato leaves)
- approximately ¼ lb sorrel
- approximately ¼ lb herbs (mint, parsley, dill, nasturtium leaves, etc.)
- 2 cups greens cooking liquid for thinning puree
- 2 cloves garlic
- brine from one, 15 oz jar Organic Nettle Kraut
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt to taste
- 1 ½ cups creme fraiche, sour cream, or yogurt
Blanch greens in well-salted boiling water then shock in an ice bath, reserve cooking liquid.
Puree cooked greens with garlic, nettle kraut brine, and some of the cooking liquid
Add the sorrel, puree to smooth
Add raw herbs (mint, parsley, dill, nasturtium leaves) a little at a time, pureeing, and tasting/adjusting for desired flavor, reserve a handful for garnish
Slowly add olive oil to puree while blending to thicken
Strain puree through a fine mesh sieve *
Salt to taste
Stir in creme fraiche
Finish with a squeeze of lemon, chopped herbs, boiled eggs (halved) and serve alongside nettle kraut pancakes
Recipe contributed by Bill McKerchie.
As you may know, here at Real Pickles we are deeply committed to buying our vegetables only from Northeast family farms and selling our products only within the Northeast. One way in which we are able to achieve this, and in turn help to build a strong, organic and regional food system, is by working with small independently-owned regional distributors who bring Real Pickles to our Northeast neighbors.
With this in mind, we began partnering with Myers Produce in 2016 as a way to bring our ferments deeper into the urban areas of the Northeast, and we’ve been thrilled with the results!
Myers Produce has been in operation since 2013. As a regional distributor based in Vermont, they buy vegetables and value added foods primarily from small, mostly organic farms in Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine. They then truck and sell to stores and restaurants in the New York City and Boston areas. Everything they offer has been produced in the Northeast. It’s a beautifully closed loop!
I recently chatted with Annie Myers, owner and founder of Myers Produce, about her experience delivering delicious regionally-grown food to cities in the Northeast. Read about it here, and let us know your thoughts on how regional food fits into your life.
How did you decide to start a food distribution business?
AM: I had been working on a farm in Northern Vermont for about three years at the time, and it had become clear that the farms in my area were struggling to reach markets outside the state. After the local wholesale market was maxed out, our farm considered major supermarket chains to be the best option for increased sales, and the demands of those large supermarket chains were not well-suited to the structure and diversity of our vegetable farm. Although I had been living in Vermont, I am originally from Brooklyn, and had spent some time working in the food industry in New York. I had friends in the city who I knew were looking for a better way to source food grown in our region, and who could afford to pay reasonable prices for that food. After a few years of seeing the disconnect between Vermont farms and high-end urban wholesale customers, I decided to start a business that might connect the supply in Vermont with the demand in the city.
Who are your main customers?
AM: Our produce goes to retail stores and restaurants throughout NYC and the Boston area. Our largest customers are a food co-op, an online retailer, and a fast casual restaurant chain, all in NYC.
How many truckloads of regionally-produced food do you deliver to New York City & Boston each year?
AM: We deliver in NYC four times per week throughout the summer and three times per week throughout the year. We deliver to the Boston area five times per week through the summer and twice per week throughout the year. All told this is about 330 truck loads per year!
How has Myers Produce changed over the years since you started?
AM: When we started, the business consisted of me, a van, and a computer, and I was delivering exclusively to NYC customers once a week. We have grown a lot since then! We are now a team of ten employees operating four box trucks. Our mission has remained the same since the beginning – we work to increase Northeast farmers’ access to regional urban wholesale customers, in order to support the strength of agriculture and the regional food system in the Northeast.
How does the seasonality of our Northeast agriculture impact your business?
AM: We have a much less diverse list in the winter than we do in the summertime. We don’t source any products from outside the region, so as soon as a product goes out of season in the Northeast, it is no longer offered on our list. That said, many of our farmers do an amazing job of season extension, and our winter offerings are probably more diverse than you might expect! We have greenhouse-grown spinach, tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes year-round, and we generally have kale, fennel and leeks well into January. And we have added value goods made with locally-grown produce available as well, like products from Real Pickles!
In a relatively short period of time, you have built up a great reputation as a regional distributor. What are the integral aspects to your success?
AM: We don’t know the answer to this entirely, but I think we have prioritized efficient systems, clear communication, and good customer service from the very beginning. I know these things mean a lot to our farmers and producers, and to our urban customers.
With all the farms and food producers in Vermont and the Pioneer Valley, how do you choose your offerings?
AM: We don’t have an exact formula, but we try to keep our list diverse and to offer a consistent high quality. We try to source the products that we consider to match growers’ strengths, while also balancing location, price point, seasonality, and scale.
What do we need to be thinking about as consumers and shoppers, in terms of building a strong regional food system?
AM: I know that all of our customers are constantly competing with huge corporate sources of food (Amazon/Whole Foods in particular), and that they are challenged to differentiate themselves in the eyes of consumers. I think the most important thing is for shoppers to be intentional about where they spend their money, and think about who they are supporting by where they buy their food. If we want to support local growers in the Northeast, we need to make sure to spend money where it will stay in regional circulation.
What is the most interesting behind-the-scenes aspect of Myers?
AM: We really only have one physical warehouse space. But, to cover the distances we cover while adhering to regulations – and also create jobs that we think are sustainable – we have drivers based in NYC, Western MA, and VT. All of these drivers start and end their days in the same locations, but they drive from VT to Western MA and back, from Western MA to NJ and back, from Western MA to VT and back, and from Western MA to Boston and back.
What has been your favorite aspect of your job over the years?
AM: I have always loved puzzles, and I’ve grown to enjoy creating systems that are physical, flexible, efficient, and full of moving parts. I love it when an opportunity or inquiry comes up on a given morning, and I get to think about how that opportunity fits into our current operation, send a few emails, make a few phone calls, and be able to take advantage of that opportunity (often by the next day) in a way that makes sense for all parties involved. It keeps me on my toes, and it helps me feel that Myers Produce is providing a real service that can adapt to the needs of the folks that we are trying to serve.
Have you seen these yet? The new Real Pickles small batch line is hitting the shelves of a few stores and our webstore this month. And if you see them, don’t blink! As the name suggests, we only made a small amount of each product, so they may be gone the next time you look.
This is the first year for our small batch line, and we’re so excited about it! For each of three products, we’ve teamed up with some of our local farmers to feature vegetables that we don’t often get to use but that ferment deliciously! Working in smaller batches gives us the flexibility to experiment and be more creative with different vegetables, flavors and techniques. Many of the vegetables in the small batch line are hand-sliced, which would be hard for us to do on a larger scale. It also allows us to test recipes that we may want to consider for our regular line – so be sure to let us know what you think!
For example, our Organic Hakurei Turnip with Dulse highlights a little-known but fantastic fresh-eating salad turnip – SO different from the turnip-wagon roots that are used in the Thanksgiving mash. Grown by many small farmers, including Kitchen Garden and Atlas Farm, they are both sweet and spicy and have a wonderful texture for salads or crudité. Paired with dulse (a wild sea vegetable) from Maine, local ginger from Old Friends Farm, and lightly fermented with unrefined sea salt, the turnips are transformed into a succulent mustardy-sweet mouthful that is reminiscent of chilly days on the New England seashore. These are great on a fresh appetizer plate with cheese, olives, cold cuts or oysters, and crispy crackers.
Plentiful fresh garden herbs decorate and enliven our Organic Shallot and Herb Kraut. Grown by Next Barn Over Farm, Old Friends Farm, and Picadilly Farm, the aromas of cilantro, parsley, and oregano were intoxicating as we chopped and mixed them with fresh cabbage. There’s so much greenery, you’ll find these seasonal herbs are central ingredients in this ferment rather than mere accents! Inspired by Argentine green chimichurri sauce, this kraut will bring back memories of your summer herb garden, even as the snow falls. A wonderful addition to breakfast plates, soups, salads, and alongside sausage or steak.
The Organic Spicy Carrot Escabeche features cauliflower from Kitchen Garden Farm. We love cauliflower (not just because of its distinct fractal properties), and Kitchen Garden grew some magnificent heads this year. Our crew quickly cut it down to size to ferment alongside sweet carrots, onion, garlic, chile pepper, and oregano. For this recipe, we were inspired by flavors from Latin American and Spanish acidic marinades for meat, fish, or vegetables – and are often seen nowadays as a classic taqueria mix. These traditional marinades originally derive from natural (lactic acid) fermentation, and we’re excited to bring the fermented flavors back to update this classic condiment.
The dish below is a bi-hemispheric take on the grain bowl. A traditional North American grain, Canadian wild rice, and a traditional South American grain, quinoa, come together as the base beneath gently wilted kale, earthy black beans, avocado, and a trio of condiments. Quick pickled red onion, lime zest and cayenne-flecked creme fraiche, and Real Pickles’ new Organic Spicy Carrot Escabeche meld beautifully with the nutty grains under a shower of cilantro. Thanks to Bill McKerchie for this delicious & nourishing comfort food recipe inspired by Latin American cuisine. Don’t be deterred by the length of this delicious recipe, it is well worth the multiple, easy steps. Enjoy!
with kale, black beans, avocado, and Spicy Carrot Escabeche
Serves 4-6, vegetarian, cooking time: 45 minutes
- 1 cup wild rice
- heavy pinch of salt
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 bunch kale, torn or coarsely chopped
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2-15oz cans black beans
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon dulse (optional)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1-2 avocados, sliced
- 1 medium sized red onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 lime, juiced, zest reserved for creme fraiche
- 8 ounces creme fraiche (or sour cream)
- cayenne pepper to taste
- sea salt
- leaves of 6-8 cilantro stems to garnish, finely chopped stems reserved for creme fraiche
- 1/2 jar Real Pickles Organic Spicy Carrot Escabeche
For the wild rice: Bring 3 cups salted water to a boil, add rice, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until grains are split like little hot dog buns and al dente.
For quinoa: Rinse the quinoa well. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add the quinoa and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook approximately 15 minutes.
For kale: Coarsely chop or tear kale and season with soy sauce and lemon juice, quickly sauté kale with 1 tbsp oil. Remove from heat when kale is uniformly wilted.
For black beans: In a small sauce pan, cook cilantro stems and garlic in 1 tbsp oil until soft. Add beans, their liquid, cocoa and dulse (or sea salt) and cook until thickened to a thin paste. Salt as needed.
For pickled red onion: Slice onion very thin. Toss the onion with a large pinch of salt, let sweat, then squeeze out liquid, rinse with water and squeeze again.
Repeat salt, squeeze, rinse.
Place onion in a small bowl and toss with juice of one lime. Let sit 20-30 min. Squeeze out excess liquid. Salt to taste.
For creme fraiche: Combine Creme Fraiche, lime zest, finely chopped cilantro stems. Add salt and cayenne to taste.
To Complete: In a bowl, place a scoop of quinoa and rice, season with salt. Top the grains with kale on 1/3, beans on 1/3. Make little mounds of pickled onion and escabeche. Top it all with avocado slices, a healthy drizzle of creme fraiche and finally cilantro.
As the leaves turn and summer – somewhat reluctantly – gives way to fall, there is a sweet moment across the agrarian farmscapes of the Northeast. A precious time between the hot sticky days of summer and the bitter cold of winter where the last of the heat-loving crops and the first frost-sweetened storage vegetables can briefly be found side by side on our tables. While farmers are still busy bringing in the bulk harvest and Real Pickles is in full swing preserving it, autumn provides an opportune time to reflect on the growing season, our continuing production season, and offer up a few tasty tidbits.
Because Real Pickles uses only organic and Northeast-grown vegetables, our success and ability to deliver high quality ferments is linked, hip to hip, with the seasonal accomplishments of the growers with whom we work. The word from our farm partners is that, overall, it’s been a good season. Like any year, there have been setbacks alongside the successes. Back in the spring, many early plantings got off to a slow start with a long stretch of lingering cool weather. A hailstorm in May resulted in crop losses for some of our growers. Still, farmers exceeded our expectations for cucumbers this season and pallets of storage crops are coming in the door like sheep to new pasture. And unlike 2016, when many New England farmers struggled with the impacts of drought, 2017 has brought sufficient rainfall.
So far this season, we have worked with: Red Fire Farm (MA), Chamutka Farm (MA), Old Friends Farm (MA), Riverland Farm (MA), Next Barn Over Farm (MA), Harlow Farm (VT), Three Crows Farm (VT), Full Bloom Market Garden (MA), Atlas Farm (MA), Kitchen Garden Farm (MA) and Picadilly Farm (NH).
The Real Pickles staff recently took an opportunity to visit and tour Atlas Farm in South Deerfield, MA where we got to see the meticulous details that go into running a 100-acre certified organic, diversified vegetable farm. Atlas grows significant quantities of green cabbage, Napa cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, beets, onions, cucumbers, dill, and cilantro for us. Taking the time to get out of the kitchen and visit one of our principal growers during our (and their) busiest season was a challenge to organize, but we enjoyed getting to know one of our farms a little more deeply. It also served to underscore the value of interdependence as we continue working towards a stronger regional food system.
Just as our commitment to local sourcing links our success with that of our growers, it also drives our production schedule – when cucumbers are available, we make dill pickles, and when there is a lull in our processing of fresh vegetables we are allowed time to pack up thousands of jars worth of fermented food. Cucumbers for our dill pickles are no longer coming into the production kitchen at this time of year, but storage crops like cabbage, beets, carrots and onions are now arriving in earnest. The bounty is impressive.
Fall is constantly inspiring us to find creative ways to incorporate our ferments on the harvest table. For the home cook working within the constraints and pleasures of seasonality, fall is a wonderful time.
For us here at Real Pickles, fermented vegetables serve a vital role in our meals at home. Sometimes we are aiming for a quick snack with a healthy dose of probiotics and will eat a few forkfuls of Organic Turmeric Kraut straight from the jar. Other times, we incorporate the ferments into a meal in a more creative way. One simple but interesting technique is pairing cooked vegetables with their fermented counterparts as in this Beet Borscht recipe, which uses Organic Beet Kvass and fresh beets.
A spicy squash soup is a great way to use a number of our ferments, incorporating Organic Tomatillo Hot Sauce for heat and Organic Beets or Organic Ginger Carrots as a garnish. Most fleshy winter squashes will work nicely – kabocha provides a particularly nice texture.
In the Northeast, we have no shortage of unusual and delicious apple varieties. This holiday season, we look forward to serving apple and sauerkraut stuffing (recipe below). Like the savory kimchi pancake, cooking the sauerkraut brings out additional flavors but removes some of the probiotic benefits, so you may want to heap some cold kraut on your plate, too!
Serves 10. Vegetarian
• 10 cups torn pieces bread of choice – whole grain sourdough works well
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 cups chopped sweet yellow onions
• 2 cups chopped apples, choose a tart variety like Jonagold or Cortland
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• ¼ cup roughly chopped mixed fresh herbs – sage, parsley, rosemary and thyme work well – or 4 tsp dried
• 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 cups broth of choice
• ½ cup shredded Gruyère cheese
• ½ cup Real Pickles Organic Sauerkraut
• ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 275°F. Spread bread on a baking sheet and bake until dry, about 30 minutes. Let cool. Transfer to a large bowl.
Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and apples; cook, stirring often, until just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, until tender, about 5 minutes more. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add herbs and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Scrape the mixture on top of the bread. Melt butter in the pan, and pour over the bread. Add broth to taste, cheese, sauerkraut and pepper to the bread mixture and stir to combine. Transfer to an oiled baking dish. Cover the stuffing with foil.
Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until golden brown and all liquid is evaporated, about 20 minutes more.
Recipe adapted from EatingWell Magazine’s Test Kitchen