I’m excited to say I finally made my first batch of pickles. “Big Deal” you’re thinking, you can lots of pickles every summer. I have too, but this batch is special because I’m try to add lacto-fermented foods to our diet. The concept is new to my husband, son, and me so I wanted to start with something familiar—thus the pickles.
This is just the latest step on my journey to health. The last of the three fermented foods that Donna Schwenk of Cultured Food Life calls “The Trilogy.” I’ve been making dairy kefir for years now and have that routine down. Last spring I began brewing my own kombucha and this spring I thought I’d give fermented vegetables a go.
One positive note—I really don’t have that large a garden. When I’ve canned pickles before I’ve had to let some get too large on the vine or pick them and have them start shriveling while I waited to have enough to do a batch of canning. With this method I just use what’s ready and adjust the size of my fermenting jar. I’m using everything at its peak!
Airlocks are not a necessity for fermenting, but I live in a very humid climate with high mold counts. I didn’t want to be scraping mold off the top of my liquid. You can find lids available online, but at a premium price. Some weeks ago, my son had an eye doctor appointment to which we had arrived quite early (it was our first visit and I wasn’t sure how long it would take to arrive). In the same shopping complex was a home brewing store. I purchased several airlocks and gaskets for less than $2 each. At home I had my husband drill the appropriate sized holes in some of the plastic lids now available for mason jars—some standard sized and some wide-mouth. I can now use the airlock lids on pint, quart, or half-gallon jars depending on how many cukes I harvest at once. Note: I also purchase some silicone lid gaskets as these plastic lids aren’t absolutely air tight on their own.
Pickle Pebbles—When researching the whole fermenting process I came across a company that makes glass weights to keep the fermenting food under the surface of the liquid. At the time they only sold standard sized weights (and I’ve been able to fit 2-3 at the top of my wide-mouth jars. Now they’ve come out with Pickle Pebbles Plus+ for the larger openings.
I’ve heard several tips for keeping pickles crunchy when canning—cutting off the blossom end of the cucumber, keeping the cukes in ice water until your ready to can them, and adding a leaf with high tannin levels to the jar (grape, horseradish, oak or black tea). While we have abundant oak leaves at our disposal, I don’t think I want to learn what they taste like. I bought some organic black tea bags and added one (with the paper tag cut off).
For seasoning I used some heads of dill straight from the garden and cloves of garlic. I threw in a few shakes of pickling spice I had on hand fow extra measure. I left my cucumbers whole, or nearly whole while they were fermenting and sliced them after they’d reached a taste I was happy with. Of course I sampled a few and they really were still crunchy and delicious. You can see, I’m already working on my second batch!