This week on Fermentation Friday, we are going to knock out some old fashioned brine fermented pickles, just like grandma used to make!! Not only is this an easy project, but it is a quick ferment, so you can taste your results in just about a week verses the sauerkraut we did last week.
Now keep in mind, we are using brine, not vinegar, so toss out your preconceived supermarket notion of what a pickle taste like. We are awakening and flavoring the cucumbers, not drowning them in vinegar.
To get started you’re going to want to make up your brine, the salt water solution you will be putting your cucumbers in. Fill an empty jar (I use both pints and quarts) with warm water. Warmer water makes salt dissolve faster. I, of course, use my pink Himalayan sea salt I get from Fermentools. You can use canning and pickling salt if you want, but I prefer the mineral packed sea salt. The Fermentool salt package gives exact directions for mixing the brine for what ever percentage solution you want, but a good rule of thumb when whipping up pickles is around 2 Tablespoons of salt per quart of water. Any more then that and they get way too salty for my taste.
Don’t make mushy pickles!
I know a lot of people who have tried to ferment pickles say they turned to mush. Well, I have a few pointers to help you there! First off, start with fresh cucumbers. I mean walk out to your garden and pick them or hit your local farmer’s market. If you do get them from a grocery store, don’t fear, there are still ways to retain crispy cucumbers.
Give your cucumbers a nice little soak in some ice water while you mix up your brine. This little bath helps with the warmth of the water when you mixed your brine. Next, we need to talk about surface area. The lactobacillus (aka good bacteria) will have a much easier time setting to work on your cucumbers if you cut them up. This is a good thing, but can also lead to softer pickles since the lactobacillus is converting the sugar in your cucumbers and thus “breaking them down” as it ferments.
Don’t worry if you don’t want whole pickles, there are ways to keep those cut up spears crisp! There are things you can add to your jar that have tannins in them, such as grape, raspberry and even oak leaves. Now I personally like to just open the cabinet and grab a black tea bag. Yup, that tea you drink has tannins in it. Simply take the staple out of the tea bag and slide the bag into your jar under the brine.
It’s all about personal taste….
Pickles can be a great way to experiment with flavor. Now I personally just like a little garlic in mine. Just a couple cloves of garlic give the pickles a nice mellow flavor. But if you are like my hubby, he likes the kitchen sink in his pickle flavors. You can buy prepacked pickling flavors (though I never have) or you can search the internet for spice specific recipes. But some good things to throw in with your pickles are garlic, bay, dill, peppercorns, mustard seeds, fennel and so on. That is one of the fun things about fermenting is it is part science and part art. You can play with the flavors and find out exactly how YOU like your pickles.
Let’s pack that jar!
- Trim the ends from the cucumbers and decide if you’re going whole or cutting them in half.
- Pack your cucumbers so they fit snugly in the jar.
- Add in your flavors (aka garlic and the like)
- Pour your brine into your jar, leaving an inch space from the top of the brine to the lip of your jar.
- Place a weight on top of the cucumbers to keep them under the brine. The Fermentools kits come with a wonderful glass weight that I love to use.
- Put on your lid. I have a lid with the air lock (from Fementools.) The air lock makes it so you don’t have to worry about the pressure building up in your jar. You see as the fermentation process occurs it gives off carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Since carbon dioxide is heavier than air, the air lock allows the air to be pushed out safely with out allowing more air in and avoiding any exploding jars! If you don’t have an airlock you will need to “burp” your jar every few days.
- Leave your jar of cucumber slices on the counter for around 7 days. After 7-10 days your pickles will be fermented and ready to eat! Move your jar to the refrigerator.
*** Let taste be the final determination of when your pickles are ready.
|Your brine may become cloudy, it’s okay!|
“Pickling” food uses vinegar as the preserving agent, where as fermenting uses SALT. The salt is the kick in the butt, so to speak, to start the chemical process of breaking down the sugars in the food. Fermenting and Pickling are two different food preservation methods.