Asian Pickles by Karen Solomon [amazon kindle books]

  • Full Title : Asian Pickles: China: Recipes for Chinese Sweet, Sour, Salty, Cured, and Fermented Pickles and Condiments
  • Autor: Karen Solomon
  • Print Length: 72 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press
  • Publication Date: August 27, 2013
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: B00B3GNRMS
  • ISBN-13: 
  • Download File Format: epub


A DIY guide to making the salty, sweet, and pungent pickles of China, featuring 15 recipes with innovative ingredients and new techniques.

Cooks are looking for new pickling frontiers, and the natural standout is Asia, with its diverse array of pickled products and flavors that wow the palate. Asian Pickles: China introduces techniques for creating authentic and creative Chinese pickled foods such as Preserved Mustard Greens, Radish in Chile Oil, Sour Celery and Red Pepper, and Szechuan Cucumbers with Orange and Almond. This title also includes some essential condiments that elevate Chinese food at home, such as XO Sauce and fire-spiked Chile Oil. The Asian Pickles series targets the eager audience of DIY food enthusiasts, backyard farmers, armchair foragers, and pickle fans who have cut their teeth on putting food into jars, pantries, and freezers and who are now hungry for the next course of culinary challenges and kitchen inspiration.




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in spring with cactus fruits and wild tubers. The Hohokam and Pima were the last people to live on that land without creating an environmental overdraft. When the Spaniards arrived, they didn’t rush to take up the Hohokam diet craze. Instead they set about working up a monumental debt: planting orange trees and alfalfa, digging wells for irrigation, withdrawing millions more gallons from the water table each year than a dozen inches of annual rainfall could ever restore. Arizona is still an agricultural state. Even after the population boom of the mid-nineties, 85 percent of the state’s water still went to thirsty crops like cotton, alfalfa, citrus, and pecan trees. Mild winters offer the opportunity to create an artificial endless summer, as long as we can conjure up water and sustain a chemically induced illusion of topsoil.

Oily Food

Americans put almost as much fossil fuel into our refrigerators as our cars. We’re consuming about 400 gallons of oil a year per citizen—about 17 percent of our nation’s energy use—for agriculture, a close second to our vehicular use. Tractors, combines, harvesters, irrigation, sprayers, tillers, balers, and other equipment all use petroleum. Even bigger gas guzzlers on the farm are not the machines, but so-called inputs. Synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides use oil and natural gas as their starting materials, and in their manufacturing. More than a quarter of all farming energy goes into synthetic fertilizers.

But getting the crop from seed to harvest takes only one-fifth of the total oil used for our food. The lion’s share is consumed during the trip from the farm to your plate. Each food item in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1,500 miles. In addition to direct transport, other fuel-thirsty steps include processing (drying, milling, cutting, sorting, baking), packaging, warehousing, and refrigeration. Energy calories consumed by production, packaging, and shipping far outweigh the energy calories we receive from the food.

A quick way to improve food-related fuel economy would be to buy a quart of motor oil and drink it. More palatable options are available. If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. That’s not gallons, but barrels. Small changes in buying habits can make big differences. Becoming a less energy-dependent nation may just need to start with a good breakfast.


Living in Arizona on borrowed water made me nervous. We belonged to a far-flung little community of erstwhile Tucson homesteaders, raising chickens in our yards and patches of vegetables for our own use, frequenting farmers’ markets to buy from Arizona farmers, trying to reduce the miles-per-gallon quotient of our diets in a gasoholic world. But these gardens of ours had a drinking problem. So did Arizona farms. That’s a devil of a choice: Rob Mexico’s water or guzzle Saudi Arabia’s gas?

Traditionally, employment and family dictate choices about where to live. It’s also legitimate to consider weather, schools, and other quality-of-life indices. We added one more wish to our list: more than one out of three of the basic elements necessary for human life. (Oxygen Arizona has got.) If we’d had family ties, maybe we’d have felt more entitled to claim a seat at Tucson’s lean dining table. But I moved there as a young adult, then added through birth and marriage three more mouths to feed. As a guest, I’d probably overstayed my welcome. So, as the U.S. population made an unprecedented dash for the Sun Belt, one carload of us dog-paddled against the tide, heading for the Promised Land where water falls from the sky and green stuff grows all around. We were about to begin the adventure of realigning our lives with our food chain.

Naturally, our first stop was to buy junk food and fossil fuel.

In the cinder-block convenience mart we foraged the aisles for blue corn chips and Craisins. Our family’s natural-foods teenager scooped up a pile of energy bars big enough to pass as a retirement plan for a hamster. Our family’s congenitally frugal Mom shelled out two bucks for a fancy green bottle of about a nickel’s worth of iced tea. As long as we were all going crazy here, we threw in some 99-cent bottles of what comes free out of drinking fountains in places like Perrier, France. In our present location, 99 cents for good water seemed like a bargain. The goldfish should be so lucky.

As we gathered our loot onto the counter the sky darkened suddenly. After two hundred consecutive cloudless days, you forget what it looks like when a cloud crosses the sun. We all blinked. The cashier frowned toward the plate-glass window.

“Dang,” she said, “it’s going to rain.”

“I hope so,” Steven said.

She turned her scowl from the window to Steven. This bleached-blond guardian of gas pumps and snack food was not amused. “It better not, is all I can say.”

“But we need it,” I pointed out. I am not one to argue with cashiers, but the desert was dying, and this was my very last minute as a Tucsonan. I hated to jinx it with bad precipitation-karma.

“I know that’s what they’re saying, but I don’t care. Tomorrow’s my first day off in two weeks, and I want to wash my car.”

For three hundred miles we drove that day through desperately parched Sonoran badlands, chewing our salty cashews with a peculiar guilt. We had all shared this wish, in some way or another: that it wouldn’t rain on our day off. Thunderheads dissolved ahead of us, as if honoring our compatriot’s desire to wash her car as the final benediction pronounced on a dying land. In our desert, we would not see rain again.

It took us five days to reach the farm. On our first full day there we spent ten hours mowing, clearing brush, and working on the farmhouse. Too tired to cook, we headed into town for supper, opting for a diner of the southern type that puts grits on your plate until noon and biscuits after, whether you ask for them or not. Our waitress was young and chatty, a student at the junior college nearby studying to be a nurse or else, if she doesn’t pass the chemistry, a television broadcaster. She said she was looking forward to the weekend, but smiled broadly nevertheless at the clouds gathering over the hills outside. The wooded mountainsides and velvet pastures of southwestern Virginia looked remarkably green to our desert-scorched eyes, but the forests and fields were suffering here too. Drought had plagued most of the southern United States that spring.

A good crack of thunder boomed, and the rain let loose just as the waitress came back to clear our plates. “Listen at that,” she clucked. “Don’t we need it!”

We do, we agreed. The hayfields aren’t half what they should be.

“Let’s hope it’s a good long one,” she said, pausing with our plates balanced on her arm, continuing to watch out the window for a good long minute. “And that it’s not so hard that it washes everything out.”

It is not my intention here to lionize country wisdom over city ambition. I only submit that the children of farmers are likely to know where food comes from, and that the rest of us might do well to pay attention. For our family, something turned over that evening in the diner: a gas-pump cashier’s curse of drought was lifted by a waitress’s simple, agricultural craving for rain. I thought to myself: There is hope for us.

Who is us, exactly? I live now in a county whose economic base is farming. A disastrous summer will mean some of our neighbors will lose their farms. Others will have to keep farming and go looking for a job at the end of a long commute. We’ll feel the effects in school enrollments, local businesses, shifts in land use and tax structure. The health of our streams, soils, and forests is also at stake, as lost farms get sold to developers whose business is to rearrange (drastically) the topsoil and everything on it. When I recognize good agricultural sense, though, I’m not just thinking of my town but also my species. It’s not a trivial difference: praying for or against rainfall during a drought. You can argue that wishes don’t count, but humans are good at making our dreams manifest and we do, historically speaking, get what we wish for. What are the just deserts for a species too selfish or preoccupied to hope for rain when the land outside is dying? Should we be buried under the topsoil in our own clean cars, to make room for wiser creatures?

We’d surely do better, if only we knew any better. In two generations we’ve transformed ourselves from a rural to an urban nation. North American children begin their school year around Labor Day and finish at the beginning of June with no idea that this arrangement was devised to free up children’s labor when it was needed on the farm. Most people of my grandparents’ generation had an intuitive sense of agricultural basics: when various fruits and vegetables come into season, which ones keep through the winter, how to preserve the others. On what day autumn’s first frost will likely fall on their county, and when to expect the last one in spring. Which crops can be planted before the last frost, and which must wait. Which grains are autumn-planted. What an asparagus patch looks like in August. Most importantly: what animals and vegetables thrive in one’s immediate region and how to live well on those, with little else thrown into the mix beyond a bag of flour, a pinch of salt, and a handful of coffee. Few people of my generation, and approximately none of our children, could answer any of those questions, let alone all. This knowledge has vanished from our culture.

We also have largely convinced ourselves it wasn’t too important. Consider how Americans might respond to a proposal that agriculture was to become a mandatory subject in all schools, alongside reading and mathematics. A fair number of parents would get hot under the collar to see their kids’ attention being pulled away from the essentials of grammar, the all-important trigonometry, to make room for down-on-the-farm stuff. The baby boom psyche embraces a powerful presumption that education is a key to moving away from manual labor, and dirt—two undeniable ingredients of farming. It’s good enough for us that somebody, somewhere, knows food production well enough to serve the rest of us with all we need to eat, each day of our lives.

If that is true, why isn’t it good enough for someone else to know multiplication and the contents of the Bill of Rights? Is the story of bread, from tilled ground to our table, less relevant to our lives than the history of the thirteen colonies? Couldn’t one make a case for the relevance of a subject that informs choices we make daily—as in, What’s for dinner? Isn’t ignorance of our food sources causing problems as diverse as overdependence on petroleum, and an epidemic of diet-related diseases?

If this book is not exactly an argument for reinstating food-production classes in schools (and it might be), it does contain a lot of what you might learn there. From our family’s gas-station beginnings we have traveled far enough to discover ways of taking charge of one’s food, and even knowing where it has been. This is the story of a year in which we made every attempt to feed ourselves animals and vegetables whose provenance we really knew. We tried to wring most of the petroleum out of our food chain, even if that meant giving up some things. Our highest shopping goal was to get our food from so close to home, we’d know the person who grew it. Often that turned out to be us, as we learned to produce more of what we needed, starting with dirt, seeds, and enough knowledge to muddle through. Or starting with baby animals and enough sense to refrain from naming them.

This is not a how-to book aimed at getting you cranking out your own food. We ourselves live in a region where every other house has a garden out back, but to many urban people the idea of growing your food must seem as plausible as writing and conducting your own symphonies for your personal listening pleasure. If that is your case, think of the agricultural parts of the story as a music appreciation course for food—acquainting yourself with the composers and conductors can improve the quality of your experience. Knowing the secret natural history of potatoes, melons, or asparagus gives you a leg up on detecting whether those in your market are wholesome kids from a nearby farm, or vagrants who idled away their precious youth in a boxcar. Knowing how foods grow is to know how and when to look for them; such expertise is useful for certain kinds of people, namely, the ones who eat, no matter where they live or grocery shop.

Absence of that knowledge has rendered us a nation of wary label-readers, oddly uneasy in our obligate relationship with the things we eat. We call our food animals by different names after they’re dead, presumably sparing ourselves any vision of the beefs and the porks running around on actual hooves. Our words for unhealthy contamination—“soiled” or “dirty”—suggest that if we really knew the number-one ingredient of a garden, we’d all head straight into therapy. I used to take my children’s friends out to the garden to warm them up to the idea of eating vegetables, but this strategy sometimes backfired: they’d back away slowly saying, “Oh man, those things touched dirt!” Adults do the same by pretending it all comes from the clean, well-lighted grocery store. We’re like petulant teenagers rejecting our mother. We know we came out of her, but ee-ew.

We don’t know beans about beans. Asparagus, potatoes, turkey drumsticks—you name it, we don’t have a clue how the world makes it. I usually think I’m exaggerating the scope of the problem, and then I’ll encounter an editor (at a well-known nature magazine) who’s nixing the part of my story that refers to pineapples growing from the ground. She insisted they grew on trees. Or, I’ll have a conversation like this one:

“What’s new on the farm?” asks my friend, a lifelong city dweller who likes for me to keep her posted by phone. She’s a gourmet cook, she cares about the world, and has been around a lot longer than I have. This particular conversation was in early spring, so I told her what was up in the garden: peas, potatoes, spinach.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “When you say, ‘The potatoes are up,’ what do you mean?” She paused, formulating her question: “What part of a potato comes up?”

“Um, the plant part,” I said. “The stems and leaves.”

“Wow,” she said. “I never knew a potato had a plant part.”

Many bright people are really in the dark about vegetable life. Biology teachers face kids in classrooms who may not even believe in the metamorphosis of bud to flower to fruit and seed, but rather, some continuum of pansies becoming petunias becoming chrysanthemums; that’s the only reality they witness as landscapers come to campuses and city parks and surreptitiously yank out one flower before it fades from its prime, replacing it with another. (My biology-professor brother pointed this out to me.) The same disconnection from natural processes may be at the heart of our country’s shift away from believing in evolution. In the past, principles of natural selection and change over time made sense to kids who’d watched it all unfold. Whether or not they knew the terms, farm families understood the processes well enough to imitate them: culling, selecting, and improving their herds and crops. For modern kids who intuitively believe in the spontaneous generation of fruits and vegetables in the produce section, trying to get their minds around the slow speciation of the plant kingdom may be a stretch.

Steven, also a biology professor, grew up in the corn belt of Iowa but has encountered his share of agricultural agnostics in the world. As a graduate student he lived in an urban neighborhood where his little backyard vegetable garden was a howling curiosity for the boys who ran wild in the alley. He befriended these kids, especially Malcolm, known throughout the neighborhood as “Malcolm-get-your-backside-in-here-now-or-you-won’t-be-having-no-dinner!” Malcolm liked hanging around when Steven was working in the garden, but predictably enough, had a love-hate thing with the idea of the vegetables touching the dirt. The first time he watched Steven pull long, orange carrots out of the ground, he demanded: “How’d you get them in there?”

Steven held forth with condensed Intro Botany. Starts with a seed, grows into a plant. Water, sunlight, leaves, roots. “A carrot,” Steven concluded, “is actually a root.”

“Uh-huh . . . ,” said Malcolm doubtfully.

A crowd had gathered now. Steven engaged his audience by asking, “Can you guys think of other foods that might be root vegetables?”

Malcolm checked with his pals, using a lifeline before confidently submitting his final answer: “Spaghetti?”

We can’t know what we haven’t been taught. Steven couldn’t recognize tobacco in vivo before moving in his twenties to southwestern Virginia, where the tobacco leaf might as well be the state flag. One Saturday morning soon after he’d moved, he was standing on a farmer’s porch at a country yard sale when a field of giant, pale leaves and tall pink flower spikes caught his eye. He asked the farmer the name of this gorgeous plant. The man grinned hugely and asked, “You’re not from here, are you, son?”

That farmer is probably still telling this story; Steven is his Malcolm. Every one of us is somebody’s Malcolm. Country folks can be as food-chain-challenged as the city mice, in our own ways. Rural southern cooking is famous for processed-ingredient recipes like Coca-Cola cake, and plenty of rural kids harbor a potent dread of compost and earthworms. What we all don’t know about farming could keep the farmers laughing until the cows come home. Except that they are barely making a living, while the rest of us play make-believe about the important part being the grocery store.

When we walked as a nation away from the land, our knowledge of food production fell away from us like dirt in a laundry-soap commercial. Now, it’s fair to say, the majority of us don’t want to be farmers, see farmers, pay farmers, or hear their complaints. Except as straw-chewing figures in children’s books, we don’t quite believe in them anymore. When we give it a thought, we mostly consider the food industry to be a thing rather than a person. We obligingly give 85 cents of our every food dollar to that thing, too—the processors, marketers, and transporters. And we complain about the high price of organic meats and vegetables that might send back more than three nickels per buck to the farmers: those actual humans putting seeds in the ground, harvesting, attending livestock births, standing in the fields at dawn casting their shadows upon our sustenance. There seems to be some reason we don’t want to compensate or think about these hardworking people. In the grocery store checkout corral, we’re more likely to learn which TV stars are secretly fornicating than to inquire as to the whereabouts of the people who grew the cucumbers and melons in our carts.

This drift away from our agricultural roots is a natural consequence of migration from the land to the factory, which is as old as the Industrial Revolution. But we got ourselves uprooted entirely by a drastic reconfiguration of U.S. farming, beginning just after World War II. Our munitions plants, challenged to beat their swords into plowshares, retooled to make ammonium nitrate surpluses into chemical fertilizers instead of explosives. The next explosions were yields on midwestern corn and soybean fields. It seemed like a good thing, but some officials saw these new surpluses as reason to dismantle New


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