Have you heard the tale of the Christmas pickle? Supposedly the child who found the stashed pickle in the tree got to open their present first. No, I am not making this up, because this is the only explanation as to why glass pickle ornaments are the rage right now. However flawed or changed the story is or was, it’s a perfect segue into my fermented pickles post.
Before you get freaked by fermentation, let me clear up a few things.
What is fermentation, basically?
That clears it up right? Thanks Dictionary.
At its basis, most lacto-fermented foods are nothing more than whole, chopped, sliced or grated vegetables placed in a brine of salt and water for a period of time at room temperature to let the beneficial bacteria develop. The important thing to keep in mind is that the vegetables should stay submerged all along to prevent mold from forming.
Food Renegade says:
The lactic-acid causes the food to pleasantly sour (think: pickles), increases the vitamin & mineral content of the food, provides a rich source of valuable digestive enzymes, and preserves the food for months at a time.
Is it EASY?… and don’t play me!
This recipe if you can call it that could not be easier unless of course the veggies jumped into the jars by themselves. People who are hard-core fermenters invest in special fermentation crocks which are wonderful to have. I have not taken the plunge yet and still keep all my fermentations going happily in very clean glass jars with lids. I have never had any trouble doing it this way and clean-up is a breeze.
But are the pickles CRUNCHY?
Oh yeah they are! And they are so delicious. They have a bright zip and a slight tongue-tingle and mine were not mushy as long as I kept them whole. This link has a few great tips on making crunchy lacto-fermented pickles.
Are Pickles the End of the Road?
No way! Kim chi, sauerkraut, fruit, relishes…etc. Starter recommendations could be cabbage, daikon radish, carrot, onion and beets. But if you love pickles as much as I do, and would love a project to obsess over, the recipe is below.
Lacto-Fermented Pickles (recipe by Amy Healy)
Recipe for 1 64 oz (1/2 gal) mason jar
- “pickling” cucumbers aka Kirby; small, warty cucumbers ~ 8-12 fresh
- 6-7 cups brine; for every quart (4 cups) of warm water add 2 Tablespoons of salt to dissolve if desired. I used Pink Salt (salty salt) and didn’t dissolve
- dill plant (not baby dill) 6-8″ off tops, 1/2 bunch
- 1/2 head minced garlic
- 1 Tablespoon mustard seed or 1 1/2 tsp mustard powder
- 10-15 peppercorns (white, black, pink-take your pick!)
- Optional: 1 Tablespoon chipotle chili powder and some thin sliced onions
- Put seasonings (mustard seed, garlic, peppercorns and chili powder) in the jar and add a small bit of brine. If you want to ‘refresh’ your cucumbers, place them in an ice water bath for a few minutes.
- Pack in your little cukes 1/2 way by stacking them and then stuff dill inside. You cannot do too much, but save room for brine and/or onions.
- Add as many more cukes in the jar as you can, interspersing onions if desired. Using your seal, or jar full of rocks, test the placement to make sure your cukes will remain submerged and avoid damage by the heavy seal.
- Fill your jar with brine within an inch of the lip. Place your jar in a tupperware or over the sink and set your jar/seal inside. You want a small space between the rim of the jar and the outside of your seal (3 cm or so) so it can release the carbon dioxide. Make sure that the jar is basically overflowing with brine to ensure a nice seal-nothing goes IN.
Care and Preparation:
You will want to wipe the rim to ensure it stays clean and filled with brine. After 1 day I would “burp” the jar by gently twisting it back and forth so that the bubbles that had formed could escape. It was summer when these were made so I placed them in the pantry and draped a hand towel over top (fruit flies would be bad!). The house smelled wonderfully of pickles, and each batch was ready at a different time. You can try them after a few days, 3-4, and if they aren’t “picklish/zippy” enough, then try again in 1-2 days. That’s it! Store them in the fridge for up to 6 months or follow your nose.