Dear Rennie,

As a novice pickler, I find myself at a loss as to where to find the right sort of crock. Stoneware? Fiestaware? Does Le Crueset make an appropriate version? A householding neighbor suggested making my own, but, I can’t seem to find that back issue of ReadyMade. Help!

Yours truly,

New Undertaking of Bubbling Brine In Newcastle

Darling N.U.B.B.I.N.,

Ah, the grand mysteries of the pickling crock! I fondly recall lost summers in Lyon, lying on the banks of the lazy rivulet that crossed the lower pastures owned by one M. Dubonnet, as Leila fed thin, crisp pickled beans into my waiting mouth…

Finding a container of proper provenance cannot be stressed enough, and you are right to address yourself to me in this matter, Chère Madame. I sense your hesitation regarding your kindly neighbor’s suggestion, but I must tell you that yon lord or lady of the adjacent manor has the right of it! For a true pickle to burst forth from the strain of your earthly labors, one must be involved in all aspects of the process from outset to end, leaving no leaf un-massaged by your careful hand, and no crock crafted by another’s sweat. To that end:

First, one must find the proper earth from which to extract the clay that you will require for your vessel. I had trained a truffling pig of Guillame to root out the finest clay on his Loire Valley estate, but, should you not be similarly equipped, I have found young children quite useful in tasks of this manner (and, simple to persuade with a suitably attractive syllabub or posset). If you are truly serious about your pursuit of pickle excellence, you should consider dispatching a coach of your clay-gatherers to Quimper, south of Brest, for it is there that the faience wheat is sorted from the chaff. While awaiting their return, you can oversee the construction of the appropriate kiln for your undertaking–I find that throwing a festival de bâtiment de four makes the waiting far less unpleasant (and provides one with an excuse for entertaining the most comely of one’s acquaintances when one is still trying to undo the harm of that unfortunate Chambord incident…). In short order, your clay gatherers shall return to you, laden with bounty, your hardening flames will be willingly waiting, and vessels will come forth from the loins of the earth, ready for the white embrace of the glazing. (My personal crockery features a most charming illustration of a Breton maiden performing traditional feats of pickle mastery amidst a field of peacocks.)

Is there anything so satisfying as the sustenance that is gleaned from a crock one has near forgotten about in one’s larder, but recalled in time to lighten the burden of a glowering winter’s day? I think perhaps only the running of the Versailles hams can equal the gratification of this gustatory pleasure.

Bonne chance, dear N.U.B.B.I.N.! May your crocks ascend to glory!

evr yrs,

G de la R.