Archive for November, 2011

Pickling: And How!

I love pickles. I can easily sit down and eat a whole jar of pickled asparagus (provided it’s a small jar) much to my husband’s dismay.

A couple weeks ago I was searching for applesauce recipes when completely by accident I started to find DIY pickle recipes. It was kind of random, but I was intrigued. You’ll get the applesauce story later, but for now let’s talk about pickling.

From what I can understand there are two ways to pickle veggies: Lacto-fermentation and Cheating.  I tried both…FOR SCIENCE.

Lacto-fermentation:

This is the pro-biotic way, and as such appealed to that part of my brain that keeps nagging me to eat healthy. Essentially, as with making yogurt, you want to create an environment were good bacteria can thrive, and as break down your foodstuffs in a controlled way that has many health benefits. Instead of letting harmful buggies rot your food, you let the good ones go nuts!

You will need:

*A jar with a lid
*Sea Salt (iodized will make your brine a little cloudy, but is otherwise fine)
*Your favorite herbs and spices
*Filtered Water
*Veggies

And how:

1) Wash your jar in hot soapy water.  I re-used a salsa jar the first time, so don’t feel like you need to go buy anything special.  This canning jar was bought at Value Village.

2) Prepare your veggies: Wash produce in cold water and cut to fit in your jar. You should be able to leave about 1 to 1.5 inches between veggies and the top of your jar.

Prep!

3) Put all your seasonings and veg in your jar. For this batch I used about 1 tbsp each of dill, peppercorns and coriander seeds, about half a clove of garlic, and a pinch of chili pepper flakes.  You can adjust this to taste or just add your favourite spices.  I’ve seen recipes that call for everything from fennel to cinnamon!

Just to be on the safe side, I trimmed off the ends of my cukes. Apparently bits of stem can contribute to mushiness.

4) Create your brine by dissolving about 1.5 teaspoons of sea salt to every cup of filtered water. Some recipes recommend adding a bit of whey to jumpstart things:  just take some of that liquid off the top of your yogurt (plain! Always plain!). It’s not going bad, it’s just the whey separating out, and it’s full of the good bacteria we want in here.

Science Notes: Coriander floats!

5) Add enough brine to cover the top of your veggies. If your veggies float up to the surface..well, I just added some extra seasoning on top to coat them.

6) Close up the jar and store it in a warm, dark place.  As with my yogurt, I hedged my bets with an electric blanket on low.

Every day we're bubbling bubbling!

You should see bubbles forming and pressure building in your jar after a couple days.  That means it’s working and the buggies are doing their job!  If your jar seals well, open it once in a while to let off the pressure.  Once it’s stopped making bubbles, you should be done!  Recipes vary on how long you should leave them, but I found that 5-7 days usually does the trick.  The longer they sit, the more flavour will develop!

...and we're pickled. It's ok, it's Friday.

Apparently adding a grape or oak leaf to your jar will help keep your pickles crunchy.  I can’t vouch for this but the internet seems to think it works pretty well.  Something about tannins.  Mine worked out fine!

Cheating:

Mostly, pickles are fermented as above then stored in a vinegar solution.  But you can do quickie “Refrigerator Pickles” where you skip right to the vinegar stage.  They won’t have all the probiotic goodness, but they’re also ready overnight, which appeals to my sense of impatience.

You will need:

*2 and 1/4 cups of Vinegar
*3/4 cup of Sea or Kosher Salt
*Veggies
*Jar with lid
*Seasonings

And how:

1) Dissolve salt into vinegar by stirring over low heat.

2) Cut your veggies to fit your jars.  Wash in cold water.

3) Pack veggies into jars and add your seasonings.  I used the same mix as the first recipe, but feel free to personalize it!

4) Pour vinegar mixture over your veg so that it covers the ends.

5) Close up your jar and refrigerate for 12 hours.

If you prefer sweet pickles, replace the salt with sugar.  Personally I hate sweet pickles, but I tried making a batch and they went over well with Brother and Roommate.  You can also replace a 3/4 cup of the White Vinegar with Apple Cider Vinegar for a milder taste.

And that's how it's done!