Thursday, July 7, 2011

It's Pickle Time!

Yes, it's that time of the year already... the first cukes are coming on fast! I'm starting with a half-gallon of lactic acid fermented garlic pickles, and will do more as the garden produces. One of my favorites from last year was a garlicky cauliflower pickle, and that will be a fall (cool weather crop) project.

For this half-gallon jar, I used:
2 tablespoons pickling salt (it's just like Kosher salt, no iodine added)
1 and a half heads of garlic, cloves peeled
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 and a half tablespoons dill seed
about a half teaspoon mustard seeds
about a half teaspoon whole black peppercorns
a pinch of red pepper flakes
optional: 2-4 tablespoons whey to jump start the fermentation
a handful of just-picked grape leaves (or horseradish leaves)

I'll be starting a batch of cheese today so I'll have plenty of fresh whey. You could also strain some plain yogurt to get a little fresh whey.

Put a few of the grape leaves in the bottom of the jar. Add in all the spices and garlic, then the cukes. Be sure you have washed and thoroughly chilled the cucumbers... it helps them keep the crunch. Also be sure you have taken a small slice off the blossom-end of the cukes.

I like to dissolve the salt first in a quart of non-chlorinated water and let it cool before adding to the jar. Once I add the salted water, I top off with fresh cool non-chlorinated water. Then cover the cucumbers with several more grape leaves, leaving about an inch of head space... and put the lid on loosely.

Be sure all the cukes are fully submerged! Keep it on the counter for a few days and you should see some fermentation bubbles in 2-4 days, depending on the temp of your kitchen. I put my jars on a plate because they will bubble-over and make a mess; I also cover the jar with a towel since light destroys nutrients in the jar.

I had enough small cucumbers to also fill a quart jar, although my experience tells me a greater quantity in a jar makes a better ferment. They'll be good eating nevertheless!

The pickles will be ready to eat a few days after the fermentation stops. Mine usually taste better after at least 2 weeks but 4 weeks is even better. After fermenting stops you can tighten the lid and refrigerate them or store them in a cold root cellar if you have one. Be aware that refrigeration stops the fermentation so be sure to taste them first to see if they are to your liking. You may want them to ferment a bit longer. They will keep a long time (as much as a year or more)... I don't know exactly how long because we eat them up pretty quick!

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