Oh, Martha: Never, ever change.
In a recorded video, the original Domestic Goddess gives us a tour of her pandemic-inspired kitchen renovation. In the clip, she shows off her “Martha neat” tools and utensils (“We are organizers!” she states in the understatement of the year); shows off her extensive knife collection housed in a cork-lined, pull-out drawer; and encourages the fine art of decanting (aka pouring rice, pasta, nuts, and sugar cubes into meticulously labeled glass jars). Martha’s kitchen was, is, and ever shall be #goals.
But the sleeper tip in the whole video is her trash can. “We’re always looking for garbage pails for the kitchen,” she says. (Same, Martha, same!) She then casually shows off her garbage pail, which may be the most beautiful garbage pail that has ever been shown on national television. But — plot twist — it’s not a garbage pail at all! It’s an old pickle crock! (I know this because she states, “It’s an old pickle crock.”)
This may seem a little silly — why not just use, you know, a trash can? — but it’s actually one of the most clever, efficient kitchen design ideas I’ve ever come across.
Pickle crocks don’t have a storied use as rubbish bins. Made from glazed clay, they were traditionally constructed for fermenting vegetables. This means pickles, of course, but also carrots, dilly beans, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Historically, pickle crocks have also been used to brine and cure meat and make fruit preserves.
The qualities that make fermentation crocks ideal for home ferments also render them brilliant as garbage pails. They’re thick-walled, so smells stay locked in the crock, and because they’re made of stoneware, rubbish is kept relatively cool. (In other words, It won’t get super funky when temperatures rise.)
Of course, they’re also beautiful — much more so than modern trash cans. A lidded fermentation crock is made for farmhouse-style and Arts & Crafts kitchens. I wouldn’t bother investing in a pickle crock trash can if you store yours under the sink — but for garbage bins that are kept in plain sight, this is a quirky, but elegant solution.
To make Martha’s tip work for you, you’ll want to line your pickle crock with a plastic bag. Martha’s crock actually contains a smaller bin that’s lined with plastic, so technically speaking, her pickle crock is a container FOR her trash can. Putting a cheap plastic bin inside your crock makes cleanup easy and less messy, and helps further avoid smells.
I may never own as many knives as Martha, and my chocolate chip cookies may always be non-uniformly sized, but I’m going on the hunt for an old pickle crock to upgrade my trash can. Once I find one, I’ll display it proudly: It may be the only thing I’ll ever have in common with the relentlessly excellent Ms. Stewart.