Welcome to Issue No. 12 of Tools for Leaning Out, a weekly newsletter by the Early Majority. This newsletter is a living, breathing toolkit for life on planet Earth. Below, Lisa Futterman provides a how-to on pickling, an interview with chef Jennifer Kim on her new initiative to form alternative economies, and a moodboard for the perseverance of the natural world.
In this newsletter:
01 — Choose your own adventure: Pickling
02 — Q&A: Jennifer Kim on the Alt Economy
03 — Moodboard: Nature fights back
Choose your own adventure
Pickling with Lisa Futterman
When you make pickles, you combine the preserving powers of salt and acid — a one-two punch of flavor that saves the greenest green beans of July for the waningly green days of October. By bathing baby vegetables and fruits in brine, you bolster the resilience of said produce, protecting them from attack by bacteria and increasing their lifespan exponentially.
Sounds, perhaps, like a lofty task. But pickling is easy, particularly when you follow this “quick” refrigerator method.
1. Select your produce
Start by selecting your produce. (With experience, you can pickle herring or venison, but let’s keep things simple to start.) Choose peak-season veggies and pickle them ASAP to capture their best flavor and crunch.
Fruit and Vegetable Suggestions:
Cucumbers (Kirby or pickling cucumbers are best but even supermarket cukes work if you peel and slice them before proceeding)
Green (unripe) mango, peeled, seeded, and sliced
Cabbage, cut into chunks
Red onion, sliced
Daikon radish, peeled and sliced
Beets (should be roasted, cut, and peeled before packing)
Green beans, trimmed
2. Prepare the produce for bathing
Most vegetables and fruits work best if peeled and cut into manageable pieces, usually meaning bite-sized. If you’ve ever tried to fit a quarter of a head of cabbage into a pint-sized mason jar, you’ll understand.
Speaking of jars, just start with one or two! No need to create a production line and open a pickle factory just yet. Find a couple of wide-mouthed jars with lids that fit and make sure they are clean and dry. Pack your cut produce into the jar (you can fill it pretty tightly). You can even arrange your asparagus standing tall in formation like Beyonce’s Super Bowl backup dancers, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t.
3. Make a flavorful hot brine
This brine starts simply, with just kosher salt, water, and vinegar.
BASIC PICKLE BRINE RECIPE
1 cup white cider or white wine vinegar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
From there you can add sugar, spices, chiles, and herbs. I like to pack my spices, herbs, and such directly into the jars with the lil’ veggies for even distribution and maximum visual cuteness.
2-4 teaspoons sugar (brown sugar tastes good but darkens the brine)
1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
1-2 whole dried chiles or a couple slices of a fresh jalapeno
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns, mustard seeds, dill seed, cardamom, or coriander seed
A few sprigs of fresh dill, or fresh or dry bay leaves
Bring vinegar, water, salt, and sugar (if using) to a boil. Stir to dissolve. (Garlic, herbs, chiles and spices may be added to individual jars.)
Pour the hot brine over the packed veggies to cover. Tightly screw the lids on immediately and invert the jars — careful, they are hot! — onto a dish towel. Allow them to cool while completely upside down. (Take a photo now, they’ll look pretty excellent.) This trick allows the hot brine to bathe the veggies thoroughly plus helps create a nice tight seal on the jar. When cool, turn the jars right side up and tighten the lids once more.
Place the jars in the refrigerator until nice and cold. You can serve the pickles now (I told you it’d be quick!) but they’ll be even better tomorrow. And even better the day after next. Keep ’em in the fridge (they are not shelf stable) and eat ’em up within a few months.
Alt Economy: Jennifer Kim
Jennifer Kim is the former chef-owner of Snaggletooth and Passerotto, the latter nominated for a James Beard Award for best new restaurant in 2019. Passerotto closed in September of last year, with Kim publicly stating that the current model for owning and operating a restaurant is ethically questionable. She is currently working on a new organization called Alt Economy, alongside cofounders Justin E. Arnett-Graham and Simone Freeman, which heads to New Orleans tomorrow, July 23, as part of its first-ever summer tour.
How would you describe Alt Economy to a layperson?
It's a very broad term, but really what it encapsulates are businesses outside of traditional models, outside of the law a lot of the time. It's really survival versus sustainability. We're trying to shift that dynamic so that we're not just producing to pay rent and survive. We can build something else that works toward a new hospitality movement.
What is a business that's trying to survive and a business that's trying to be sustainable?
I think when we start talking about alternative or informal economies, the word “business” isn't used that often because a lot of alternative economies are one singular person. It's not the survival of a business or an entity, it is the survival of self.
So how did Alt Economy come to be?
It became more of my primary focus once Passerotto closed. At Snaggletooth I would make 1,000 dollars a month, and that's my rent, and then I just ate ramen for like 30 days straight. Everyone thinks of ownership as this wonderful, glamorous thing. And it's terrible. I don't know if I ever want to own or operate a restaurant again, at least not in those types of ways.
What do you envision your ideal alternative business or alternative economy to be?
I can't put it into words but it looks and feels a certain way. A lot of us, whether we participate in informal economies or not, are having conversations [about what it might be]. I literally was just on the phone to ask: Is there a way that a restaurant could be a collective or a co-op or something of that nature? Does it need to exist with food and art and some other things in order to make it more sustainable? So we're taking ideas that so many of us are having and asking, How do we focus that and actually turn those into actionable items?
Right now on the Alt Economy website we have a little section called Financial Toolkit, which is just “here's everything I've ever learned about business or restaurants or whatever it may be.” It's open for anyone. And other people have been submitting really wonderful stuff, too. So we created this solidarity network of free information. Anyone who has questions, or wants to read about how finances work, how do I do food costs … it’s free information that you don't have to go to a boss or go to culinary school or pay someone in order to learn. Because it should be free.
What is involved in the summer tour?
We're exploring and supporting different alternative or informal economies throughout different cities: Detroit, Louisville, Nashville, New Orleans, and then back into Chicago. We're really interested to explore and support the ones that are led by POC and queer identities just because they don’t have access and privilege like white people do. And the other part is linked in with mutual aid. So like everything we do should always have the community as your first and foremost focus. As we're building out these projects, we ask, What does the community want? And it’s hard because each city is different. And we're trying to see, Is there a way that a business can operate that everyone is getting paid what they need and then the rest goes back to the community, to your neighborhoods, or marginalized folks? Then documenting those experiences: What are we learning in Detroit? What are we learning in New Orleans? What are folks doing out there that are exciting and are great takeaways so that anyone can access that information that's helpful.
What are the challenges or the difficulties of trying to institute this model when so much of our society has a profit-motivated structure baked into it?
I also participate in capitalism. I have for a long time. The hardest thing that I'm ever working on is not falling into the echo chamber. All of my friends are abolitionists, all of my friends are anticapitalists. Are we alienating folks who don't have the option, who don't have the means to participate in an underground or informal economy? Money is not a dirty word. But it is when it's used to harm other people. So we don't want it to seem like we're underground economists and we’re not making any money and this is a passion project. But I think there has to be a way that you can do something that makes you joyful and you can still make money. Extend yourself beyond just being a worker or falling into this whole mentality of “overworked” means “success.”
I'm not saying everyone needs to go and participate in an alternative or informal economy. But for those people who want to explore that, there should be an easier avenue for them to look at those things and then be able to move out of spaces that are harmful to them. We need a way that all these things can exist together. We're just asking for alternatives.
Moodboard: Nature fights back
The Earth has an uncanny way of taking back what belongs to it and returning to primordial stasis, swallowing whole the vast infrastructural and technological innovations of humanity to restore the elemental realities of our planet.
Like what you’re reading? Drop us into your primary folder to avoid unnecessary Gmail filtering.