Oregon Veggies to meet a Colorado Pot

My brother used to call me “pioneer woman” when I was most exuberant about learning all the homesteading arts, with my children next to me.  I was a self-proclaimed luddite who stayed as far away from technology as I could.  Perhaps I was the yin--the opposing energy to the yang of my husband’s IT career at the time.  Perhaps I thought my children needed to know all this in case it all came tumbling down.  Some of these arts became part of our world and routine, some felt ridiculous.  Brain-tanning for example went by the way side and we are not all wearing buckskin.  Things evolve, the kids are self-sufficient in many ways, and I use the Internet.  

Where am I going with all this? About a month ago, I was reading about traditional Korean kimchi.  What a “cultured” girl does for fun, right? In the book I saw pictures of beautiful pots lined up a long a terrace.  I was intrigued.  I love the beautiful German crocks we ferment in, sauerkraut in German pots.  These crocks have a water seal that allows the carbon dioxide to escape without letting in new air and contaminants. To my way of thinking it is only natural that kimchi should be in traditional Korean vessels, and I wanted to know about them for our fermentation cave.  
“The glaze drips are formed when the minerals in the juniper and pinyon wood ash melt after coming to rest on the shoulders and tops of the pots in the kiln during the 50 hour firing.  Randomly kiln-placed beauty!” Adam Field
I started my search, not knowing what they were called. I started Googling various combinations of Korean, fermenting, kimchi, jars and pots.   Though I could not find much at first, I found Adam Field Pottery through the back door of someone’s blog.  I quickly abandoned the blog but was intrigued by the video post, a time-lapsed building of a large Onggi pot by Adam, who had gone to Korea to study the traditional art of Onggi pottery under the Kim family.  They operate a 7th generation Onggi studio and are some of the last to form their wares in the traditional way, with little help from modern machines.   The studio is led by Kim Il-Maan, a Korean National Cultural Treasure. This was speaking to my post-modern heart.

I went to Adam’s website  and looked the photos and thought how it would be incredible to culture kimchi in such art work.  That could only make our products taste better and more alive.  I contacted Adam.    A few days later what began as surfing became a great conversation.  I had a lot of questions.  Adam explained that the type of soil chosen to make the clay, which is worked by hand, leaves small air pores.  This creates a breathable pot, which is one of the unique characteristics that is Onggi pottery, it ensures the quality of the fermented food inside.  I read that this is what allows the fermenting gasses to leave and takes the smell and any bitter taste with it.  I can’t  say how many times I have heard  “I love Kimchi when I can get past the smell.”  I don’t know if it will help these people but I was hooked by the potential of this amazing functional art.

Adam also explained with plastic and refrigeration, the onggi jar was becoming obsolete, two things have kept that from happening.  One is that Koreans hold their fermenting traditions very high, and that the pots are making a comeback do to a growing interest in healthy foods and slow food.

These vessels not only ferment vegetables but also bean pastes, soy sauces, fish sauces and the like.  There are many great photos on Adam’s site of jars in various stages of production and in use.  One picture that intrigued me looked like pine needles.    I asked.  They were, at a Buddhist temple Adam saw a ferment of pine needles that had been fermenting for a year.  They were siphoning it off when he was there. He said that it was non-alcoholic and sweet, a bit carbonated,  and the taste was something like walking through a Christmas tree lot.

Adam just fired the first of the pots he is making for our kitchen we are getting a few sizes including a few 15 gallon pots.  These pictures came recently to my inbox.  I was floored.  I can’t wait to press Napa cabbage into these jars.