Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More About Fermented Pickles

I just love pickling. There was a time that pickling intimidated me. Thoughts of sterilized jars, boiling cauldrons, and mushy vegetables all threatened to foil my pickling attempts. But once i'd pickled once, there was no turning back.
I have pickled with the traditional vinegar/water brine, but have found my preference to lie in fermented pickling. I find vinegar pickles to be too, well: vinegary and overly tangy. Fermented pickles have a more balanced and complex flavor. Fermentation she says! Why, that's even more intimidating! Actually, it's the easiest and most natural thing in the world only requiring a few necessary tools. All you really need is a crock and something to hold the veggies down. A beautiful ceramic crock with perfectly sized plate would be awesome. I don't have either of those things. Instead my pickling crocks consist of various sized mason jars, tupperware lids, and vinegar bottles. I'm a girl who knows how to scrimcoach.  My kitchen is currently bubbling some pickled okra picked up by a local farmer, some jalapenos from my front garden and some green tomatoes that i'm tired of planting around. Fermentation is great: from kimchi to sour pickles, fermented foods are rich in enzymes and good bacterias that are great for you health, and the recipe is simple.

Cukes, cayenne and grape leaves make for zesty pickles with great crunch.
Sour Pickles
  • Smallish pickling cucumbers (blossom end removed), okra, green tomatoes, hot peppers, or just about any vegetable that is ripe (excluding the tomatoes) and freshly harvested/ undamaged.
  • Salty brine: 3 Tablespoons salt per quart of water
  • Grape or horseradish leaves (the tannins in the leaves give your pickles that desirable crrrunch!)
  • Garlic
  • Pinch pickling spices or peppercorns
  • Fresh dill or cilantro
Play with this recipe choosing the quantities you like (ie tons of garlic if you like garlic) and herbs you prefer. Add hot peppers for some zest and experiment with different veggies to pickle as they come in season (you can even do greens!) The method for all is the same:
Place a few grape leaves in the bottom of the crock followed by the peppercorns/pickling spices and garlic. Fill your crock up to half full with the vegetable of your choosing and place your plate (or plastic lid - no metal please) on top. Pour the mixed brine solution over it all and weight the plate down with a water filled bottle or clean rock. You can use about any receptacle for your crock - just no reactive metals. Cover the whole to-do with cheesecloth to keep the flies out and watch your pickles come alive within days. Day one you'll see brighter green. Day two the green will begin to soften. Day three there will be bubbles (watch out for an over flowing crock - never overfill with the brine solution, only be sure the veg is fully covered) and by the end of a week or two you'll have delicious sour pickles. Try and skim any mold that may develop, but don't worry as mold is normal. Don't throw out your brine when you're done pickling, either. You can keep it in the fridge and sip as a digestive tonic, or use to pickle hard boiled eggs or other veggies in the refrigerator. Store your pickles in the fridge to slow down fermentation. The pickled peppers will mellow their heat with time.

My first batch of pickles: i filled the crock too high and awoke to brine bubbling all over the kitchen counter!

My fermentation crock setup - total jerry rigged operation
What's your favorite way to pickle?

This post and others I've written can be found at Yard Farm Austin.

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Thank you so much for your feedback, especially if you've cooked one of my recipes or tried one of my tips: let me know how it turned out!