Hillel Gets Into A Pickle- Or Makes One For That Matter

Hillel doesn’t get into pickles–we make them! Last week, CSU Hillel hosted a pickling workshop, led by Rebecca Bloomfield, the Associate Director of Adamah.

From left to right: Alex Amchislavskiy (CSU Hillel director), Rebecca Bloomfield, Neven Mandel (CSU Hillel Sustainability Intern)
From left to right: Alex Amchislavskiy (CSU Hillel director), Rebecca Bloomfield, Neven Mandel (CSU Hillel Sustainability Intern)

Adamah is a three month fellowship for people in their 20s and early 30s who are interested in organic farming, Jewish learning, sustainable living, leadership training, and spiritual practice.  Adamah is located in the Connecticut Berkshires at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Canaan, CT. You can check out their Facebook page here.

Bloomfield herself was an Adamah fellow in 2005.  She had graduated college and was trying to figure out what to do next. She knew she was interested in food and farming, and she wanted to reconnect with Judaism.  “Adamah was the perfect way to do that, and gave me so much more than I ever expected. It was a true gift,” Bloomfield said. As the Associate Director, she recruits, teaches, and mentors Adamah fellows.  You can apply to be an Adamah fellow at here. They accept up to 15 fellows per session–there is a Spring, Summer, and Fall session. “We encourage folks to apply as soon as possible,” explained Bloomfield.

At CSU Hillel, Bloomfield taught a workshop in lacto-fermentation, which tends to the the most popular workshop among Hillels.  Instead of using a vinegar brine, lacto-fermentation uses a salt water brine.  Bloomfield said the salt prevents the growth of harmful bacteria and promotes the growth of lactobacilli, producing lactic acid.  This is what eventually ferments the vegetables, instead of the vinegar. “This means that the final product is a probiotic and good for you,” said Bloomfield, who believes that lacto-fermentation is better for you than pickling with vinegar. “It’s a ‘live’ food, meaning it has live bacteria in it that are good for you and help with digestion, etc,.” Bloomfield explained.

Jar of vegetables before water and salt are put in.

While it is a process, picking vegetables has a lot of benefits.  The biggest benefit is preserving your food and reducing your food waste. “If you don’t eat all of your vegetables, you can pickle them and eat them at another time,” exclaimed Bloomfield, who also explained that if you are connected to a farm or garden and want to preserve crops during a busy season, pickling is very beneficial. “Doing it at home can save a lot of money, too,” said Bloomfield. “It’s easy, fun, healthy, and there’s a lot of room for experimentation!”

Freshman Momo Yohn (right) and Alex Kaye (left) prepare their pickling jars.
Freshman Momo Yohn (right) and Alex Kaye (left) prepare their pickling jars.

Vegetables are the best to pickle since they pickle very well, according to Bloomfield. The pickling process varies from food to food.  “How long anything takes to pickle depends on how it’s cut (thick or thin) and the temperature of the room it’s fermenting in, etc.,” said Bloomfield.  Some products can take weeks or months while cucumbers take about three days or so.  Bloomfield says that Adamah tried pickling apples when they had extra apples last fall.  They weren’t sure what to do with them, so they decided to pickle them and they turned out well.  They combined them with cabbage cores and called the product, “Core Kraut.”

Students at a table preparing vegetables for pickling.
Preparing vegetables for pickling.

Bloomfield also led a pickling workshop at the CU Boulder Hillel and although she did not lead a workshop, she met with students at the DU Hillel and talked about Adamah.  She got involved in doing workshops at Hillels because Adamah wanted to find new ways of reaching people who may be a good fit for the Adamah Fellowship. She has also let a workshop at Moishe House in both Denver and Boulder on Mindful Consumption.  

About 20 people attended the workshop at CSU Hillel on February 27th, and many of them were excited to hear there may be another workshop with Adamah in the future.  There was a variety of vegetables at the event, including cabbage, carrots, onions, cucumbers, and more.

Group photo of students who attended the pickling workshop at CSU Hillel
Students who attended the pickling workshop at Hillel