Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Get your hands on a jar!

Pickles are a-comin', and I am soliciting members for the inaugural batch:  Crescent City Sauerkraut.  This cabbage ferment will be tangy and effervescent by the first week in April.  In the spirit of starting small, there are only 15 shares available in this first round.  Here is how to put your prints on a jar:
  • Send your name, phone number and address to
  • A confirmation e-mail will outline payment options.  The cost of each share--1 quart of kraut--will be $8 plus a $1 deposit on the jar.  (Although I hope to expand, with limited room in the CSP, only one share per customer please.)  
  • You will be notified when your jar is packed and ready to enjoy.  Pickles can be picked up at our Marigny headquarters.  We also offer bicycle delivery at no extra charge to most New Orleans addresses.  
To learn more about Dana's Pickles and the magic of fermentation, read the posts below.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What's in a pickle?

To pickle is to preserve in liquid.  Most commercial pickles are quick-pickles--preserved in one fell swoop in vinegar.  The pickles I love the best happen more slowly.  A slice of a sour cucumber pickle, or a dollop of kraut, can dress up any meal.  These are vegetables fermented in brine.  Fermentation may sound like an unlikely means to a delicacy, yet this natural process spans human history and geography.  It is not hard to identify the strong and distinctive flavors of fermented foods. To experience the transformative power of microscopic bacteria and fungi,  look no further than a glass of wine, a slice of sourdough bread, or a hunk of smelly, aged cheese.  Still, the benefits of these foods are not limited to complex flavors.

Sandor Katz is the author of Wild Fermentation, a book that has become a cult classic of sorts among those of the do-it-yourself persuasion.  Living with AIDS, nutrition is extremely important to Katz.  He attributes his relative health, in no small part, to his regular consumption of fermented foods.  For this reason, on his rural Tennessee homestead, he has spent years “developing a symbiotic rhythm with…tiny fermenting organisms.”  In his book, Katz illustrates for readers how we must nourish these organisms so that they nourish us.

How are fermented foods nourishing?  While a homemade batch of sauerkraut lacks a nutrition label, the health benefits are tangible.  Fermentation preserves nutrients while breaking them down into more easily digestible forms.  Take milk, for example.  Lactose intolerance refers to the human difficulty in digesting the milk sugar known as lactose.  Fermented dairy products such as yogurt take on lactobacilli, a bacterium that transforms lactose into easier-to-digest lactic acid.  At the same time, these bacteria create omega-3 fatty acids, boosting cell membrane and immune system function.  When you eat yogurt, you are also eating these living micro-organisms:  live-cultures.  We can now make sense of why yogurt winds up on almost every short list of beneficial foods.

Like milk, fermented vegetables are easier to digest than unfermented vegetables.  Salt is the essential ingredient in a brine, and makes the difference between a fermenting vegetable and a rotting vegetable.  When fermenting cabbage into kraut, salt is used to draw water out of the vegetables.  In this process, the brine is simply salt dissolved into the cabbage juices.  With cucumber pickles, a brine solution of salt and water is poured over the vegetables.  In both techniques, the brine fends off microorganisms that cause spoil while inviting the growth of lactobacilli and other beneficial bacteria.  This is lacto-fermentation.  

It is easy to sing the praises of lacto-fermented vegetables.  Katz cites a study that points to the cancer-preventing properties of sauerkraut.  Cabbage is part of the Brassicaceae family--a grouping a plants that includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards and more.  Raw, these vegetables are rich in anti-carcinogenic nutrients.  Finnish research has found that fermentation breaks down the glucosinolates in cabbage into isothiocyanates, compounds known to fight cancer.  And so, in this realm, fermented cabbage appears healthier than its raw or cooked alter egos.  Good thing I have found sauerkraut to be an   exceedingly versatile condiment.

Pickling can bring new life to vegetables!  The mission of Dana's Pickles is to help you introduce more live-cultures into your diet.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Community Supported Pickles?!

That's right.  It's an idea I have.

I am fresh to New Orleans, a transplant from Orcas Island, Washington.  There, on a Gilligan's Island-esque permaculture paradise, a merry band of young folk and their horticulture mentors experiment with the creative construction of bliss and abundance.  It will come as no surprise that, on a property lush with vegetable gardens and fruit trees, much bliss was cultivated while preserving the abundant harvest.  And so, I am smitten with pickles--from krauts to cucumber spears.  Now that I have landed in this urban paradise, I am eager to begin sharing my tangy, lacto-fermented products with my new community.

Here is the vision:

My CSP will function like a CSA--Community Supported Agriculture.  The CSA model has come into vogue as an easy way for consumers to buy fresh produce directly from local farmers.  At the beginning of the growing season, a farmer will sell a certain number of shares to the public.  Shareholders will, in return, receive boxes of fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, eggs, you name it, throughout the season, perhaps weekly or biweekly.  This model serves famers by creating cash flow early in the season, before salad greens and strawberries can become dollar bills, when start-up costs are high and anticipated costs are many.  Once the farm starts pumping, CSA members reap the bounty.  In this way, growers and consumers are working together, sharing in the risks and benefits of food production.  What harmony!

Now imagine a quart of pickles as a CSA share.  Indeed, pickling is a simple craft.  That said, it takes time, attention and vegetables. As a member of my CSP, you will pay upfront.  As the pickler, I will gather, concoct and nurse crocks of kimchi, sauerkraut and cucumbers.  When the brine is bubblin' and the pickles have the perfect zing, I will pack up shares in jars and distribute.  You start eating through your pickles while I begin a new batch.  This is how we can work together to bring pickles to plates throughout the city.  

Dana's Pickles is in the embryo stages--I am still fine-tuning the concept and gathering information.  You can help me gauge interest by letting me know if you are tickled by pickles, and would be stoked to join the CSP.  Send your questions and enthusiasm to

Spread the word and ready your palate; a community supported pickle project is fermenting in New Orleans.