There is no question that having a stocked pantry will make you a better and more creative cook. Just having interesting and flavorful items on hand that you have made will aid in concocting flavor profiles in your head before you even break out the cutting board. Sometimes when I'm a bit stumped for direction with dinner I will pull a selection of sauces, ferments and pickles from the fridge just to give me a visual aid while I prepare raw ingredients. Without tasting every individual item I generally have a good sense of flavor from the jars in front of me. Occasionally I won't use any but more often than not something will click and I may opt for kimchi brine or the rind from preserved lemons for the base of my recipe. Regardless, it makes decision making easier for a quick meal and maybe it will conjure a good food memory from that time that your friend gave you a large bunch of some of the best tasting carrots directly from their garden. Eat as many as you can and brine the rest.
We have been really getting into fermenting and pickling over the past year or so and here are a few of the items that we have been creating: Spiced preserved lemons, sweet cabbage pickle, quick pickled carrots, chili okra, blaukraut, sauerkraut and our most recent and all time favorite: golden beet and pear kimchi. I could eat a whole jar of this kimchi over rice. Soooo good.