my father came over this morning to drop off the 5 liter bormioli rocco fido jar along with the whitmor clip and drip hanger that i got for my mother but will now return because i discovered they sell something similar in chinatown for just $5. i went with him to market basket to get some thai hot chili peppers for the sichuan paocai ("chinese kimchi") i was preparing to make later today.

i logged into amazon to print out the mailing label for the return. that's when they informed me that i could keep the whitmor hanger ($10) even though i was still getting a refund. this was actually the 2nd time this happened: the first time was back in july when i wanted to return an acurite digital hydrometer/thermometer that wasn't very accurate; amazon issued the refund and said i could still keep the item ($7.99). also that same month i received a replacement kyocera candy bar phone for my 2nd uncle even though the return window had closed. is this amazon's way of building up good will with its customers, or have i qualified for special VIP service because i buy so much from amazon?

i was about to head out to belmont to bring in my lotuses (temperature would drop into the 20's later this week) but decided to prep my vegetables before leaving. i had a 6lbs. chinese cabbage. i've worked with heavier cabbages (8lbs.) but that was multiple cabbages, this was just one cabbage. after giving it a quick rinse, i chopped it into quartered and left it in the mixing bowl to dry. i washed the carrots and daikon radish, waiting to peel them when i return. finally, i made the brine solution: 18 cups of water to a 6 oz. package of paocai salt, following the formula of 1 oz. of salt to 3 cups of water. the brine has to be made beforehand to allow it to cool down before adding to the fermentation jar.

i stopped by the cafe to return the whitmor hanger to my mother, telling her it was a free gift from amazon. my godmother was there knitting with my mother. my father had dug up the lemon grass growing in my sister's backyard so it meant i didn't have to do that. i gave him his nest thermostat password and he managed to access on his PC laptop the taiwanese wood stove website he sent me earlier (turns out that taiwanese stove is actually made in sichuan). i continued onwards to belmont.

i've been dying to see what the roots of the lotus plants looked like. all summerlong i noticed roots had escaped from the individual pots and invaded the lotus barrel. what i discovered was surprising. only 2 lotus pots had escaped roots. one was about 2-1/2 ft long, the other was 5ft. it resembled a long fat root with long root nodes every 1/2 ft or so. the lotuses with the escaped roots were also the ones that seemed to succumb first to the cold temperature. the lotus with the longer root seemed to be healthier; the one with the shorter root, the root stem seemed to be kinked at the point where it escaped the pot and might be in danger of snapping off entirely.

of the remaining 3 pots that had contained roots, one pot had already gone dormant while 2 others still had some living leaves (judging from the green stems). these 2 included the only lotus that produced aerial leaves. i couldn't cut off the leaves just yet, so instead of putting them away into storage, i set them in individual buckets filled with rain water and put them in the sunroom to go dormant first. of the rest, i stored in the basement, back in the barrel, filled with rain water. i thought they could go underneath the basement sink, but the barrel was too tall, so it sticks out a little bit.

my father told me earlier he'd brought home one of the himalayan salt lamps and put it in the sun room illuminated with some solar-powered led's. in the grow room i refilled the watering bucket with fresh rain water, making sure to keep the cover on so the UV doesn't kill the beneficial Bti bacteria. i finally left by 2:30pm.

crossing the huron avenue bridge i stopped to check out the progress of the watertown-cambridge bike path. looks like it might be something cool once finished, slated for spring 2020.

the brine had cooled down enough to begin making the paocai, but i had to do one more important thing: boil the packet of sichuan paocai spices in a cup of water to release the flavors. i added a tbsp of sichuan peppercorn into the mix as well. i left the boiled spices to cool uncovered.

sichuan paocai (四川泡菜)
(2x 5L fido jars)

6.36 lbs. chinese cabbage
1.50 lbs. daikon radish
1.62 lbs. carrots
3 oz. ginger
4 dozen thai chili peppers
18 cups boiled water
6 oz. paocai salt*
handful sichuan peppercorns
1/4 cup chinese baijiu
6 tbsp rock sugar
sichuan paocai spices**

* regular salt is okay too (as long as it's iodine free though i don't think it matters; i personally prefer fine salt) ** sichuan paocai spices just because i had some (you won't find it in stores, though you could mix your own)

i started assembling the paocai by 6pm. chopping up all the ingredients look a long time, nearly an hour at my turtle speed (given my history with knives, i'm super cautious, i want to keep my fingers). since i was making two jars of paocai, i divided up the ingredients in half. i started with the radish/carrots/ginger. when i got to the cabbage, i discovered i couldn't just chop them up because they'd fall apart. i ended up packing the cabbage into the jar as soon as i cut them. unlike the napa cabbage for the kimchi - which had a simple uniform rectangular shape - trying to figure out where to cut the chinese cabbage was more challenging. i tried to get stacks of leaves, but they fell apart easily. by the end i sort of gave up, chopped the best i could, then stuffed the cabbage into the jar. i also layered, adding daikon/carrots/ginger/chili/peppercorns between the cabbages.

i had two jars, the only different was the first jar contained sichuan paocai spices. it looked like maybe not everything would fit, but i've had more ingredients before (sept 2017) and managed to stuff everything into just 2 jars, so i knew it was possible. once i filled the first jar, i began pouring in the brine solution, 9 cups. it didn't look like the liquid was coming to the top, i was hoping the vegetables would settle eventually, or enough fermentation gas gets produced to push the water level up. i added the rock sugar and poured in 1/8 cup of chinese baijiu before clamping closed the lid.

i then filled the 2nd jar. there must've been less cabbage, because it wasn't as full as the first jar. i had about a cup of brine left over, so i poured it into the first jar. i finally finished everything by 8pm.

the good thing about sichuan paocai is it doesn't need refrigeration. left on the counter top, it will slowly ferment and grow increasingly stronger in flavor. besides 2 5L fido jars of paocai, i also have 6 quart jars of korean kimchi. if i make some german sauerkraut, i'll have a trifecta of fermented vegetables.

i started dinner immediately afterwards, reheating the last of my meat sauce. i only had a cup of cellentani pasta left, so i added a cup of shell pasta. i ate while watching the end of episode 3 of for all mankind. that's my new favorite show now. you think a show based on the premise that the soviets reached the moon first would be a downer, but the show is surprisingly uplifting, to the point where i wish the soviets did go to the moon.