Sichuan Pao Cai Pickle Jar (Chinese-Style Jar for Natural Fermentation)
Only one jar per order. If you would like to order two, please place two orders.
This artisan-made, hand-blown Chinese pickle jar is as functional as it is beautiful. Designed thousands of years ago to be the ideal form for naturally fermenting vegetables, this shape has two inherent advantages:
1) The narrow opening and wide shoulders of the jar help keep the contents below the brine—which is key for mold-free natural fermentation—without the use of weights, and 2) The moat around the opening holds water that makes a natural seal, allowing the carbon dioxide released during fermentation to escape while sealing out unwanted oxygen and contaminants. Plus, as a bonus of this design, the top can be turned over and used as a pickle serving bowl.
Years ago, we carefully carted home a Sichuan-style pickle jar from Chengdu, after having seen them in restaurants and homes and eaten their refreshingly tart and uniquely flavorful contents, called "pao cai." At home, we then learned to make pickled vegetables the Sichuan way, which forgoes vinegar in favor of souring over time through lacto-fermentation. We discovered just how easy and delicious it is, not to mention how probiotically good for you.
Now, all these many years later, we have sourced a high-quality version of the Sichuan pao cai jar. The hot glass is literally blown by mouth from the end of a hollow tube into a mold to form an incomparably clear, slightly green glass. It is neither Coke-bottle thick, nor paper-thin, but it should be handled carefully. Do not put in the dishwasher or otherwise treat roughly. The lid/bowl is machine made and is a thicker glass.
With a 2.5 liter (10 cup) capacity, this jar is an ideal medium size for home use.
As we discuss at length in our blog post on natural fermentation, it is an art as much as a science. Professional fermenters vary widely in their advice on salt content and length of fermentation. So we suggest you try a couple of batches to see what works for your preferred vegetables, climate and tastebuds. Having said that, here are the pickling guidelines we have settled on after years of experimentation:
- 14-20 grams salt (sea salt or kosher salt) per 1 cup of water (distilled or boiled and cooled to room temperature), along with 1/2 tablespoon Chinese baijiu, gin or vodka and 1 teaspoon sugar per cup and optional spices/aromatics (huajiao, dried or fresh chilies, ginger, etc.) to taste. Fuchsia Dunlop calls for 20g salt per cup of water for Sichuan pao cai, but we personally have great results with 14g sea salt per cup of water
- This jar has a 10-cup capacity, so you'll want to make about 7-8 cups of brine, depending on how tightly packed your vegetables are; save any leftover brine to top off jar as ferment progresses
- Use 14 grams salt per 1 pound of vegetable if using a dry salt brine instead of a wet one (suan cai, kimchi, sauerkraut)
- Keep moat filled about half-way with water at all times
- Take cabbage and thinly-sliced veg out after 1-2 days to eat as a "shower pickle" with your meal
- Remove harder vegetables like daikon, carrots, celery, celtuce or cauliflower in a week or more, depending on temperature and when it's soured to your liking, and eat as a side dish or noodle topping
- Remove long beans when soured to use in a long bean and pork mince stir-fry
- Ferment dried er jing tiao chilies to make Sichuan pickled peppers (pao la jiao)
- Pack Chinese mustard greens into the jar with a dry brine and eat the soured suan cai in a week or more in a stir-fry, noodle or soup
- Veer from the Chinese path, and make kimchi, sauerkraut or other ferments
Don't panic when the water turns cloudy and takes on the color of the contents (see final photo). This means that fermentation has begun and you're on your way to pickles!
Once you get a wet brine you like the taste of, you may wish to do as the Sichuanese do and keep your brine going for years—replenishing the brine with more salt water and liquor as you remove and add more vegetables. Keep it on your (non-sunny) counter and have pickles at the ready all the time as they do in Sichuan.
Read this post on our recipe blog for more tips and full instructions.
International buyers: We cannot guarantee safe delivery of this jar outside of the U.S. Order at your own risk!Size: 9.5 (height) x 7.5 inches; 2.5 liters (10 cups)
Material: Body of jar is mouth-blown, lead-free glass; lid is machine-made glass
Care: Hand wash (bottle sponge-wand included)