Relish the thought of enjoying quality, local produce all year long. Crock & Jar founder, Michaela Hayes, chats with us about a nutritious—and delicious—way to savor the season’s best long after harvest is over.
While establishing her culinary career in some of New York City’s most esteemed kitchens, Michaela became fascinated by the scientific process of fermenting food. Several years ago, her passion for preserving took shape while facilitating canning workshops around the city for local organization, Just Food. Michaela found joy in working with area farmers, gardeners and members of the community to demonstrate how to preserve produce at its peak, so it can be enjoyed for months to come—and she quickly became hooked on teaching and sharing this rustic culinary art.
At the same time, Michaela worked as a line cook at Gramercy Tavern with executive chef Michael Anthony, who always encouraged her interest and creativity. Together, they built a partnership with Just Food and created a dedicated pickling station in the kitchen—which brought a new array of savory ingredients to the menu, including sauerkrauts, kimchis, pickled watermelon rind and Japanese-style Nuka pickles. Eager to learn even more, Michaela spent six months honing her craft at various pickling shops in California, and returned to New York determined to start a business of her own.
In July 2011, Crock & Jar was born. And in just a few short months, Michaela has established her own line of flavorful pickles and fermented foods that feature locally grown produce. By preserving seasonally, Crock & Jar is able to increase the amount of local food they buy, thus supporting the community and strengthening connections with area farmers, gardeners and other small producers. Plus, her delicious vegan and vegetarian-friendly products offer the nutritional benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with added probiotics, and are made with less sugar and salt than commercial varieties. Tempted to try these cured delicacies? You can pick up Crock & Jar pickles (including Garlic Dills and 3/4 Sours) at Essex Street Market, with sauerkrauts soon to follow at retail and online.
It was inspiring to hear how Michaela brought her dreams to fermented fruition, and Clean Plates wishes her the very best of luck with Crock & Jar! Visit CrockandJar.com for upcoming events and information. And check out her below recipe for a simple-to-make caraway sauerkraut. Enjoy the delicious probiotics!
- 3 pounds green cabbage
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
- Clean dark outer leaves off cabbage and cut into quarters. Remove the core of the cabbage and slice each wedge into 1/4 inch wide strips. As you cut the cabbage, place cut pieces into a large bowl and add salt and caraway so the cabbage begins to release its liquid.
- Massage the cabbage to help the salt penetrate. Put cabbage in a tall container such as a half-gallon or a couple of quart jars.
- Press down on cabbage until the released cabbage liquid covers it.
- Place a weight on top of the cabbage (use a doubled plastic bag filled with water or salt brine, or use a plate with a jar of water on top). Any cabbage that is not submerged in the liquid will rot. If cabbage is not readily releasing enough liquid, weigh cabbage down and check back within 24 hours to make sure cabbage is covered with brine. If not, add heavier weight.
- Cover the top of the container with a towel or a loose lid. Do not seal tightly.
- Place in a cool place to ferment.
- Check in one week: Remove the weight and wash off any mold. Remove any rotten spots that may have developed in the kraut. The cabbage below these spots is totally fine. Taste it to check the progress.
- Press cabbage down again to submerge.
- Replace clean weight, cover again with towel and lid and return to the cool spot.
- Check the cabbage once a week. Depending on your sour preference, the cabbage should ferment for 3 - 6 weeks.
- Once cabbage has become sour enough for your liking, put it in a clean container and store it in the refrigerator for up to six months.